Running with Julia: an interview with Patrizia and Andrea Brunet, the owners of the family run Bouton d’Or Hotel in Courmayeur, Italy

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Courmayeur is one of our favorite stops on the Tour du Mont Blanc – classy and atmospheric, with great views and a pedestrian-only main road.  The attractive wood and stone architecture almost has a medieval feel to it.  Most of our itineraries include two nights in Courmayeur so you can slow down and appreciate the pace of this beautiful mountain town, but you could easily spend many days here hiking the trails, visiting the spa, or just relaxing at a cafe or restaurant terrace in town.  Courmayeur is also home to one of our favorite family-run hotels, the 3-star Hotel Bouton d’Or, a gem of a stop some of the friendliest hosts you’re likely to meet, Patrizia and Andrea.  During her time in Courmayeur, we asked Julia to interview Patrizia and Andrea to learn more about what drives them.

For Patrizia and Andrea Casale Brunet, family is everything.  The couple are the owners of the Hotel Bouton d’Or, a cozy inn in the small mountain village of Courmayeur, part of Italy’s Aosta Valley.  Andrea’s family built the hotel in 1972 and since then, the hotel’s foremost priority has been to make guests feel right at home.

Patrizia and Andrea Casale Brunet are the generous and thoughtful hosts at the Hotel Bouton d’Or in Courmayeur, Italy. Photo: hotelboutondor.com

The hotel has a comforting familial atmosphere that is palpable as soon as you step in the door.  The reception area and lounge have warm wooden interior, where large windows and plush sofas create an inviting space for guests to relax and enjoy the view of Mont Blanc after a day out on the trails.  The rooms are charming, adored with furniture crafted by local artisans and carpets, prints, and pictures that reflect the history of the Aosta Valley.  Each room also includes a private bathroom and a balcony or garden that is blooming with summer flowers.

Your stay includes a buffet breakfast, which offers an abundance of treats: homemade cakes, strudel, biscuits, and croissants as well as omelets, quiche and locally-produced yogurts, cheeses, and meats.  Many of the fruits and vegetables that are served were grown just steps away, in the hotel’s own garden.  Just next to the garden is a terrace with lounge chairs and bright umbrellas – another comfortable space for guests to relax and enjoy the warm summer sun.

The breakfast spread at the Hotel Bourton d’Or deserves an early wake up with Patrizia and Andrea’s homemade cakes, quiches and other delicacies. Photo: Eryka Thorley

I sat down with Patrizia and Andrea to talk about the history of the hotel, their favorite things to do in Courmayeur, and how the town is fueled by the energy of the Alp’s famous summer trail races.

Julia: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today.  Your hotel is so beautiful! Can you tell me a little about the history of it?

Patrizia: It’s all about family. Andrea’s family built the hotel in 1972 and since then, we have enjoyed being here and making our guests feel at home.

Andrea: Yes, its all about family.  The hotel is our home too.  Besides the years spent in college, we’ve lived our whole lives here in Courmayeur.

Julia: What are your favorite things about the town? What are some of the best things to do here in the summertime?

Andrea: People love to go skiing here, but my favorite time in Courmayeur is in the summer months.  There is so much to do: you can walk and climb so many places and the village is beautiful and warm.  You can sit and have a gelato in the square and relax.

Patrizia: When we’re not at the hotel, we love to go walking.  There are so many beautiful trails from town.  It can be a hard steep hike up but the views of Mont Blanc from the top are wonderful!

The hike from Courmayeur to the Rifugio Bonatti quickly gives you a beautiful view of Courmayeur and the surrounding mountains. Photo: Eryka Thorley

Julia: What are some of your favorite walks and hikes to do from town?

Patrizia: Of course, many of the sections of the Tour du Mont Blanc are very popular with guests because they are so beautiful. We like to walk up to Rifugio Maison Vielle or Rifugio Bonatti, which are both on the TMB route.  There, you can sit and relax with a cappuccino or a piece of tart with the beautiful views.

Andrea: Yes, many of our guests come here to walk the Tour du Mont Blanc trail.  We want to help them choose the best routes and prepare them for what to expect.  There are many hills!

Julia: Everyone loves a good Italian meal, especially when you’ve spent the day in the mountains! What is your favorite restaurant in town?

Pizza at the La Terrazza is hard to beat! Photo: Eryka Thorley

Patrizia: There are so many restaurants here; they are really all good because they all serve real Italian food!   They use many ingredients that are local here to the valley. There’s Chalet Proment, La Terraza, Al Camin, Cadran Solaire…. There are so many that it’s hard to choose!

Andrea: All the restaurants in town are very nearby.  All are only a few minutes walk from the hotel.  This makes it easy for our guests, who are tired from hiking, and don’t want to go such a long way for a nice meal.  Most of our guests don’t have a car, but in Courmayeur everything is so close that you don’t need one at all.  All the shops, restaurants, and bars are only a few minutes of walking away!

Julia: Two of the toughest trail races in the Alps – UTMB and Tor des Geants – run right through town. What is Courmayeur like during the weeks these races are happening?  (In addition to the TMB hikers who come through Courmayeur all summer, in the world of ultramarathoning, Courmayeur is recognized for hosting to two of the world’s most famous trail races– the 158 km (103 mile) UTMB and the 330 km (205 mile) Tor des Geants.  In the UTMB, runners pass through the village’s large aid station, which is situated about halfway through the race.  Alpinehikers and Run the Alps typically organize a guided running Tour of Mont Blanc that stays at the Bouton d’Or while the UTMB racers are passing through town.  The mid-September Tor des Geants race starts and finishes right in the cobblestoned streets of Courmayeur after runners spend close to 100 hours ascending 25 mountain peaks around the valley with little to no sleep.  Good times!)

Patrizia: [During UTMB] the town is very fun, very busy and very full of young people.  There are people here from all around the world!  Many of the people who put on the UTMB and even some of the runners stay here in our hotel.

Andrea: For Tor des Geants, the race starts right here on the street and finishes right here too. Afterwards the people are very tired – their feet are sore, they are very sleepy, their whole bodies are used! The race is very difficult because for many days you run through the night and you don’t get much sleep.  You sleep maybe just one or two hours for the whole time you are running.

Patrizia: When the race is going on, we have porters all through the night to help runners who have come back early.  There are many that don’t complete it because the race is so hard! At the end of the races, many of the runners need food or help walking around.  We want to help them with everything, to make it easier for them afterwards when they are so tired.

The Bouton d’Or Hotel in Courmayeur, Italy with views of Mont Blanc from its parking lot. Photo: Eryka Thorley

Julia: Wow, it sounds like the race is a big event for the whole village!

Patrizia: Yes, when the races are going on, there is a lot of excitement.  Everyone appreciates the runners, whether or not you run yourself. Everyone enjoys cheering on the runners, helping them in any way we can.

Andrea: Before the Tor des Geants was a race [the inaugural edition was in 2010], the trail was something people in the valley already knew about because of so many years of hiking in the mountains.  It is a beautiful trail that is very difficult. We cheer on the runners and we know they appreciate the beauty of the mountains here.

Patrizia: We want our guests to enjoy the beauty of the valley and the mountains.  Everyone who comes here can do this, whether you are running and hiking on the trails, or just relaxing in town.

Julia: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today and telling us more about your beautiful hotel and Courmayeur.

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