“Love of animals
and hospitality for absolutely everyone …
waiting for the Tor des Géants”
Altitude: 2192 m
Address: Località Dondena Alta, 11020 CHAMPORCHER
Opening period: from June to September, every Sunday in October, and then from Christmas to Easter
Contact: +39 347 2548391 (Loris) / +39 348 2664837 (Susi)
Hut managers: Loris and Susy
Loris Merli, born in 1966, and his wife Susanna come from the valley and they have been managing the Dondena hut for 18 summers. “We are open from the beginning of June to September, and on weekends until the end of October. In winter we reopen from Christmas until Easter. If there is the snow, this year we would like to open earlier, for the celebration of the Immacolata (Catholic celebration of the immaculate conception, early December)”.
When he is not at the hut, Loris dedicates his time to handicraft, and to his nine dogs: “I love dogs, that’s why I decided that we should also welcome the four-legged friends of our guests into the rooms at the hut, and I am very happy with my decision, because it has been greatly appreciated and we have never had any problems with that”.
There are not only dogs, but also horses, ponies and donkeys: “Our mascot is Freccia a Arab horse born five years ago. She has become part of our family!”.
An ex royal hunting lodge, the Dondena hut still has its old, original wing from the late eighteenth century. “Its position is really fortunate, because we are situated at a key point for hikes and walks at high altitude, at the crossroads of the trails for the Gran Paradiso National Park and for ascents of the Piedmont mountains. Here everyone can find the welcome of a small hotel and has the liberty of a week between daily circular walks and unique hikes. The blooming at the end of June and beginning of July is a wonderful phenomenon, which attracts botanists from all over Europe”.
The Dondena hut, thanks to the rock climbing walls of Bec Raty (2418 m), also offers experiences to get the adrenaline pumping. These are ideal for structured climbs, so much that this year the Aosta Valley Alpine Rescue team did their training here.
“Our speciality is the climb to Mont Glacier (3186 m), which does not have any particular technical difficulties, and offers a unique experience: at the peak of the Glacier on bright days, you can enjoy a total panorama of the Aosta Valley. At the hut we have a stroboscopic 360° photo of the panorama. It’s incredible”.
Traditional ingredients and mindfulness of good health: “Our cuisine is family-style, very balanced. If a guest stays with us for a week, they won’t only eat rich traditional dishes…”.
The local version of the Valpenillenense soup ist not to be missed, with bread, cheese, butter and cabbage. The wines served at the table during celebrations are mainly of Valdosta and Piedmont origin, particularly those of Donnas “to promote local produce”.
Dates and ideas for summer 2012:
- 15 July - Children’s Party at the Dondena hut, 3rd edition. Every year in mid-July we organise an entire day for children with many varied activities, pony rides and the challenge of trout fishing. “This year we also organised a biathlon competition, with an instructor who taught the children the rudiments of this special activity”.
- 9 September – Celebration of the Mountain. On Sunday which marks the beginning of the Tor des Géants, the Dondena hut organises a day of activity and sport, such as climbing, horse riding and mountain running. On Sunday evening there is a great dinner before the Tor begins. “We always hope that those who participate in the Celebration of the Mountain will also stay the night, to welcome, all together, the first front-runner at sunrise on Monday. Last year, when I saw ‘that Spaniard’ appear shortly after 6am, I almost couldn’t believe my eyes!”.