When anybody who has ever been to Courmayeur Italy hears the name what automatically comes to mind is the Graian Alps, Mont Blanc, and of course, skiing. But the small town of Courmayeur is more than just a ski town, and has been more than just a ski town in the past as well. In fact, Courmayeur actually has quite a bit of substance in regards to its history. And this can be just as exciting to explore while you are there visiting as skiing and other winter activities are. So many people visit a holiday destination for a specific purpose and fail to take advantage of everything else that the area has to offer, and those that realize later how much more they could have enjoyed while they were on their holiday usually wind up regretting it. Visiting Courmayeur affords you the opportunity to explore a history unlike many others, as it is a town that has grown over the years, but that still has not lost that old world feeling.
Courmayeur began as a tiny little village that at first consisted only of two churches that sat at the base of Mont Blanc, and from that time a village began to develop. But the town of Courmayeur has been “on the map” since 1786, at which time the famous Mont Blanc was conquered by two men that had been from Chamonix, France. It was not long after that Courmayeur was designated as Italy’s mountain climbing capital. And so begins a history of being the destination in Italy for those individuals who enjoy all different types of mountain activities. In fact, Courmayeur is also the first town in Italy to have a guide company founded in it as well, setting a precedent for the hospitality that the town would much later become known for.
Now today Courmayeur is a thriving ski resort town village, but it still consist of only less than 3,000 people that live there. In fact, they get more visitors in the quaint little town in a year than the number of people that they actually have living there full time. This does not make Courmayeur any less enjoyable to visit, though, and in fact it probably makes it even more enjoyable. So many ski resort towns are over-crowded with people, and this is something that Courmayeur can boast that it doesn’t have to deal with. To be sure, there are many ski enthusiasts who travel to the town, but it is still much more laid-back than so many other ski towns, both in Italy and around the world. And it has a much longer history than many of those other towns as well. To explore that history there are a few places in particular that you will want to visit while you are there.
- The Alpine Guides Society Museum – The Alpine Guides Society dates back as far as 150 years ago and is still going strong. In fact, the society is so successful that it also maintains a museum at which visitors can learn all sorts of information about the Alps. Exhibits range from pictures of what the area around Courmayeur used to look like to skeletons of animals from many years ago. The museum may be a bit small, but there is still plenty to learn when you are there. So if you are interested in learning about the many stories that involve the majestic Alps and Mont Blanc, then this is the place to go.
- Santuario di Notre-Dame de Guerison – Santuario di Notre-Dame de Guerison is one of the first churches to be erected in the town, so not only is it a religious symbol but a symbol of history as well. The beautifully built mountain style building is built into the side of a hill, and it is characterized by the beautiful backdrop that is the Alps. People still attend the ancient church to worship but people also simply go to see it because it is a piece of Courmayeur history as well, so whether you are religious or not this is a historical sight worth seeing.
- Fenis Castle – Although Fenis Castle is not located right within Courmayeur, it is only a short distance from the town and is worth the time it takes to go see it. The castle dates back to at least the mid-1200’s, and was first owned by a very prominent local family. The Italian medieval castle is a magnificent structure on the outside, and the inside is even more of a sight to see, but most important is the lesson in history you will get by visiting there.
Courmayeur is definitely a very small town, but that does not mean it is lacking in substance or history. And these are a few of the places at which you can learn about the history of the Graian Alps, Mont Blanc, and Courmayeur.