Courmayeur is a charming medieval resort that extends a warm italian welcome.

Despite its francophone name, Courmayeur is of course actually in Italy, just a few kilometres along the Aosta valley from the Italian end of the Mont Blanc tunnel.

Courmayeur can be reached in just 90 minutes’ (mostly motorway) drive away from Geneva airport. The journey time from Italy's Turin airport is only marginally longer. This resort makes a very attractive weekend ski destination and the Mont Blanc tunnel also makes day trips from here to Chamonix — possibly to ski the Vallee Blanche — eminently feasible.

Courmayeur is especially popular with the residents of Milan and Turin, many of whom have second homes here, which they use principally at weekends, when the resort has a particularly lively atmosphere.The centre of Courmayeur, which was originally a medieval market town, is a cosy collection of narrow streets, some of which are notionally for pedestrians only. The main ski area is on the opposite side of the valley and is reached by a huge cable car that takes you high above the valley to the base of the lift system at Plan Checrouit.

Every Saturday afternoon, for example, there is the celebrated Passegiata, when families of Milanese and Torinese weekenders parade up and down the Via Roma clad either in fabulously ostentatious fur coats, or Monclet ski jackets. Interspersed between the chic boutiques in this main street are scores of cosy bars and lots of alluring little food shops. In the main square several of the village worthies park their little three-wheeler Ape trucks in a semi-circle and brewing up vino brule in huge cauldrons and then dispense it with great charm to all-comers. Everywhere in Courmayeur the locals are all extraordinarily friendly towards visitors.

In the end it is probably the friendly atmosphere and the huge variety of good but moderately priced bars and restaurants that are this resort's principal attractions, rather than its somewhat limited local ski area, which is fine for long weekends but which really good skiers might find a little small for a whole week's holiday, although visitors based at the Entreves end of the resort will find it is only a short drive to the ski area of La Thuile which links with that of La Rosiere in France and is covered by the main Courmayeur lift pass. For those advanced off-piste skiers interested in hiring a guide Courmayeur makes a good very base with plenty of challenges in its surrounding mountains, particularly those accessed via Entreves, which include the Italian version of the Vallee Blanche and the Toula glacier.