LES COMBES, Italy —John Paul II made an excursion by car into the mountains July 10, the first full day of his vacation in this northern Italian village in the mountains near France. The Pope's 12-day stay is the ninth visit of his papacy to this area.

Travelling by helicopter from Rome, John Paul arrived in Aosta July 9, where children and local dignitaries were on hand to greet him.

Mayor Osvaldo Naudim later reported: “I approached him and greeted him on behalf of the municipal council and all, and I wished him peaceful days of rest and outings. Smiling, he replied, ‘Let's hope so.’”

Bishop Giuseppe Anfossi of Aosta said: “We offer a vacation to a person who comes from a most important and courageous work, a man who continues to sustain exhausting rhythms of life, but who is not indifferent to the time of rest or the choice of place.”

Referring to the Pope's recent trip to Ukraine, the bishop said, “I must say that to welcome him after such an important moment for the history of our Church is overwhelming.”

From Aosta, the Pope went by car to Les Combes, where children presented him with flowers and read him a poem of welcome, the Associated Press reported. The Pope is staying in a a two-story, wood-and-stone chalet built by the Salesians. The chalet looks out on Mont Blanc, Western Europe's highest mountain.

On July 11, the Pope spent more than seven hours in the heights of La Thuile. On his departure from the vacation chalet and on his return, the papal caravan of cars stopped briefly to let the Holy Father exchange greetings with Les Combes neighbors, who were waiting for him on the road.

Children crowded around the car and gave the Holy Father drawings they had made and other gifts.

Before his departure for vacation, the Pope, an avid hiker in his younger days, told pilgrims in St. Peter's Square July 8 that he was particularly fond of his summer retreat in Les Combes.

“I hope that everyone during summer can enjoy a little deserved rest,” he said

Coinciding with the Pope's days of rest the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers published “Pastoral Orientations for Tourism,” July 11.

The document said vacations should be a time to rest, to learn about other cultures, to spend time with one's family and to appreciate God's creation. The document also dealt with many ethical questions raised by tourism, including respect for local cultures and religions and safeguarding the environment.

In memory of the Pope's holidays in the Val d'Aosta region, a residence for the elderly there has been named after him and a little museum has opened with mementos of his days in Les Combes.

Besides excursions in the mountains, the Pope's vacation itinerary includes time for reading, writing and praying. Residents and mayors from Val d'Aosta were also scheduled to present a video to him on July 15. The video reports the flooding that hit the valley last October, the worst in its history.

John Paul was due to return to Rome July 20, then travel directly to his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. Among the first appointments on his schedule after his return is a meeting July 23 with President Bush.

Compiled by Register staff from combined wire services