The Petit-Saint-Bernard pass
At an altitude of 2 ,188m, the Petit-Saint-Bernard pass (Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard or Colle del Piccolo San Bernardo) marks the border between France and Italy.
In summer, visitors can drive or cycle to the pass from La Rosière, but in winter the pass can only be reached on skis, via the slopes of the Espace San Bernardo. Once you enter the pass, you cannot help but admire the beauty of the landscapes and quickly realise that the site has been the backdrop for many important historic events.
Thanks to its cross-border position, the pass has been considered a strong strategic foothold since earliest Antiquity, both as a site for discussions and a site for conflicts. Today, however, the border control building is empty and the customs officers are long gone! Visitors can look around the Chanousia botanical gardens, stroll through the Cromlech − which dates back to the Neolithic period − or enjoy a meal at the Petit-Saint-Bernard hospice.
It was back in the 11th century that Saint Bernard de Menthon, under the administrative supervision of the Aosta Valley, had the Petit-Saint-Bernard hospice built. A hospice was a religious house that welcomed in pilgrims. Over the years, the building has suffered greatly at the hands of history and the climate. Originally autonomous, the Hospice was assigned to the Chamoines in 1466 and today pertains to the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus. During the Second World War, the hospice was caught up in many battles. Partially destroyed, it was forced to close.
In 1993, an association (created by Jean-Luc Penna, the current Mayor of Séez) put the wheels in motion to restore the Hospice. A collaborative project run by this association, the interconnected communities of the Haute Tarentaise, the department of Savoie, La Thuile and the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus led to the restoration of the building.
Since 2014, the building has recovered its original mission as a place providing hospitality, although pilgrims have now been replaced by hikers, tourists and other travellers who choose to eat or spend the night in this building steeped in history. The Hospice also houses a tourist information point, which provides information and documentation about the Haute Tarentaise, as well as temporary exhibitions. The Petit-Saint-Bernard Hospice is managed by Grégory Henri, who receives guests and serves meals day and night!