The Val Chisone (Chisone Valley) and the Germanasca Valley are perhaps best known as the "Olympics valleys" from the Torino Olympics of 2006. Skiers know it from the western ski slopes as the valley trends toward France.
What keeps this intriguing part of Italy lightly traveled is that most potential tourists have no idea that the Val Chisone has something for nearly everyone, from an amazing fortress to quiet lakes to quaint mountain villages awash in murals, not to mention a bridge whose legend has it that was crossed by Hannibal and his elephants. You can walk the trails and smell the wildflowers--and you can bring the smells of the mountain wildflowers and roots home with you by purchasing a bottle of Bernard's Elixirs!
Historically, the Chisone valley important enough to be protected by what is now the region's most impressive attraction, the Fenestrelle Fortress that stretches across the valley and is second only to the Great Wall of China in terms of length. Now restored, the 300 year old fortress can finally be seen by visitors as the massive achievement is was in its time.
Here you see the major tourist towns and roads through the Chisone and Germanasca valleys. The major road, the SP23R in Orange, takes you from Torino to France, becoming the N94 leading to Briançon.
Sestriere, Pregelato and Pinerolo you'll remember as venues from the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics. Pinerolo is a larger city with an interesting Cathedral and good open air market.
Laux is a lake just far enough from the road as to seem miles away from anywhere, yet you'll find a hotel with a very fine restaurant along its shores, the Hotel Lago di Laux, and there is trout fishing in the lake's shallow waters.
Usseaux is a mural town and one of the Borghi Piu Belli in Italia; you'll find other towns painted with murals in the Roure area to the east. There is a harmonica festival in July in Usseaux. Uphill and to the west you'll find the village of Balboutet, also with murals and a fine restaurant, Trattoria Edelweiss. Have the wonderful Gnocchi di Patate con Fonduta if they have it on a chilly day. It's what you want, trust me.
The Fenestrelle Fortress has been called the great wall of the Alps, gaining 650 meters to the summit with almost 4000 covered steps to climb to get there, making it the longest covered stairway in the world. It's so imposing that a shot never had to be fired from it--and it's the only Piemontese fortress to survive the Napoleonic period.
Prali, in the pretty Val Germanasca, has popular lifts that will take you to many fine ski areas in winter and to explore the tredici lagi or thirteen lakes, a popular wildlife area in the summer.
South of Pinasca is Dubbione and a very interesting bridge that has a legend attached to it.
Local legend has it that General Hannibal and his men camped in this area during his 218 AD military campaign from Spain, crossing the alps in 15 days. It is said that he chose this area for its reputation for its dairy products, to help him nourish his troops and to recruit local tribes who were known not to get along with the tribes further on his route. This event is commemorated by this bridge in nearby Dubbione by the river. ~ Val Chisone - Mountain Activities
Pomaretto has been home to several generations of Bernards, who have been in the beverage industry since 1902. The family now makes artisinal elixirs and liquors made from the flowers and roots they collect in the mountains, climbing as high as 5000-8,500 feet for Artemisia Mutellina and Spicata which will become the liquor called Génépi Des Alpes. See: Liquori Bernard: The Alps in a Bottle.
San Germano Chisone hosts the Waldensian temple and museum, as well as hiking trails and other attractions.
Giovanni Agnelli of FIAT fame was born at Vilar Perosa, and the Agnelli family supports a beautiful parish church there.
The Val Germanasca is a very scenic side valley to visit all the way to the lifts at Prali, which take you to the Tredici Laghi, a great place to ski in winter and view wildlife and natural beauty in the summer.
Located on the map is Bella Baita, a B&B run by Marla and Fabrizio, both interested in preserving the food and the charm of the mountain life.
At Bella Baita you can experience rural Italian life and hospitality and see charming small villages and towns with few tourists. Bella Baita is surrounded by excellent hiking trails so it's a great place for the avid hiker. You can drive to a nearby train station and take the train into Turin. Or if you just want to relax, it's a great place do that, too.
You can take cooking classes, and you can walk the mountain trails to get yourself ready for the next incredible meal.
Bella Baita Italian Alps Mountain Retreat
Borgata Serre Marchetto 1 10060 Pinasca (TO) Italia
+39 347 984 2945 / +39 339 750 3940
For other articles about the Italian Region of Piemonte, see our Piemonte Category of posts.
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