Hiking in Piedmont itinerary

This magnificent tour takes you hiking in Piedmont from from the Po River plains through the Italian Alps (skirting around Mt Rosa, the second highest peak in the Europe) to the Swiss border following an escape route used by Allied POW's in the Second World War.

Day 1: Biella

Your first night is spent in Biella, a pleasant town with a rail link, north of Turin.  Situated where the Po River plain butts up against the foothills of the Italian Alps, Biella has had a long history as a trade and commercial centre.  The Oropa River valley has provided access over the Alps to Switzerland and France since Roman times.   Biella’s centuries-old textile tradition continues today producing high quality woollen clothes and it is the home of international fashion houses such as Ermenegildo Zegna.

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Day 2:

The path we take today leaves Biella following a route that was first mentioned in 1207 and which was a trade route leading all the way to Lyon in central France.  The path climbs up through forests and hamlets with spectacular views back over the plains and finishes at one of the most unexpected and striking sites on the walk: an enormous baroque monastery that has been a popular place of pilgrimage for centuries and which is where we’ll be staying the night.  17 kms, 5 hours, 766 mts ascent  (Grade 4 click for detail).

Day 3:

Today, we take a small trail that contours around the mountain with vasts views over the Po Plain and then cuts back into the forest and heads north to a second monastery, where we’ll have lunch.  After visiting a partisan cemetery, we continue on the trail which takes us down a winding path into the next valley to a rather strange little town that was home to the benefactor would built a road and tunnel that connects the two monasteries in the later 1800s. The trail then takes us north up beside the river to a second village at head of the valley.  (18 kms, 5 hrs, 557 mts ascent, 708 mts descent, Grade 3).  (Lunch and dinner)

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Day 4:

Girding our loins for the long climb that awaits, possibly the hardest stretch of the tour, we climb up to a welcoming mountain hut that sits spectacularly on a platform under mountain peaks.  It is a hard four hour ascent but the rewards are great - glorious views south across the Alps and a convivial place to relax and sleep.  (6 kms, 4 hrs, ascent 1205 mts, descent 65 mts,  Grade 5) (Lunch and dinner)

Day 5:

Today’s walk takes us through the heart of the Alps with our first glimpse of Monte Rosa. We pass a number of enchanting frozen lakes and small glaciers and cross high mountain pastures that are still used by flocks walked up for the summer.  There is no road access, only a network of trails that run north and south, east and west.  The second half of the walk is a long descent, boulder hopping down a narrow glacial valley which eventually opens up into forest and then pastures where we’ll start passing the gorgeous wooden 'Walser' farm houses that characterise the area. Our accommodation tonight is in a very comfortable historic alpine hotel (in a restored Walser hamlet) that hosted Margherita, the queen of Italy, in 1889.  (Grade 5:  17kms, 7.5 hrs, 540 mts ascent, 1310 mts descent).

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Day 6:

Today is a short and very pleasant walk, which will give us the chance to rest from the previous two days’ efforts.  The trail takes us into a larger valley with the majestic Monte Rosa at the head.  We finish at a pretty skiing town, a sunny place that has a number of pleasant cafes and small restaurants. From here a series of cable car climbs up to the foot of Monte Rosa, with breathtaking views and a rifugio where we can have lunch.  Weather permitting, we will have also the option of a 40 minute walk from the lift station across a glacier to a second mountain hut.  Of course, you can forego both or either of the options and chill out in the town.

After returning to the valley, it's a short walk to another 'rifugio', a beautifully restored, stone shepherds’ hamlet surrounded by pastures, with an excellent restaurant and a terrace with views up to the mountains.   11 kms, 3 hrs, 474 mts ascent, 266 mts descent  (Grade 2: click for details)

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Day 7:

Today is another long, hard walk but is one of the highlights of the tour: leaving the valley with Monte Rosa looming above us, we climb up an old military mule trail (built in the 1920s following a route that dates from Roman times) to the last pass (2900 mts) offering the first views of Switzerland. Once over the pass, we head down into another beautiful valley with a pretty lake in the distance to the village of Macugnaga.  Our accommodation for the last two nights is a lovely family-run 3-star hotel on the main square where your luggage will be waiting for you (transported from Biella) – luxury!    22 kms, 7.5 hrs, ascent 1390 mts, descent 1502 mts  (Grade 5: click for details)

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Day 8:

Today is an easy day.  We’ll spend the morning exploring this fascinating little town before taking the cable card that runs between Magugnaga up to the pass that separates Italy from Switzerland.  It is a short climb from the cable car station to the Swiss border, where the granite ridge is topped with a golden Madonna.  The Saastal valley drops away from here down to an artificial lake, that wouldn’t have been there when the soldiers crossed.  We’ll have lunch at the pass before taking the cable car back down.  (Lunch and dinner).

Day 9: Domodossola:

This morning after breakfast you’ll be picked up by private car and driven 40 minutes along the valley to Domodossola (arriving at 09.00), which has direct rail connections to Geneva and Milan.

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Trails to Freedom 2018 - 9 days / 8 nights

  • Tour Lead

    Simon Tancred

  • Tour Dates

    21 August to 29 August, 2018

    This 2018 tour is now fully booked. The 2019 tour with dates will be open for booking in Feb 2018.

  • Tour Size
    12
  • Tour Cost

    $3,200

    per person
  • Single supplement $300
  • 8 nights accommodation (see the itinerary for details) 
  • All breakfast, lunches and dinners (wine included) 
  • All transfers during the tours, including cable cars
  • All taxes and service charges at the hotels and restaurants
  • All paid admissions during the tour
  • 7 guided walks
  • Services of 2 full-time professional tour guide

Map

9 days hiking in the Italian Alps: Trails to Freedom FAQs

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March 2017: Slow Food, Easter, Manet and a weekend in 'Campania Felix'

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