The small Alpine village of Cogne, in the Italian Alps, holds many interesting events and annual festivals that attract participants and tourists from the UK and all around the world. They come to participate in several different sporting events, to attend an international film festival and to observe traditional mountain celebrations that let visitors see how life in these beautiful mountains connects with the region's history.
Devétéya é Féra de Cogne
This historic festival roughly translates as 'Parade of the Beasts' and is a traditional celebration that takes place every year on the first weekend of October. The purpose of the event is to greet the herds of cows that have returned from their summer pastures above the town to spend the winter in the valley. The cows are decorated with flowers and paraded through the village on the Saturday of the weekend, while on Sunday the animals are gathered in the square to be blessed. The festival includes a market, selling local produce and crafts, and many of the local restaurants serve a special, traditional lunch called Les Saveurs l'Alpage.
Bataille de Reines
Another traditional annual Cogne event involving cows is the Bataille de Reines, or 'Battle of the Queens.' This is a very old tradition that dates back as far as the 1600s. The queens are female cows who fight with each other to achieve supremacy of their herd. Visitors are often rather shocked that a whole festival is devoted to cow-fighting and worry about animal welfare, but the fights are well-regulated to prevent injury to the animals. They are a natural and instinctive way for the cows to organise themselves in a herd and establish a hierarchy and it is not something that they are forced to do. The day is held in September and begins in the morning with the weighing of the cows, followed by a traditional lunch before the cows challenge each other in the afternoon. The Cogne event is one of around 20 elimination rounds that take place in many other villages around the Valle d'Aosta throughout the year. The final, to find the Queen Cow of the whole valley, is held in the Arena Croix Noire in Aosta.
A traditional event that takes place every year on November 1st is the Cantes Festival. This is dedicated to the young boys and unmarried men of the village, who climb the church bell tower, ring the bell and throw sweets to the children below. They are then treated to wine and special foods and sing traditional songs until the sun goes down.
Marcia Gran Paradiso
Cogne is famous for its cross-country, or Nordic, skiing and a large, international cross-country race has been held there every February for the last 35 years. The Marcia Gran Paradiso skiing competition, which has recently been included in the FIS calendar, takes place over a 45 km course. It includes a mini Marcia Gran Paradiso for children and young people on the day preceding the main race.
Gran Paradiso Bike
August sees another Gran Paradiso take place, this time for mountain bikes. This race is now in its fourteenth year and sees male and female mountain bikers from all over Italy compete on a challenging cycling marathon that takes a 45km route up and down the steep alpine slopes around Cogne.
Another mountain biking competition held in August that draws crowds is the Pedalata Ecologica, or Eco Ride, that runs on the road linking Aymavilles and Cogne. This race has the same organisers as the Gran Paradiso Bike and is designed to raise money for the AIL Valle d'Aosta.
ITU Winter Triathlon World Championships
The Winter Triathlon World Championships took place in Cogne on February 15th and 16th and saw athletes from all over the world competing on foot, bike and skis. Participants had to undertake a 6 km run, a 12 km mountain bike ride and a 9 km ski course, with junior and para-triathletes tackling the same course but with shorter distances.
Nordic Walking Festival
The sixth Nordic Walking Festival was held in Cogne in July 2013 and coincided with the inauguration of a new Nordic Walking Park in the Gran Paradiso Natural Park.
Gran Paradiso Film Festival
An annual film festival is held in the Gran Paradiso National Park during August, with one of the main locations being Cogne. The event is an international festival that is devoted to nature and environmental films and it was founded in 1984. It awards various trophies and prizes over the course of a week and includes screenings and premiers, with the theme of the 2014 festival being 'Nature is Life.'