The distinguished guests of Gressoney
Initially, Queen Margherita of Savoy came to Gressoney invited by Baron Luigi Beck Peccoz, and later her husband King Umberto I had a castle built for her in the area called Belvedere. The castle evokes a fairy-tale atmosphere and is the true highlight of Gressoney. There, from the window of her living room, the queen would scrutinize each peak of the Monte Rosa massif. The castle was opened in August 1904 and became the summer residence of the Queen until 1925, a few months before her death on 10th January 1926. Today, it is used to host artistic and cultural events. The Queen attracted aristocratic and cultural figures including the poets Giuseppe Giacosa (1897) and Giosuè Carducci (1898) to Gressoney. In 1893, the hut, an observatory which took her name, was inaugurated on Gnifetti Peak at 4554 m a.s.l. From that altitude the queen contemplated the sunrise and exclaimed: «Before this greatness of mountains and this solemn expanse of glaciers, pitiful doubt falls silent and faith rises strongly and forcefully to God». En route from Pont Saint Martin to Gressoney, the queen would stop at Issime to change horses and sometimes the carriage would have to be replaced by a sleigh because of a sudden snowfall.
In 1889, Queen Margherita of Savoy invited the poet Giosuè Carducci to Gressoney who lodged in Hotel Miravalle. During his stay he composed sonnets in honour of the Queen, but also poems inspired by the beauty of the Valley including In riva al Lys, dated 8thAugust 1908. He dedicated Ode Alla Regina d’Italia, Il liuto e la lira, A Margherita Regina d’Italia to the queen.
In 1895, Carducci descended from Gressoney with his beloved granddaughter Elvira: having reached Gaby, he decided to stop, captivated by the magnificent landscape, and dedicated a song to the magnificent Niel waterfall. In Gaby he stayed at the new “Albergo dei Colli Vecchina e Mologna”, a hotel which had been built to offer accommodation to travellers who crossed the Alpine passes. It was there that Carducci met Maria Stevenin on the threshold and asked for hospitality.
Intrigued, the next day Maria asked Carducci what he was writing. In response, he promised that he would send her the verses he was writing; a few days later the woman received the poem which had been entitled to her, L’Ostessa di Gaby, dated 27th August 1895. The same day Carducci wrote Mezzogiorno Alpino.
Colonel of the Austrian Imperial and Royal Army and naturalist, he was sent to Italy in 1821 to repress the secret revolutionary societies known as “carbonari”. He visited different communities of Alemannic origin and in 1822 he went to Gressoney where he carried out in-depth research on the flora and fauna. LUDWIGSHOEHE Peak was named after him. Before him, in 1789, Orace Benedict De Saussure had discovered the presence of the German race south of the Rosa mountain chain, the Walser, and in his Voyage dans les Alps he called it: “une espèce de garde allemande…je veux dire des villages allemands situés autour du Mont Rose”.
The most prominent ancestor of the Linty family (1739-1819) was born in Wengen, Germany. At the age of 8 he was brought to Châtillon, where he began to study until he graduated in Law in Turin. He later moved to Aosta. On 17th October 1777 he became secretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Turin and, in 1783, drew up the act for the wedding of Prince Vittorio Emanuele I with the Princess of Austria, Maria Teresa. In 1791, he was appointed Commander of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus and director of the Mauritian hospital of Aosta. He reorganised the hospital, where new donations poured in and a new ward was built. The French government offered to transfer him to Paris as Director of the United Hospitals but he refused, sending a report in which he clearly stated the need of his work in Aosta. In 1819, he left his inheritance to the hospital to build a new women’s ward, which was built at a later date by his successor.
The first was Leonardo Da Vinci, who ventured to the slopes of Monte Rosa (which he called Monboso) in the early 16th century, fascinated by its ice covered peaks even in summer and which he wanted to remember in his famous code Monboso… a mountain which rises so high that it almost passes the clouds. In 1773, Austrian Emperor Francis II descended incognito to Gressoney from Colle Valdobbia and thanks to several writings we know that he stayed with a person named Curta. English travellers include J.D.Forbes, a naturalist and painter, who climbed the Lys Glacier in 1842, and Theofile Ladner, the famous painter who immortalized different landscapes and painted numerous family portraits between 1850-1852. Until the mid 19th century travellers found lodging in private homes, the hotel activity developed later; the first hotel called De La Pierre opened in Gressoney in 1800. Guests have included Reverend Samuel W. King (1855), Lady Cole (1858), writer and painter, Ferdinand Duke of Genoa (1864), father of Queen Margherita and guest of Baron Beck Peccoz Luigi.
Other hotels which opened starting from 1861: Hotel du Nord e Monte Rosa of Sebastiano Linty, Hotel Pensione Thédy in 1880 in Gressoney La Trinité, Hotel Lyskamm of the Busca family in Saint Jean in 1887.
Other guests: King Umberto I Vittorio Emanuele, the Prince of Piemonte Maria José (1838-1989 after his exile to Switzerland); Joseph Mallord William Turner: the famous English painter, his presence is uncertain, could be between 1817 and 1819; Leone Tolstoj visited the Lys Valley in June 1857; he reached Gressoney Saint Jean from Turin, first by carriage, later on foot and mule’s back. In 1894, Monsignor Achille Ratti (who became Pope Pius XI) arrived in Gressoney to climb the Gnifetti and Testa Grigia peak: «Having departed Gressoney at 6 we climbed to a chapel, the air was pure and thin, clear sounds on the mountains, a young man sings, descent, aromas and smells of rye and melissa, a cuckoo sings»; Giuseppe Giacosa (1897): the poet who penned Novelle e Paesi Valdostani inspired by the family of Franz Welf in Cortlys; Francesco Pastonchi stayed in Lysbalma, where he wrote numerous poems; W. Mathews made the first crossing of the Felikjoch, with F.W.Jacob and the guide Michel Craz of Chamonix: it took them 17 hours from Cortlis to Wematt, and they were the first to climb the Castor summit along the south-eastern ridge; Senator Perazzi (1879), a mountaineer whose name was given to one of the peaks of Monte Rosa; Quintino Sella, geologist, mathematician and politician; Senator Albertini.
Noblemen: Deslex Noble family from Bourgogne.
Poets, writers and painters, Prof. Lupo and Falchetti.
Statesmen: Einaudi Pella Togliatti Saragat Pandolfi. President of the Helvetic confederation: Musy; President of the Court of Cassation Eula and Baffi, Governor of the Bank of Italy.
Sculptors: Mastroiammi and Moore.
Painters: Velan, Nespolo Ugo. Senator: Prof. Gallo. Painter of the Pope: Consadori.
Many of those who choose our valley, to escape from the stress and chaos of city life, prefer to remain anonymous and to have their rights to privacy respected.