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At Mont Saint Michel for the thousand years of the abbey: where it is, what there is to see, how to get there

Discovering a real island

By Marco Squadroni

It is the first of the“Meraviglie” that Alberto Angela proposed to his audience in the series Stars of Europe, which Rai 1 dedicated to the most spectacular Unesco sites on the old continent. It is the first in the list of the modern Seven Wonders of the World that, according to Condé Nast Traveller, must be visited in 2023. It is second, from the north, in the sacred and imaginary line that runs for over two thousand kilometres and connects seven monasteries dedicated to the Archangel Michael. By now you will have guessed it, it is the Abbey of Mont Saint Michel, an extraordinary and unmissable place located in the north of France.

It is a place and an architectural complex that cannot be missing from the travel baggage of every wanderer who for leisure or work has taken on the mission of discovering the wonders of this planet. A very old abbey that precisely in 2023 will celebrate the thousandth anniversary of its construction, an anniversary that will be the pretext to open to the public an unprecedented selection of the church's treasures, with liturgical objects never exhibited before.

 
 
 
 
 
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Un post condiviso da Mont-Saint-Michel (@visitlemont)

But to blow out the thousand candles of Mont Saint Michel, you first have to get there! The abbey and the village, built on a small island lapped by powerful tides and surrounded by expanses of sand that are as treacherous as they are insidious, are located on the Gulf of Saint Malo, in the Normandy region but on the border with Brittany. From Milan, it can be easily reached in about 12 hours by car, passing through Switzerland and touching Paris. Otherwise, you can opt for a comfortable one-and-a-half-hour flight to Beauvais Tillé airport and then drive 4 hours north-west.

Once you arrive at your destination, remember that cars can no longer be parked after the bridge, at the foot of the hill, because the old bridge has been dismantled (moreover, visitors often forgot the time of the tides and the cars of the careless were submerged by the sea). Now one has to park a few kilometres away (10/15 euro ticket, depending on the season) and then use the free shuttles, the carriage (7 euro) or one's own feet. The current jetty allows access to the abbey all year round and only on a few occasions, due to exceptional tides, is it submerged, transforming Mont Saint Michel back into a real island.

The three routes that lead visitors to the abbey, called “la Lisière, Ouest e Mont Saint Michel” allow you to enjoy an impressive view of the Mount and to take as many photos as you like, along a reserved and safe path, shaded and in the middle of the countryside.

 
 
 
 
 
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Un post condiviso da Mont-Saint-Michel (@visitlemont)

Once you reach the cliffs, you begin to climb and discover the village, until you reach the walkways and the thousand-year-old abbey. Even just walking within those ancient walls is a rewarding journey goal. But visiting the museum and the interior of the church, with its stunning cloister, is rewarding for any effort. Local experts advise not to be hasty, to experience and discover Mont Saint Michel calmly, even taking the time to observe the impetuous rise of the tides, a phenomenon that demonstrates the power of those waters and whose effect on our imagination is complicated to explain. An experience that can only be lived in person. And, speaking of unique experiences, the night visit to the abbey, which is organised, only in summer, between 7.30 p.m. and midnight, should be mentioned.

 
 
 
 
 
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Un post condiviso da JOSEP VADRÍ (@vadri14)

French tourist promotion portals cite a number of reasons to visit Mont Saint Michel: the view of the bay from a height of 80 metres, the breadth of the visiting routes, the wonder of a unique Unesco site, the night-time atmosphere in the village and the possibility of organising a tourist and cultural experience involving the whole family (and which is free up to the age of 26). But once you get to that superb part of Europe, you will quickly realise that there are many more reasons and that it is such a treasure trove that you will need at least a week of visits and excursions.

Images Tim Rebkavets on Unsplash