Nestled in the northwest of Italy, the Lys Valley is a long and narrow valley carved into the mountains by thousands of years of fluvial and glacial erosion. It’s 20 miles long and only a few hundred yards wide, on average.

The environment is a harsh one to live in. Some of the valley’s hamlets get little sunlight over the long and snowy winters. Then there’s the emphatic change of seasons: the snowmelt in the spring, the heavy rains, the hot summers, the rainy and misty falls—all interspersed with sunny days with no clouds.

Some locals call the Lys Valley—also known as the Gressoney Valley because of its highest municipality—La Vallée Noire (“the Black Valley”, in French due to its proximity to France and its multilingual culture). The valley, its topography, and climate have a magnetic power over the inhabitants—a force that influences their psychology and has shaped their cultural dynamics.