Hospice Ospizio Sottile and the story of the man who could tell the difference between the bees from Gressoney and the bees from Alagna
Whether you are on holiday in Alagna or in Gressoney, Hospice Ospizio Sottile should absolutely be on your to-do-list of essential destinations!
It is situated at a height of 2480 meters on the hill of Valdobbia, on the border between Piemonte and Valle d’Aosta, and steeped in fascination, history and hospitality since opening its doors in 1823.
The road that you must follow to reach the hospice is called The Great Road of Aosta and is also known as via Regia. It connected the Duchy of Milano with Aosta as well as the passes of the small and great San Bernardo.
While walking and exploring these quiet areas and you know how to really listen, you might be able to hear the thoughts of those who walked these very trails before you, like a parallel life right next to yours. I can’t help but think about the married couple who died on this very pass a few days before Christmas of 1820. Their names and tragic story have long since been forgotten, but it was what prompted canon Sottile to build a hospice in the area to prevent any more of such tragedies to happen and protect all travellers in the area.
It always takes pain and dreamers to achieve the impossible and it was thus that Nicolao Sottile di Rossa had a refuge built on the hill over a time span of 3 years and endowed it with an income to pay the caretaker, who lived there all year round; like a motorway restaurant of yesteryear, on a highway of the past.
The architecture is quite fascinating; austere and intimate and has survived the centuries unscathed. It has cosy rooms, a small church, a quiet room, and a ballroom. He was familiar with solitude, great parties, stories, songs, dinners, and confessions; it is so full of life that it also deserves the traces of your passing through.
Allow me to tell you my story: when I was 9 years old, I went to hospice Sottile with my grandfather. At the time the caretaker was Marino Carmellino, who was the same age and a good friend of my grandad. It was a gray day, and I was in the kitchen, sitting at the table watching the fire flash from a hole in the stove. A bee, perhaps in search of heat, began to buzz around me. Annoyed, I said to the caretaker: Mr. Marino, there is a bee buzzing around me, what should I do? He was also an extraordinary calm person, and without saying a word, slowly took the bee in his fist and replied: let’s take it outside.
So, we went out into the courtyard, and without letting the bee escape, he looked inside his fist, then looked at me and said: it’s not one of mine, it must be sent back to Gressoney and he freed it on the Lys valley. I must have widened my eyes so much that he just stroked my head and laughed.
The best way to enjoy the Sottile Hospice is to reach it from the Vogna Valley, on the Alagna side where the hiking path is easier and then hike down towards Gressoney. The path is steeper but prepare yourself for a surprise as the view suddenly opens up and overlooks the town with the Savoy Castle in the distance.
Whether you are on holiday in Alagna or Gressoney, consider taking a round trip. If you leave from Gressoney you can use the Monterosaski lifts to reach Alagna, if you leave from Alagna you can sleep in La Trinitè and return from Col d’Olen or Zube the next day
Geographical Coordinates of Hospice Ospizio Sottile:
Gps: 45°47’18”N – 7°51’56”E
Wgs: 45.788442 Lat. – 7.865804 Lon
The hiking trails to reach Hospice Ospizio Sottile:
From Alagna (Val Vogna) Trail no.1, Departure from: S. Antonio (1381 meters), difference in height: 1099 meters, hiking time: about 3hrs, difficulty: E
From Gressoney Trail no.11, Departure from: Gressoney S. Jean (1385 metres), difference in height: 1100 meters, hiking time: about 3hrs, difficulty: E
From Gressoney Saint Jean – a few paces from the hiking trail, you will find the waiting area for the shuttle to go to the Staffal ski lift with the timetable.
From Alagna there is an ON CALL shuttle service to go to Valle Vogna, and it is available in the month of August.