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.
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).
Today is short and easy walk, so you will have time in the morning to catch a cable car up to the top of a nearby mountain (2391 metres) to enjoy extraordinary views down over the plains in one direction and views across the western Alps to Mt Rosa and the Matterhorn in Switzerland in the other direction. After returning to the sanctuary for lunch, we take a small trail that contours around the mountain and then cuts back into the forest and heads north to the second monastery, where we’ll spend the night. 12 kms, 3.5 hrs, 324 mts ascent, 497 mts descent (Grade 2)
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 where we have lunch before girding our loins for the long climb that awaits, possibly the hardest stretch of the tour, up to the a welcoming mountain hut that sits spectacularly on a platform under mountain peaks. It is a hard 3 hour ascent but the rewards are great - glorious views south across the Alps and a convivial place to relax and sleep. 12 kms, 6 hrs, ascent 1406 mts, descent 138 mts (Grade 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).
Today is a short and very pleasant walk, which will give us the chance to rest from the previous two days’ efforts. We take the short walk up to the head of the valley, 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. Weather permitting, we will take a 40 minute walk from the lift station across a glacier to a marvellously situated mountain hut with a terrace that looks out of the valleys and up to the peak of Mt Rosa, where we have lunch.
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)
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)
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 2022 - 9 days/8 nights
22 August to 30 August, 2023
Places available on the 2022 tour: 23/8 to 31/8/22
Tour costs quoted are in Australian dollars (AUD)
Single supplement $950
- 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
9 days hiking in the Italian Alps: Trails to Freedom FAQs
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