Hiking & Climbing - Val di Mello Italy
Extreme Scenery and Mello(w) or Extreme Activities
Val di Mello is one of the most scenic spots in Lombardia. Located in Valtellina, Val di Mello provides options from no to high adrenaline. If your limits for the extreme extend only to the scenery, you can still enjoy the valley and hang out down low. The lower section accommodates people of all ages and fitness levels, allowing all to enjoy walking past a number of rifugi and small blue alpine lakes. The lower, flatter portion of the trail leads up the edge of the woods then steepens to reach Alpe Pioda (1550 m).
For those who can handle higher doses of adrenaline, Val di Mello is known as the Yosemite of Italy and is famous for rock climbing. The scenic spot is home to the largest international bouldering festival Melloblocco. In addition, there are numerous hiking trails including the possibility to connect with the Sentiero Roma. For those looking for longer hikes, the Sentiero Roma is a classic alpine journey requiring six or seven days to complete.
Waterfalls and woods to Alpe Pioda
The area offers a numerous trails to choose from. On this hike, I was joined by friends Leslie and Michele for an intermediate level (E rating for escursionistico) up to Alpe Pioda. Used as a pasture, Alpe Pioda opens up into an amphitheater-type setting with stunning peak views. Average hikers should estimate about two hours for the 500 meters of climbing, starting from the upper parking lot (or where the shuttle will drop you off in the summer).
The trail starts out easy, walking along the relatively flat mulaterria ( mule path) valley floor and steepens once the trail enters the woods. Once in the woods, the trail is fairly well marked and includes some nice wooden bridges for crossing waterfalls. Ten minutes shy of the Alpe Pioda pasture, you will find an observation point for viewing the valley you left below. A map at the overlook names the visible peaks. After a break at the observation area we returned to finish the last bit of the hike. At this point, we emerged from the woods to enter the Alpe Pioda pasture, a field where sheep and cows still graze.
Leslie noted that an oddly located sign that provides directions for how to get there (It seems like this information would have been more helpful at the start of the trail). I am not sure who this sign served. Although in fairness to the seemingly mislocated directional sign, maybe it was meant for those who had just trekked for days on the Sentiero Roma and wanted a shortcut for the next time.
Refueling at the rifugio
We didn't linger long in the windy but lovely field, as polenta was awaiting us in the rifugi near the start of the trail. We headed back down to eat in the stone structured Rifugio Luna Nascente. Rather than fight the wind we opted for a seat inside the wood-paneled bustling spot. We satisfied our hunger delicious mixed plate of salami and cheeses, pizzoccheri, ( a rich buckwheat pasta dish with cheese typical of the Valtellina area) and of course the ever-present polenta. And we washed it all down with along with a local red wine. Inside, we encountered a handyman who was yelling at the hikers on the way up, seemed slightly less irritated now chattier now. He talked to us about his screwdriver emphasizing he that he never lends it out. It seemed that loose screws were an issue in more than the rifugio.
To end (or start your day) check out the town of San Martino, which lies below Val di Mello. If you did not get your fill of mountain atmosphere you can hang out in this small town. The town provides cozy spots to drink a beer or coffee, buy a backpack and think about exploring the neighboring and equally scenic valleys found in Val Masino.
ENGLISH LANGUAGE LINKS
To reach Val di Mello by car in the summer, you must park your car in the parking lot in San Martino ( 5 euro for the day) and take the navetta ( the shuttle) which is 2 euro per person (best to have exact change, there is a general reluctance in Italy to provide change for customers and cashiers are always asking for coins) In the off season you can follow the road up a bit higher and leave your car in a parking lot near the trattoria Il Gatto Rosso.