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A stunning journey to France and Italy

Arreau, in the French Pyrenees, is a small town in the mountains. It is the perfect place to relax. (David Carmena/YJI)

Chamonix, FRANCEEurope is full of beautiful natural landscapes, but if there is one place that can take your breath away it is the Alps. From France to Slovenia, is difficult to describe the beauty of these mountains.

However, not only are there high mountains, but beautiful villages, too.

Chamonix is one of the most famous towns for skiing in winter and in summer, for climbing Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in France. In this small town, there are two kinds of tourists: the mountain lovers who try to climb Mont Blanc or other peaks and the ones who are rich and go there to spend a lot of money in the luxury shops and restaurants.

The town of Chamonix, France, is famous for being surrounded by Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s highest peak, and for its Mer de Glace, a glacier which is melting due to climate change. (David Carmena/YJI)

Between the mountains, there are a lot of footpaths which will take you to amazing places. This one ended at a place that offered lodging for people visiting the mountain.

In front of us, we could see the Mer de Glace.

A hiking route on the outskirts of Chamonix. Once finished, you arrive at a beautiful shelter for travelers. (David Carmena/YJI)

But the journey didn’t end in the French Alps. We next traveled to Italy, more specifically Aosta Valley, one of Italy’s most peculiar regions. Here, Italian and French culture mix together in the local customs and in historical buildings like the Fénis Castle.

When the Europeans travel to one country to another, it is common to freely cross the border from one country to the other without paying a fee. But, on this journey, we were shocked to learn that to go from France to Italy and vice versa you must pay a toll of almost $55 USD to cross the border.

This is strange, because if you cross the border to Spain, France, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany, that doesn’t happen.

One aspect that is different between northern Italy and southern Italy is the daily timetable. Northern Italians eat and have dinner sooner than in the south, 12:30 p.m. for a mid-day meal and 7 p.m. for dinner, compared to the 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. mealtimes kept by most Mediterranean cultures.

In addition to that, the food is different. In most European countries, you’ll find the famous, round shape of Neapolitan pizza, while in Italy’s Aosta region, the wheat-based dough is square.

Leaving behind culinary aspects, the landscapes are jaw-dropping.

The town of Bard in Aosta Valley, Italy. Its views are wonderful. (David Carmena/YJI)
In Gressoney-La-Trinité, Aosta, you will find a lot of natural areas for hiking, or simply to relax and enjoy the views. (David Carmena/YJI)

Two hours of driving separate the Alps from some of the most famous cities in Italy, Milan and Turin.

Milan is considered to be a disappointing city for non-Italians and a lovely one for the nationals. It’s because of the difference in the architecture between Milan and the rest of Italy.

Milan is more industrialized, and even though the architecture is sometimes similar to typical Italian buildings, the truth is that if you walk around the city, you might wonder if you really are in Italy or if you are actually in another European country.

Milan’s most famous monument, il Duomo, is one of the best examples of Gothic style in Europe. (David Carmena/YJI)
The interior of the Milan Cathedral. (David Carmena/YJI)
Mole Antonelliana in Turin is a most remarkable monument. It is the headquarters of the National Museum of Cinema. (David Carmena/YJI)

Milan and Turin are different. Milan is made for the wealthy people, with a lot of luxury shops and restaurants and it’s very crowded, while Turin is the opposite, cheaper and calm, compared to Milan.

When visiting churches in Italy, women are required to follow a dress code that uses shawls and other garments to cover bare arms, shoulders and legs. It’s possible to rent a white shawl at the entrance to meet the dress code.

From Turin, our next stop was Avignon, a famous city in southern France. The Palace of the Popes is amazing, and at a festival every year in July, plays are performed inside.

In Turin there is one of the biggest Egyptian museums in the world. It is so big and wonderful that you will think you are in ancient Egypt. (David Carmena/YJI)
In Avignon, France, it is a must to visit the Palace of the Popes. (David Carmena/YJI)

The last part of the journey was to visit the French Pyrenees, and to relax in the city of Arreau, enjoying the beautiful landscape.

David Carmena is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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