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Piedmont's Magical Valley

Valle Maira - an Occitan paradise
Starting point:

You are based for the first three nights in Al Chersogno in Allemandi, on the north side of the valley, high above the River Maira. The wide-ranging views and the many walks from the door provide an excellent introduction to this unique valley.

Day 1

Circular ‘Broom Walk’: 5km, 2hrs; ascent / descent 300m
Circular walk via Gardetta Pass: 10km, 3.5hrs; ascent 480m / descent 895m
Longer option with detour to Lago Camoscere: 12.5km, 4.5hrs; ascent / descent 110m

For a (relatively) gentle first day, the ‘Broom Walk’ traverses forest to reach a rocky outlook from where seven of the valley’s nine districts are visible. Then comes a steep descent to follow an ancient path of dry-stone construction – used in times gone by for transporting timber – before crossing a hillside which flowers spectacularly with broom in spring (hence its name) and fragrantly with lavender later in the year.

Alternatively, if you’re ready for the big walk of the area, you could head via the Gardetta Pass. The route starts with a transfer (pay locally) then takes you past the imposing peak of Chersogno. Though this 3,024-metre summit looks impregnable, a rocky path leads from the pass right to the top, within the scope of walkers with a head for heights who are confident on paths of loose rock (this adds 2.5km/2hrs to the route). The reward is a 360-degree panorama in a league of its own. Even without the detour, this is an impressive and varied walk, with a further option to divert to Lake Camoscere, before returning via a grassy whaleback ridge – a highlight in itself – to Allemandi.

Day 2
Linear walk via Elva, returning by taxi: 17km, 6.5hrs; ascent 885m / descent 990m

Today’s walk explores the Elva Valley to the east of Allemandi, crossing the S. Michele pass before descending through shady forest to reach Elva. This village, though remote, is home to an impressively frescoed medieval church, as well as a Museum of Hair documenting the region’s central role in the booming early-20th-century trade in human hair. The walk then climbs two passes to reach the ancient village of S. Martino Superiore from where you return to Allemandi by taxi.

Day 3
Allemandi to Acceglio (lower option, finishing by taxi): 15.5km, 5.5hrs; ascent 690m / descent 990m
Allemandi to Acceglio via Serasin Pass (finishing by taxi): 16.5km, 6.5hrs; ascent 1050m / descent 1350m

Follow a section of the Percorsi Occitani through the beautiful village of Castiglione and out of the San Michele Valley. To reach Acceglio, Valle Maira’s main village, you have the choice of an easier route that descends to follow the River Maira, or a more demanding option that climbs past ancient hamlets to the spectacular Serasin Pass before descending open country and then forest. However you arrive in Acceglio, you are collected by taxi for the short transfer to La Scuola di Chiappera at the head of the valley, your base for the next three nights.

Days 4 & 5

You have a choice of three walks for your two days in Chiappera.

• Circular walk via Rocca Provenzale: 10.5km, 4hrs; ascent / descent 650m

Chiappera is dominated by the Rocca Provenzale, a scarcely believable fin of rock which towers over the village. This excellent route around the Rocca involves a stiff but well graded climb to the Greguri Pass and an atmospheric WWII bunker, with views northwards over the French border and beyond. The route then loops down and round to follow the river beneath the spectacular Cascate de Stroppia and back to Chiappera.

• Circular walk via Lake Roure: 16.5km, 6hrs; ascent 790m / descent 1130m
• Circular walk via Col de Marinet: 21.5km, 8hrs; ascent 1140m / descent 1480m

This walk begins with a short transfer (pay locally) before rising steadily through the beautiful Maurin Valley to Col de Maurin. Two options continue north into France through recently glaciated terrain: a short out-and-back detour to Lake Roure or a climb to Col de Marinet and descent via the stunning Marinet lakes, looping back up the beautiful Vallon de Mary before retracing your steps back down into Italy and on to Chiappera.

• Circular walk via Passo della Cavalla: 18km, 7.5hrs; ascent / descent 1270m

To the south of Chiappera are many high lakes and spectacular peaks. After a gentle start, you climb out of the forest and into high, rugged country, passing not just bunkers and crumbling barracks, but skeins of barbed wire tracing the contours of these otherwise untouched hillsides – rusting relics marking the contested boundary between France and Italy in WWII. From Passo della Cavalla you can, for a challenge and sweeping views, climb Mont Soubeyran , or simply continue beneath it to then descend below the imposing north face of ‘Auto Vallonasso’ to the dramatic (and swimmable) Lake Visaisa, set in a cirque. The path then descends through forest back to Chiappera.

Day 6
Chiappera to Finello (starting and finishing by taxi): 15km, 6hrs; ascent 940m / descent 1010m

After a short transfer, you follow an ancient way through a hamlet and along the pretty Unerzio Valley. The ascent to the Passo della Gardetta passes multiple gun emplacements and bunkers, blended into the rocky hillside but still intact more than 70 years later. The view from the pass is one of the classics of the Valle Maira, sweeping east across the high Gardetta Valley to the prominent peak of Rocca la Meja in the distance. The gentle descent over high grasslands to the Preit col takes you past a rifugio  where you can pause for a drink or lunch before the brief final climb across the lower slopes of La Meja. The route ends with a steady descent to Preit, from where a taxi transfers you to the Locanda Lou Pitavin in Finello for your final two nights.

Day 7
Circular walk via the Marmora villages: 7.5km, 3hrs; ascent / descent 440m

This is an easier circuit on paths, tracks and deserted mountain roads through the most picturesque hamlets of the lush, wooded Marmora valley. There’s plenty of time to hunt down the many frescoes which adorn the walls of private houses and churches along the way, and to explore Vernetti, the last and largest village on the route, before returning to Finello for a sumptuous final dinner.

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 Grade 3 Walk
Local Map
A truly magical valley
Regular Inntravellers David and Jenny Grech have just returned from a walking trip to the Valle Maira. David – an accomplished artist – has shared a few pages of his sketchbook with us...
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