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Lo Stambecco

1 acre hosted by Test O.
Box-ticking Alpine camping –views, air, walks and creeping trees

Big Paradise Park is quite a name to have to live up to. Luckily the Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso in the Italian Alps is up to the challenge. On the Italian side of the Mont Blanc Massif, the park ticks so many Alpine boxes that even a meticulous Brussels bureaucrat would have trouble finding fault with its paperwork.

There are views up the valley towards the summit of Testa della Tribolazione, whose south-east wall is a favourite with climbers, despite its rather daunting name (something about tribulation). Across from the site is a steep shoulder of mountain, behind which the sun settles for the evening, and rumbling through the valley below the site is one of those high mountain rivers that is three-parts glacier melt and one- part crushed rock, giving it the distinctive grey-green mineral colour of a river of Margueritas. Dips (and sips) are not recommended, though – your various extremities would not thank you for the exposure, plus you’d end up being washed down the valley and out into the Med.

Lo Stambecco is in the tiny village of Valnontey, a stopover on one of the great summer Alpine walks – the Alta Via from Champorcher to Courmayeur. With an average altitude of over 2,000 metres and the pass of the Col Loson measuring up at 3,300 metres, the Alta Via (a literal highway) is a fairly serious multi-day walk. But thankfully you can sample the atmosphere of it by doing nothing more strenuous than waving at passing walkers from the comfort of the grassy slopes of Lo Stambecco. They’re perfect for a prolonged lounge; one of those lazy ones that can last an afternoon. The thick grass is so soft and comfy that carpet slippers seem more appropriate footwear than clumpy walking boots.

There’s a variety of pitches, some on the grassy slopes, some venturing into the pine cover that sneaks down the hill, threatening to engulf the whole place. The further up the hill you go, the thicker the trees. Like Hansel and Gretel you might want to leave a trail of breadcrumbs from your tent to the facilities block at night, just in case you get lost. Unfortunately things both small and furry are likely to snaffle them in the night and if the trees have surrounded you during the hours of darkness, you might have to machete your way out of the thicket by the time morning arrives.

If you are itching for a hike, there are walking maps on sale from the campsite’s reception, so you can tackle anything from a half-hour stroll to a day’s hard slog up the valley in search of the elusive ibex (‘stambecchi’ in Italian) – those hairy things with horns that look like upturned stacks of ice cream cones. There’s actually an old hunting lodge called the Rifugio Vittorio Sella, originally owned by King Victor Emmanuel II who became the first king of a united Italy in 1861 thanks in part to the support of Garibaldi (the revolutionary, not the biscuit), and who used to come up here to hunt stambecchi. It’s about two-and-a- half hours’ steady climb from Valnontey and there’s a restaurant for fortification before the descent. Much easier is the downhill, 2-mile (3-km) walk to the bright lights of Cogne, a typically gorgeous Alpine village, which, with nearly 1,500 inhabitants, feels like downtown Manhattan after a few days up at Lo Stambecco. Fair enough, the return walk is back up the hill, but with the prospect of your carpet slippers waiting for you back at the campsite, it’s a breeze.

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Cogne, ItalyTo respect the Host's privacy, the precise address of this land will be provided after booking
Hosted by Test O.Joined in January 2015
From the host
Box-ticking Alpine camping –views, air, walks and creeping trees
Nearby attractions

Take the kids to La Ferme du Grande Paradis (0039 3482 589 500) just across the river from the campsite. Treat yourself to some of their excellent collection of cheeses; it is a working farm, after all. It’s all locally produced and some of it is pretty strong.

Food and drink

There’s a miniature bar/restaurant onsite with a few tables outside for admiring the mountain view. Within Valnontey, there are several restaurants, the best-situated being the Hotel Paradisia (00 39 0165 741 58), which offers a range of standard mains such as pasta and steaks for €7–€17.

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