European sophisticates and some newly minted Russian millionaires, mink-clad and Prada-toting, enjoy the quieter and less-touristy shopping on the Italian side of the iconic mountain in the Alps where Italy, France and Switzerland blend: Monte Bianco and Courmayeur.

The best shopping in town is concentrated along Via Roma, a pedestrian street lined with names you know, like Polo, Lacoste, North Face and Gant, and some you haven't encountered.

Napapijri does have outposts in New York, Antwerp, Paris, St.Tropez and Milan, but this Swiss company sells jeans, jackets, outerwear and footwear that quietly shouts quality.

The Hermes store has a beautiful Courmayeur scarf, not your typical tourist souvenir. Well, not my typical trinket to bring home. Want a high-end ski helmet? Aspesi Guichardat is your place. Armani jeans, Versace, Galliano or Paciotti? Boutique Via Roma. And Italian hand-crafted leather goods and shoes? Boutique du Coir.

Sguardi has cashmere made in Italy; Radaele - beautiful girls' clothing. Paresio - perfume from names like Kanebo, Sisley, La Praire, Guerlain, and Prada.

There are many beautiful jewellers, and on a small side street poking off Via Roma "Arredi e oggetti ethnici," has wonderful unusual jewellery next to a store with ordinary electronics and kitchenware, a hair salon and a sale bookshop. Up a walkway is a shop specialising in furs, with the signs in Russian.

Tag Hauer, Gucci, Dior, Ralph Lauren for Children and Burberry for Children, Armani, Helly Hansen, and Timberland. If all this makes your mouth water, there's an outdoor oyster bar, and a number of shops like Gourmandises with chocolate, candy, cheeses, biscuits, wines, liquors and splendid dried mushrooms.

And if you take some treats home, you might want to stop at Heriz Gally for a beautiful tablecloth, or two. Down a quiet offshoot from Via Roma is a craft shop with museum quality pieces: IVAT, Institut Valotain de l'Artisanat Typique. Here a metal disc on each item guarantees "objects created in the Aosta Valley using high quality raw materials and complying with standards passed down from generation to generation, after having been examined by a commission of experts."

Shopping in Courmayeur is punctuated, of course, by fine wines, jewel-coloured aperitifs, wild mushrooms, local cheeses and more, sometimes at sunsplashed tables outdoors.

The restaurants are not obtrusive places. You'll probably have to ask the concierge for assistance in procuring a good table, and you won't find them in Frommer's or Fodor's, instead these are remarked on in Michelin Guides and Slow Food Guides.

Ristorante La Taverna del Pilier offers typical regional and classic dishes with assorted specialties in what was once a small stable for farm animals and is now a rustic and elegant environment, transformed by a large open fireplace. Favourite dishes include St. Marcel prosciutto with fresh tomino cheese, chives, figs and walnut bread; Fontina fondue with black bread croutons; and Venison sirloin on a bed of braised Savoy cabbage; and Steak Tartar.

At the Pierre Alexis 1877 Restaurant you'll want to consider leek flan with valdostan fondue; curly green salad with melted goat cheese, pears and walnuts; venison ravioli with apple and rosemary; venison fillet; and braised venison with caramelised apples. Here the excellent wine cellar offers 300 different labels.

Don't forget the skiing! Drag yourself away from Courmayeur's alluring shops and eateries just long enough to explore some of the 100 kilometres of pistes that make up the Courmayeur-Mont Blanc ski area.

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