Marta's Monterosa Blog

I am passionate about the Alps. They are my heart's home and the place where I would like to spend the last day of my life. I have been a tourist in the village of Champoluc in the Italian Monterosa for all my life and worked as a tourist operator in this area since more than 15 years.

I believe in respect for the special environment of this place that you can find only here. We all gain by enjoying its beauty, while trying to make a minimum impact at the same time. Leave it for our children in the future!

I believe in respect for people who live here with their traditions and culture, language, and work, their genuine products and delicious wines. They open their homes for us, tourists and meet us as their guests, if we are able to open our hearts for them. I have a friend who is a hotel owner and he says that when stressed people from the city come to his place, he tells them to sit down and take a drink before they even begin to worry if they have a room. Perhaps, we can bring a little of their kindness and calmness with us on our way back to the city.

My philosophy is to give back a little of what the mountains and the people from this place have given to me and to my family through my work, to communicate my philosophy and my passion to those who follow me on the blog, and in my trips as a tour operator.

If you would like to visit Champoluc, Gressoney, Alagna or other villages in the Aosta Valley, trek or ski in the Monterosa, discover Sardinia or other places we offer, contact us.

A little village and a big convention

Posted: Jun 17, 2010
Categories: Cervinia, Blog
Comments: 0

Saint Marcel is a small village in the Italian alpine region of the Aosta Valley.

I was impressed by the idea that this small village should organize an International Conference about tourism in the Alps. When we arrived on Saturday 12th June there was a big party tent in the middle of a green grass field and a little crowd wandering around to understand what we were doing there. There were brochures on a few tables, flowers in wooden cribs, and posters about the village’s ancient mines and art crafts. And there were a big podium and translators in 4 different languages. Good Italian food at lunch and dinner, slow food on the program, and culture and tradition as attractions on the menu.

Andrea Bionaz is the soul of the organization behind the Conference, and he is one inhabitant of the small village, who wanted to find a way for his village to stay alive and not to become a sort of dormitory for people working in the big tourist industry somewhere else in the valley. He was thinking to his children and their chance to bring along the roots and traditions of his family in their day to day life.
With the help of other burning souls I am going to talk about later, he therefore created a new touristic concept, together with all the other inhabitants of Saint Marcel who wanted to participate: Paese Albergo, which tools Village Hotel, where people open their houses to visitors who want to spend a genuine holiday here, as guests in their homes:
But still, why organize an international conference for the alpine tourism right here? Is it not a little bit too little? Is it only politically right? I am a passionate fan of the Aosta Valley and of the genuine tourism that is possible to develop in this place, so for me personally it was obvious to participate to this conference and, after 2 days of intensive listening, I understood why Saint Marcel was the perfect place where to have it instead of a well known tourist resort or a big city.

The Alps, with their very special eco-system is a region where sustainability and territorial development in the respect of traditions and social unicity find a natural soil to grow, and there are already many examples of big and small projects which follow this direction. So tourism in the Alps today is becoming different from what it was 30 years ago, when the tourist industry was created, and when the ski systems of most of the Alpine resorts were just launched on the market.
One of the examples of what is happening was presented by the relation of Joelle Didillion, the vice mayor of Chamonix, about global climate changes and the deriving consequences for tourism and for the inhabitants of the villages around Mont Blanc.
He asked the critical question: what happens to tourism in Chamonix when the glaciers have melted?
So even one of the most well known resort in the Alps has to change its policy and focus of interests and work for sustainable and ethic tourism, rather then build even more big hotels and lifts:,8,en.html
There is a necessity of new thinking in tourism not only because it is ethical to do so, but also because we know that it is the only way to reach positive economical results in the long run (not so long by the way– we are talking of the end of this century for melting glaciers!).
Back to the question of having a small unknown village of the Alps to organize an important international conference. The answer is that the change will come from underneath, not waiting for big financial investments from the different national administrations, and it will happen building a net of people with the same interests and with different tools.

One of the big projects and a hat above all, is the Alpine Convention, very well illustrated for us who were not sure what it was, by Marco Onida. He was the moderator of the conference, but he is also the Secretary of the Convention with his office in Innsbruck. And his family was tourists of Saint Marcel when he was a kid. The Convention is a common agreement between all the countries of the Alps and EU to follow principles of ethics and sustainability in the development of the alpine region. Projects like Paese Albergo of Saint Marcel are promoted by the Convention.
I like the idea of a common vision of the Alps as a region with an operational net for its development not least in tourism. But I know that it is indeed very advanced to unite the forces of people who lived very isolated in the past, divided by inaccessible mountains, people who could not understand each other’s language from one valley to the next.
On the other hand there is also a tradition of people moving around in the highest and most remote areas of the alpine region, as the Walser for example, who colonized the lands above 1500 meters and travelled as ancient tradesmen from North to South. They considered the Alps as a common region already in the Middle Age.
I know also that tourists coming from the non alpine parts of Europe see the Alps as a place where the national borders do not matter so much. Well, perhaps they chose the Italian Alps because of the food on the slopes, but sometimes they do not really realize if the village where they ski lies in France or in Italy really. The airport is in Italy, then they tell their friends that they have been skiing in Italy, even if they where in Serre Chevalier, for example. Should we be preoccupied by that?

Much more interesting is the question of creating a net of operators who contribute to the same intent by their different specific tools. So the tourist operators in different villages of the alpine region can reach a much bigger effect of change if they work together than if they don’t, and not only operators in the same field, such as hotel owners for example, but operators across all kind of activities: energy suppliers and hotel owners, farmers and restaurants, transfer companies and mountain guides. This should be obvious, but oh so difficult! And it is happening.
See for example where the members are many villages in 7 countries of the Alps and the aim is to help each other with reciprocal confrontation and inspiration to develop the territory in a sustainable manner. Toni Zambon is the lector of this section and the vice president of the organization, and he explains also that the people of his village in Friuli (one of the most unknown regions in Italy) have been collaborating with villages in Central Asia to exchange ideas and help each other: they were good in technical solutions (isolation of houses) and the Asians were good in human relationships (building nets!). Nets in the mountain regions of the world not only in the Alps then will be the vision for the future? Yes!
In the same direction of thinking were the lectures of the representatives of CIPRA, Matej Ogrin for Slovenia and Pierre Moreau for France. The home page of CIPRA explains the aim of this organization:
“For more than half a century the “Commission Internationale pour la Protection des Alpes” (CIPRA) has been working in support of sustainable development in the Alps. This commitment is worthwhile: the Alpine arc, which is 1100 kilometers long and passes through eight different countries, is home to about 13 million people. It is in this diverse living space that CIPRA is active, searching for ways and tools to reconcile the calls of the natural environment, the business community and social issues.”

They brought cases of how responsible tourism has improved the economical results for some of the resorts in their countries of observation.
Mobility is for example one of the clues in this area; there is a huge movement of people and wares towards and across the Alps. More than 100 millions of tourists each year visit the region. How could we make the impact of this movement more suitable for the territory? And where is the gain? Mr. Moreau talked about the concept of the “last mile”: to make people leave their cars at home one has to give them an attractive solution for the very last part of the way to the door of the hotel or house where they are supposed to be living. If there is a good plan in a resort for this it will be one of the most important criteria for people to choose that resort instead of another. Which I find very true when I think about my own guests from North Europe, flying to an airport and in need of logistic solutions to the place where they will spend their vacation. More of this!
The Pearls of the Alps are all villages where the principle of improving the gain through sustainable transport system is a fact. Among them you will find not only beautiful places known just by connoisseurs, such as Chamois (in fact only 10 min from the hectic town of Cervinia), but also very well known resorts as Saint Moritz.

Another example of implementation of intent of responsible development is the so called Bergsteiger Dörfer in Austria. The Austrian Alpine Club’s project for the development of small villages in the country, where the principle to participate in this project is that they have know how in alpinism through a well developed system of guides, refuges, trials, shops and material for summer and winter alpinism: ski mountaineering, snow shoes, climbing, top touring, trekking etc. The villages are not typical tourist resorts from the start, but develop a good potential of touristic activity selecting a special target of fruition: the alpinists. Roland Kals talks about the traditional challenge of the Alpine Clubs in “defending” the Alps. He is one of the responsible for this project and please, you who understand German, surf a wave at their web site: And please translate it asap!!! Very detailed and very understandable about the touristic offer of these villages, even though you do not read German actually…

At the end of the second day I was  really excited by this conference and by all the incredible things happening around me in the Alps, where I have been as a tourist, and worked as a tourist operator from outside, all my life. But I suddenly had many questions and became more frustrated by every new lecture of this unbelievable conference. I could not find the right space in the conference to ask my questions and to ventilate my ideas. So I chose to do it here and now.
Why have I until now only had a remote idea of CIPRA, the Alpine Convention, etc? Why not broaden the net and make all this much more known to the millions coming as me to the Alps from outside? Could we not help to reach these aims better and faster? Together with the tourists. Could they not be the ones who also bring with them this way of thinking and living, more responsibly, more genuine, back to their homes in the cities and the countries where they live and that influence the Alps so much? And they are the ones who have the power outside.
Or perhaps it is already done, by the fact that the tourists experience the change when coming to the Alps?
I personally don’t think that it is enough.
I believe that the marvelous work of the “net”? that has started inside the Alps must continue with a more strategic communication of the principles of this conference outside the alpine region. Take help of people who work with communication such as the ones present at this conference ( and find how to do it. Talk about your projects to people visiting. Involve them in your plans and decisions. They will love it!
(In the moment of writing this I got a mail from CIPRA/Alpmedia, asking me what I thought was the most interesting thing I had read about in their newsletter. And it was a mass mail to all readers, not only to me. This is a good example of what I’m talking about! )
And I hope to start doing my little by this blog today.
I will also find a way of using my own information channel to communicate in details all what I will be informed about. I want to make a contribution to the mountains and valleys I love; to the people I have met and learned from all my life; to the people who are new to the Alps and to the concepts of sustainability and genuinity.

Because I believe that this is the only way


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