The beautiful town and commune of Cogne is nestled in the mountainous Valle d'Aosta region of northwestern Italy. Cogne lies in the centre of the Italian Alps and is surrounded by the Valnontey, Grauson, Urtier and Gimillan valleys. Although small, with fewer than 1,500 inhabitants, Cogne attracts visitors from around the world who come to enjoy not only its beautiful location but its variety of sights and things to do.
Many visitors come to enjoy skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports, as Cogne has access to five pistes that are suitable for beginners and intermediate skiers. The slopes are served by four ski lifts, including a cable car with gondolas. The town lies over 1500 metres above sea level and the slopes around it rise to over 2000 metres, giving excellent snow cover during the winter season from December to April. Cogne is particularly well-known for cross-country skiing and holds an annual cross-country race every February, the Marciagranparadiso, which attracts competitors from around the world.
Hiking and climbing
In the summer months, Cogne attracts many tourists from the UK who come to enjoy the numerous hiking trails along the valley floor or in the surrounding mountains. The town has a large, green open meadow, the Prati di Sant'Orso, which enjoys a sheltered, sunny position in the valley and a ride on the cable car will take hikers to a beautiful, three-hour nature trail. The area has many unspoiled natural features, including rivers, forests and waterfalls. The latter give the more adventurous an opportunity to enjoy ice-climbing in the winter months, as there are over 150 waterfall routes of various grades of difficulty. The most popular ice-climbs include the Lillaz Gully, the Tuborg and the Candelabro del Coyote.
Cogne lies on the edge of the Gran Paradiso National Park, which was the first national park in Italy. It was founded in 1922 by King Vittorio Emanuelle II in an effort to preserve the country's ibex population that had been driven to the brink of extinction by hunting. Today the park covers 720 square kilometres and contains many thousands of ibex and chamois, which can be seen in Cogne in winter and spring. November and December brings the mating season when wildlife enthusiasts can enjoy the spectacular sight of the males fighting and clashing horns. There are many other animals to be seen in the area, including ermines, marmots and squirrels, and many rare birds soar over the mountains, such as golden eagles, peregrines and rock ptarmigans.
A few miles from Cogne lies a Roman bridge, the Pont d'Ael. The bridge is well-preserved and is 60 metres long and 56 metres high. It was built in 3 AD, during the reign of Caesar Augustus, and acted as aqueduct that carried water to the town of Aosta. The aqueduct no longer carries water, but is now part of a hiking trail that runs along the top of it.
Grand Paridis National Park Visitors Centre
Cogne has a visitor's centre, the Tutel-Attiva Laboratiorio Parco, which was opened in 2007. It is a great place to visit to discover new events and happenings within the park and to find out more about the natural environment of the area. The centre contains interactive displays, models and multimedia exhibitions, including a sensory space in which to experience the smells and sounds of the forests. The centre is divided into several themes, including Water, Forest & Grazing Land and Wildlife & Man. The centre is manned by a professional guide who can assist visitors and help them get the most of their visit to the national park.
Giardino Alpino Paradisia
Inside the Gran Paridiso National Park and close to Cogne lies a beautiful botanical garden, the Giardiano Alpino Paradisia. The gardens were first created in 1995 and were named after a local flower, the Paradisia liliastrum mountain lily. There are trails leading visitors through extensive gardens containing over 1,000 species of alpine plants and flowers. These include local flora, such as milk vetch, saxifrage, campanula and orchids as well as displays of mountain plants from America, Asia and Europe. There is also a butterfly garden, a lichens area and a petrographic display of rock samples from the Cogne Valley.