Allein is a peaceful village at an altitude of 1253 metres, situated in a panoramic position on the left bank of the Artanavaz river in the *Great Saint Bernard region, named “Coumba Freida” (cold valley) because of the cold winds blowing from the valley sides. The municipality is located on the ancient Via dei Salassi, one of the main routes leading to today’s Martigny, in Switzerland. This small mountain village, of Roman origin, probably owes its name to the Latin word ad lignum: wood carving was in fact the main activity during the winter months, when it was not possible to cultivate the fields. Today’s economic resources of the area are cattle breeding and the production of Fontina cheese, one of the most appreciated in the valley.
WHAT TO SEE
● The Ayez house-fortress and the Coumba Freida Carnival Museum: it is an interesting monument-house dating back to the 15th century, with remarkable decorated stone windows. The building has been renovated and hosts the library and the museum of the Carnival of Allein.
● The Parish Church of Saint Stephen: the present parish church, consecrated in 1841, is a simple building with classical lines, flanked by a cuspidate bell tower.
● The chapels: symbols of the devotion of the inhabitants, worth mentioning are the Chapel of Chez-Norat, dedicated to Saint Bernard, protector of skiers and mountaineers, and the Chapel of Ayez, built after the 1630 epidemic and dedicated to the Saints Fabian, Sebastian and Roch, invoked against the plague.
NATURE AND SPORT
In summer, trekking enthusiasts can choose among many excursions, like the one to Mont Saron (2680 m) among beautiful coniferous forests, which offers a wonderful view over the entire Great Saint Bernard valley. Mountain-bike lovers have at their disposal a series of tracks, where they will discover unique landscapes. In winter, people can explore some trails with snowshoes, immersed in the whiteness and the silence of the snow.
EVENTS AND TRADITIONS
● La Fëta di Trifolle: this festival takes place in the last weekend of August and is dedicated to local potatoes, where you can taste specialties made exclusively with this tasty tuber, including the “Sorsa d’Allein”, a traditional peasant dish.
● The historic Carnival of Allein: the Coumba Freida Carnival is famous in the whole region, but the one of Allein, unlike the ones organized in the other municipalities of the valley, is characterized by costumes in which red is the dominant colour. The landzette, curious masks of this carnival, wear colourful dresses and hats, decorated with mirrors, feathers and fringes, which are traditionally an allegorical transformation of the uniforms of the Napoleonic army, which passed through the Great Saint Bernard pass in 1800.
● Procession of the Saints Peter and Paul: at the end of June, the parish of Allein organises a procession at the Mont Saron, at an altitude of 2680 metres, which ends with a bonfire organized by the Alpine troopers group.
A CURIOUS LEGEND
It is said that a local countrywoman used to make the sign of the cross on her little son’s cradle to protect him from evil. One evening, however, she forgot about it and the devil took advantage of the situation by kidnapping the child.
Near the chapel of Allein, now dedicated to Saint Bernard, a pine branch touched the kid’s face and he started to cry. Luckily, the Saint heard him and forced the devil to bring the child back. As a matter of fact, although the mother had forgotten to make the sign of the cross, she had sewn a blessed medal depicting Saint Bernard on the cradle blankets.
● Altitude: 1253 m
● Inhabitants: 200
● How to get there by public transport: Allein is reachable by bus with the line “Aosta – Allein”. For timetables and further information, please visit the website of the Arriva Savda company.