Before Alba was born, we used to go on short breaks all the time. Rome, London, Verbier are just some of the places we visited. Four days of wandering through narrow streets, fantasising about dinner over breakfast, drinking wine during lunch and not having to plan a single thing. However, the fact that she is now around did not lead to the end of these mini breaks; we just have to be a bit more selective about both the destination and the things we plan to do.
Came Easter, we felt it was time again for a short getaway and discussed our options.
I am not the biggest fan of snow since I am always cold, but due to certain circumstances we felt like taking a trip to the mountains and clear our heads with some fresh snowy air. My husband is literally in love with the Northern part of Italy so I let him do the initial planning. And boy, did he do a good job! Alba is still talking about her mini-trip to Italy and I got back completely relaxed. So here’s your game plan!
We checked out the fastest way to get there and booked a Transavia flight to Torino; just a short flight (less than 2 hours) and very decent travelling times. As Transavia only offers expensive snacks on board, we took some healthy snacks and sandwiches for Alba, as well as some fresh fruit and lots of water. And again: don’t forget the extra diapers and a big scarf to protect your little one against the air conditioning on board.
We rented a car at Torino airport (make sure to do that in advance!) and drove straight to the little village of Cogne up in the mountains. This drive will take you approximately an hour and a half but as the scenery is breathtaking time passes by very quickly. Alba gets carsick every single time and this trip was no exception… So I was very happy that I brought some plastic bags and an extra pair of clean clothes.
As we were looking for some peace, quiet and relaxation, we wanted to stay in a hotel so we could be pampered a bit.
And we found the perfect place!
Hotel Bellevue & Spa offers all of the above- and more. We specifically asked for a big room with a nice view and we were not disappointed. We had a huge balcony which overlooked the entire valley (and we woke up to some snow!) and the room was still close enough to the dining room downstairs for us to be able to use the baby phone at night. The room was big enough to place the baby cot next to our own bed and we had a small walk in closet as well.
As the hotel only has 38 rooms, it has a real family vibe and the staff is tremendously helpful and kind. There are two cozy areas with fire places and comfortable couches and chairs, there is a big kids room in the cellar with lots of toys and devices, and the good thing about the (Michelin star!) restaurant is that it is divided in two parts (without giving you a secluded feeling in both areas): one area for families that want to have an early dinner with the children, and another open space for couples and groups. However, both areas are connected so you still hear the chatter, which was actually nice. The food is superb, both for Alba and us grownups and they serve it exactly how you want it. We had dinner together during the first night, and then the following two nights we sat with Alba during her dinner and then put her to bed so we could have a quiet dinner a bit later. This proved of no problem for the staff as they just kept our table until we came back.
Outside there is a huge terrace where we had coffee in the morning and lunch in the afternoon; it overlooks the valley and snowy mountaintops and gave us a true ‘Sound of Music’ feeling….
As the hotel is situated just 300m from the center of the village, we went for walks twice a day. So it is perfectly situated as well! Came Easter, we were welcomed with an extra special breakfast and the Hotel organized an egg hunt for the little ones. So we ran around the huge terrace and meadows and had a lot of fun!
As for your toddler:
See ‘Getting there’ for the necessities during your flight.
The following (non exhaustive!) list of things proved very handy to us:
Well, we came to relax so honestly we did not do much… But since the hotel is perfectly situated we took strolls twice a day and just enjoyed the little village to the max. The hotel is surrounded by meadows and during wintertime you will find a private slope for little kids. Alba was a bit too young but they offer skiing lessons for little one so that might be something we will do next time. It is the perfect place for them to practice and have fun at the same time; sledding is also possible! Right opposite to the hotel you will find a super nice playground with lots of swings and slides so we spent quite some time there as well…
Should you feel like doing a bit more, ten you should definitely make a trip to the nearby waterfalls or, during wintertime, take one of the gondolas up the mountain for some skiing, hiking or just a nice cup of coffee at the top.
The village is literally crowded with little restaurants, coffee bars and nice shops (yes, ladies, I actually got to shop!!) so you will be able to fill your days easily. Oh, and there are no less than four ice cream parlors! Especially go to the one serving fresh organic ice cream… quite wonderful. You will find it next to Hotel Sant’ Orso, facing the big playground.
For an afternoon aperitivo you should definitely go to the wine bar, located in the main street. They serve and sell excellent wines, and you can do some (food) shopping as well!
Should you prefer staying at the hotel, simply because you feel like it or because the weather is a bit off, the hotel has another fantastic trick up her sleeve: The Wellness and Spa.
Make sure to at least once indulge yourself in one of their many treatments; we did and loved every minute of it. The area consists of two floors; the upper floor offers two pools that allow children to go in as well (Alba begged to go swimming every day), many relaxing chairs and a wonderful view of the valley. The lower floor is strictly for adults and breathes a Roman (slightly old fashioned but oh well) vibe. It is not particularly beautiful in terms of materials and colors, but every little corner offers a different relaxing experience and there are so many different treatment areas, steam baths, saunas and hot stone areas that you can easily spend more than one afternoon here. In 2013 the hotel won the ‘Prix Villegiature’ for being the best spa in Europe, just to give you an idea. I had a wonderful pregnancy massage and my husband enjoyed all the different experienced and submerged a different person.
Now I probably do not have to tell you that Italy is world famous for its wonderful cuisine, and the tiny village of Cogne is no exception. The food is literally grand everywhere, but just to give you a heads up I will tell you where we went!
Hotel Bellevue– The hotel offers a wonderful and tasty breakfast. Needless to say the coffee is excellent, all pastries freshly made and a wide choice of fruits, yoghurt and juices is displayed every morning.
Café du Centre– If you feel like leaving the premises for once, just do as the Italians do and go to any coffee bar and order a cappuccino (now remember, ordering one of these after 11 o clock in the morning immediately reveals that you are a tourist and not a local- just a tip!), espresso or latte macchiato and a croissant, and finish these either at the bar or at one of the tiny tables while reading the newspaper.
Hotel Bellevue– Wonderful lunch, either in- or outside on the terrace if the weather permits it. We were able to sit outside most of the days and every single dish on the menu is fresh and nice. Try the insalata caprese or pasta and you will not be disappointed! Every dish can also be adapted to the needs and taste of your little one(s) as well!
Restaurant Lou Ressignon Capoluogo– Nice, upscale restaurant with rather large dishes. Very nice service, fresh food and very child friendly. Make reservations!
La Brasserie du Bon Bec– Local restaurant, very buzzy and always packed. Make reservations!
Hotel Bellevue– As said before, this Michelin starred restaurant offers a varied and wonderful menu. Perfect for both family dinners and a cozy diner-a-deux!
Bar a Fromage– Just across the street, this restaurant offers everything from raclette to fondue (hence the name). Large Italian families have dinner here, which adds to the charm.
Lou Bequet-Typical Italian restaurant, not too upscale but great food.
Note: all restaurants offer both lunch and dinner, so just pick a place and I will guarantee you that the food is excellent, service great and children very welcome…
Depending on whether you leave your little one(s) at the hotel under the supervision of a babysit provided by the hotel, you can go for either lunch or dinner at all of the above-mentioned restaurants. We did not do that as we like to take Alba along, but it is possible of course!
Hiking or renting a bike is also a great option and during summertime the hotel sports a tennis court as well. But spending an afternoon or two at the spa is also highly recommendable…
If you feel like walking into the village for a glass of wine, you could either go the fantastic delicatessen shop right next to Café du Centre (and buy some wine and delicious food while you are at it) or visit La Cave De Cogne.
Cogne on a whole:
Wonderful. We find many tourist resorts tend to loose their charm over the years, but Cogne is definitely an exception. It still smells like burning logs, people are very friendly and no concrete high-rise blocks to ruin the scene. Perfect place to go if you feel like some healthy, fresh air, great food and peacefulness.
Superb! We would definitely go again. Do not be fooled by the old fashioned styling as pictured on the website; it really adds to the charm and is by no means a reflection of the comfort and service as offered. If you want to unwind, enjoy great food and wines, be pampered and relax, this is definitely the place to go. And your baby will love it too!
Italy has never disappointed us when it comes to genuine affection for kids, and Cogne is no exception. Children are simply part of their everyday life and it makes you feel very welcome to take your babies everywhere. Highchairs are available everywhere, all restaurants offer any adjustment to their menu to suit your children and people will never frown when you take your kids along for lunch or dinner, however upscale the place is. There are numerous playgrounds and swings, ice cream parlors and nice little shops where old fashioned wooden toys are made.