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| 5h55 | 18.944 km | 1207 m | 636 m
The waterfall at Isollaz, the church of San Préjet, the medieval castle at Villa and the imposing fortress at Verrès are major landmarks along this part of the route, that ends at Covarey, in the heart of the Mont Avic Regional Park.
This stage begins in the area of Challand-Saint-Victor, on the trail marked 1. It goes past the waterfalls at Isollaz and climbs towards the hamlet of Targnod and the chapel of Saint-Préjet. The trail then continues along a rocky outcrop to the medieval castle of Villa, and then heads into the Lake Villa nature reserve and down to the Nasté pass (675m) from where there are views of the jagged outline of Mount Avic on the opposite side of the valley. Further down is the village of Torille in the area of Vèrres. The trail now runs along the banks of the Dora Baltea stream to the bridge, upon which it joins the local road. At Fabbrica, near Champdepraz, follow the signs for trails 102, 3a, 3b and 4a along the road to Champdepraz itself. Then follow the signs for Gettaz des Allemands. Continue along a broad track, the road and the bridge at Gorf. The trail is marked 102, 3a, 3b, 4a and, having passed a chestnut wood, it leads to Gettaz. Leave the village and move on to the final stretch of the stage that leads to the village of Covarey, with its many fields and pastureland, seat of the Administrative Centre for the Mont Avic nature reserve.
At Isollaz there is a remarkable, 40 metre high, waterfall that stems from the Evaçon stream. From here, a trail leads to Targnod and the chapel of Saint-Préjet, that dates from 1501. In the franco-provençal dialect that is still widely spoken in Aosta valley, prédsì means to speak, and the name of the saint is repeated until children with stammers are cured of the problem. On a rocky outcrop stands the medieval castle of Villa, which belonged to the Challant family from the 1200s onwards. Only the walls remain of this castle as the windows, beams and various architectural features have been removed over the years. Further on is the Lago di Villa nature reserve, set up in 1992 to preserve the flora and fauna, and its waters are home to the wall lizard, the western whip snake, giant Danio and eels. The nature reserve is the largest breeding centre in Aosta valley for the common Toad. Two very rare plants in Aosta valley are also to be found here: the water lily and Willow grass or Amphibious Bistort, as well as the common reed. Upon reaching Torille village, the landscape is dominated by the imposing fortress at Verrès, built between 1361 and 1390 by Ibleto di Challant. The castle is a grand affair, monobloc, over 30 metres high, with cannons, punt-guns and, since 1536, surrounded by fortified walls. It was abandoned towards the end of the 17th century and bought in 1896 by D'Andrade who restored its external appearance and handed it over to the state. Attention must be drawn to the importance of the Challant family, powerful nobles whose destiny was intimately linked with that of Aosta valley for seven centuries, thus becoming its emblem. Between the 10th and 11th centuries, the six distinct branches of the family owned about 40 castles, including that of Issogne, Fénis as well as Verrès. The characters that stand out are Ibleto, who ruled Savoy, was governor of Nice and founder of the castle at Verrès; Bonifacio, governor of Piedmont; and Giorgio, a refined merchant and founder of the castle at Issogne and the Priory of Sant'Orso in Aosta. Next on the itinerary is the village of Champdepraz which contains a church that dates from 1600, dedicated to San Francesco de Sales. There are also green marble quarries and the Mont Avic natural Park (see stage D21). Along the climb to Covarey the walker comes across the unusual village of Gettaz des Allemands, a Walser settlement that still contains rural buildings for storing grain, potatoes and chestnuts.
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Last update : 2010-05-05