Summer Turns in Italy – The Slopes are Open for 2020

Summer Skiing Cervinia Zermatt

Summer Skiing Cervina Zermatt | Matterhorn Glacier Paradise

Summer Skiing in Italy

UPDATED FOR 2020 SEASON:

Now that Covid travel restrictions are past us (and hopefully no need for them to be reinstated). You can ski at Passo Stelvio, which opened to the public on June 13 and Cervinia/Zermatt, which opened to the Italian side on June 20 when the Swiss opened their borders to Italy.

Rather not have your turns get too rusty? There are a couple of spots in Italy where you can keep them  fresh this summer. For summer skiing in Italy,  snow junkies can head to Breuil-Cervinia. (the Italian side of the Matterhorn, or as the Italians call it, “Il Cervino”). The iconic peak offers summer season turns on Plateau Rosa on the Zermatt Side. Or head up the crazy road with 75 hairpin turns to reach the lifts of Passo Stelvio.

Breuil- Cervinia, Matterhorn, Alps,Valle d'Aostam, summer ski italy

Summer Skiing Cervinia Zermatt

CERVINIA/ZERMATT

Summer access to Plateau Rosa  from Cervinia, in Italy’s Valle d’Aosta region,  can be purchased for 45.00 euros for a daily ticket. With this you get a chance to ride the Pininfarina designed (designers for Ferrari and Maserati) luxurious (complete with heated leather seats, not that you need them in the summer) Matterhorn Glacier Paradise to Europe’s highest mountain station at 12,739 feet (3,882 meters).

A word of advice, be sure to watch the time for the last lifts up to the Italian side from the Swiss side. Otherwise it could be a costly and time consuming mistake with your options being spending the night in Zermatt (likely with only your ski boots to wear) , a helicopter ride to the Italian side or a long taxi and train or bus ride to work your way back to Cervinia. The Swiss are not known to be overly flexible so be mindful!

Cervinia Webcams.

Passo dello Stelvio, summer ski italy

Summer Skiing Passo dello Stelvio

PASSO STELVIO

Passo dello Stelvio, which straddles  the regions of Lombardia and Trentino, currently has six lifts and 18 km of trails open, a one day pass is 49 euro. Plus they have  nordic trails available. Weather and pandemic permitting, they plan to be open through November 1. Check out what it’s like there now with the webcams.

So take a break from getting sand in your shorts and go make some turns, your winter legs will thank you.

 

skis

image credits:

Valle d’Aosta tourism

www.italia.it

Pirovano

thenounproject- Sergey Demushkin

 

 

Post Lockdown - Summer Travel Italian Alps is Back!

Post Lockdown – Summer Travel in the Italian Alps is Back!

Post Lockdown - Summer Travel Italian Alps is Back!

Walser Homes Val D’Otro

ITALY’S REOPENING

Italy lived under one of the strictest Coronavirus pandemic lockdowns in the world. And for a couple of months, those in Italy were not able to venture more than 200 meters from their homes. When the 200 meter limit was lifted in May, travel to other regions apart for work was still not permitted. June 4 saw the regional borders reopen. Following that later in June, borders with other European nations opened. With these restrictions lifted, reaching the mountains became much easier for those who were not lucky enough to already be there. While Italian tourism took a massive hit, opening up to those from outside Europe should be decided on July 1. This summer may remain a European only Alpine experience.

It’s now post Lockdown – Summer Travel Italian Alps is Back!! For those able to reach Italy, the mountains remain as beautiful as ever. The open spaces offer a good spot to naturally practice social distancing. Many regulations remain in place, including reduced capacities for indoor dining, store access and other activities. Mask wearing and hand sanitizer remain requirements to go inside buildings.  Many businesses are scanning guests  for temperatures.

Despite the fact that many are located in non-crowded spaces, The mountain rifugi,with their common spaces have been impacted .Some rifugi have decided not to reopen, at least for those seeking to spend the night, though may still be offering meals with outdoor seating.

Post Lockdown - Summer Travel Italian Alps is Back!

Passo Forric – Alagna

GETTING AROUND

Public transport is back in action, with reduced seating capacity to maintain social distancing. Masks are required. Allow extra time at train stations especially as you must often zigzag through buildings as work to keep people from getting too close.  Car travel is allowed but there are limits of how many can go in the car together and where you must sit, if not already living together. Masks should also be worn inside cars if you ride with non-cohabitants.

Post Lockdown - Summer Travel Italian Alps is Back!

Alpine flowers above Val d’Otro Alagna

CHANGING RULES – BUT STILL WORTH THE TRIP

The Italians love bureaucracy and rules and the Coronavirus has offered a chance for an exponential amount of confusing, conflicting and constantly changing regulations, all open to interpretation, by regional and local governments as well as individual businesses.

Skiing, mountain biking, hiking, climbing, (and eating great food) are all possible,

Certainly it is a bit trickier now to to plan and move around, but the Alps remain beautiful and mountain activities offer a great way to escape the stress of 2020 and the heat of summer. Check with the region you are visiting to get the latest.

To get the latest official list of travel restrictions, visit Italy’s Ministero della Salute (Ministry of Health) website.

Summer Ski Ride Italy 2018

Summer ski under the Matterhorn

SUMMER TURNS IN ITALY

Missing the board(s) underfoot? Not in the mood to earn your turns? For those who want to maximize their time sliding down Italy offers two lift-served options: Breuil Cervinia (with the option ski Zermatt too) and Passo dello Stelvio. Huge amounts of snow this past season have made for optimal summer conditions up high. Read on to find out where to find your  2018 summer ski and ride in the Italian Alps.

Breuil Cervinia

At  up 3500 metes (11483 ft) on the Plateau Rosà enjoy skiing with the Matterhorn (or Il Cervino as the Italians call it) as a backdrop.  Ski through September on the Italian side with 1 day adult passes at €32.50 . To add Zermatt access, an international one day pass costs €44.50 . Though plan your eating on the Italian side where prices are much more user-friendly.

Hours: 7:40AM to 1PM through August 20, and get in another hour until September 9 when lifts close at 2PM. Trails: 23 km (14 miles ) plus the Gravity Park for snowboarders and freestyle.

 

To learn more check the Breuil Cervinia website.

Passo dello Stelvio

Passo DELLO STELVIO

If you really want to ski Passo Stelvio, summer is the time to go since the road closes from November to May. For late sleepers this may be the place for you as lifts are open until 5PM. Skiing elevation starts at 2760meters.  ( 9055 to 11319 ft) There was even 10cm of fresh snow July 1. An adult 1 day pass will set you back €45.00. Hours: 8AM to 5PM. Trails: 20Km (12 miles) 700m (2300 feet) of vertical. served by 4 Lifts and 2 cable cars

Find out more on Passo dello Stelvio's Piravano website.

ADDITIONAL FALL 2018 OPTIONS

And if you have been too busy on the beach but winter seems too far away, come October you have the options to ski Passo Tonale 's Presena glacier and Val Senales.

Passo Tonale - Presana Glacier

Val Senales -Gletscherbahn

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Ski 2018

skis

easy hike in italy rifugio bonatti courmayeur monte bianco alps

Courmayeur, Italy Makes List of Easy Hikes with Big Rewards.

Easy hike in Italy -Rifugio Bonatti Courmayeur

Rifugio Bonatti, Courmayeur, Italy

Easy Hike in Italy

Courmeyeur, Italy's hike to Rifugio Bonatti makes National Geographic's list of  the 10 Best Easy Hikes with Big Rewards.  For those seeking a high return on their uphill investment, consider this easy hike on the Italian side of Mont Blanc. (,Or Monte Bianco as it is called on the Boot side of the border).

Short, long AND WINTER options, Food and Lodging

The shorter version of the hike, includes a shuttle which lets you start up higher on the trail for a total time up of about an hour to cover the 274 meters (900 feet)  of vertical gain. The longer option starts in the village of Courmayeur  for total climb of 853 meters (2.800 feet). If you want to hang out up high, you can book a reservation to stay the night. Also open in the winter, visitor's can access the rifugio on snowshoes or backcountry skis.  And last but not least, even just an hour's hike with great views still still deserves the opportunity to recharge yourself with the delightful food and drinks found in the Italian rifugi. So if looking for some easy hikes in Italy, check out the trail to Rifugio Bonatti.

image credits: tapazvaldoten.altervista.org  & montblanctreks.com.au

ENGLISH LANGUAGE LINKS

The links below contain some information in English on Rifugio Bonatti and the trail to reach it. These links may not have the most current data, but they can help you to learn more about the rifugio and how to reach it. For the most current information, conditions and reservations, you may want to contact the rifugio directly. 

Autour du Mont Blanc

Joannas Travel Blog

Trail Running and the Mont Blanc Region: 40 Routes in the Chamonix Valley, Italy and Switzerland  Excerpt from ebook by Kinglsey Jones

hikingboot

Val di Mello (or Optional Val di Extreme?)

Hiking & Climbing - Val di Mello Italy

Hiking & Climbing - Val di Mello Italy - Photo 24-04-16, 14 38 19

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. 

Hiking & Climbing - Val di Mello Italy - Photo 24-04-16, 11 19 34Hiking & Climbing - Val di Mello Italy -Photo 24-04-16, 14 35 39Leslie 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.hikingboot

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.

Valtellina tourism

Melloblocco 

Climb Europe 

Climbing

Summit Post.org

 

A Small World in Piani d’Erna

2016-04-10 16.26.29 The trails in Piani d'Erna above Lecco offer choices offer rifugi, views and vie ferrate

Lecco is located on the lower right corner of the the upside down Y shaped Lake Como. Rising aggressively over Lecco are the  peaks of Monte Resegone ( in the local  dialect, resegà means saw and named for its saw like appearance due to its 11 summits of similar height ) a part of the Prealpi Bergamasche, a southern range of the Alps found in the region of Lombardia. Our all important lunch destination was Rifugio Capanna Alpinisti Monzesi. 

There are  a number of vertical rock faces that draw climbers and also options with vie ferrate, ladders, chains and cables to aid climbers requiring  you to bring a vie ferrate kit of harness and helmet and a distinct comfort  to be up high on vertical walls, plus the bonus to test out your flying Wallenda skills on the  route  named Gamma 1 one of the vie ferrate routes. ( you can harness yourself to the upper cable but the balance and gumption is still up to you)

The April Sunday I was joined by Luciano, Anna  and her son Zeno as we explored  a non harness required trail. Driving up a few switchbacks from Lecco we arrived at the base of the funivia  (cable car) for Piani d'Erna. You can take the funivia that starts at 600 meters above sea level to the Piani d'Erna 1325 meters above sea level, or you can walk the mulatierra (mule path).

We walked the mule path towards Rifugio Stoppani. There was a range of outdoorsy people some burly and hard core with climbing ropes , jingling carabiners and bulging muscles, then a smattering of trail runners and the rest hikers/walkers, dogs and kids and families and the winner for the trail person of the day was one lumberjack looking fellow with a log, jogging down the path.  Not sure if he was training for some sort of log carrying competition or just was in a hurry to carve a chainsaw bear. He was nevertheless determined and the path parted for his bulk and his log.

Photo 10-04-16, 12 01 32

There is a sign at the bottom of the funivia that describes the mountain fitness routes offered in the area. The sign not only shares  info on the types of trails but gives varied times to complete these trails based on your level of fitness. The terms are:

  1.  non allenato
  2. .trekker
  3. atleta
  4. best

I would say these could be translated into:

  1. Somone whose workouts consist primarily of remote control and bowl of chips lifting
  2. Someone who moves a bit, but their 6-packs are more likely be beer than abs
  3. Fit, someone who probably consumes kale smoothies regularly
  4. This is someone who likely irritates us in some way  due their magnificent levels of fitness and athleticism and we may console ourselves when encountering such quasi-mortals as how happy can they really be with such a rigorous exercise and diet regime, but we won't dwell on the negative.

I wonder what lumberjack's time would be with and without log?

Like many Italian trails there are shrines along the way to Virgin Mary, so if you see signs for the Madonna, don't think you will be encountering mobs of wannabes ( are Madonna fans still called wannabes, maybe that was abandoned in the 80's) . There is something pleasing though about sculptures and art in the woods.

We passed by one of the shrines arrived at Rigugio Stoppani had some water to replenish with water, but decided to wait until the next rifugio, Capanna Alpinisti  Monzesi, to have lunch, we climbed through the woods a bit more and came to a charming spot with a name I can't remember and does not seem be indicated on any of the maps. Keep in mind signage is not a strength of the Italian trail system, though apart from this nameless but cute spot the trails are well indicated and traveled in this popular spot of Piani d'Erna.

WIth no food at the nameless  inn and only ten more minutes to Capanna Alpinisti Monzesi,  off we went, passing a tethered mule to the pink-halveded bottom rifugio where we on polenta seated outside on stone benches. If  you plan on eating in an Italian rifugio, you should develop a taste for polenta or you may likely go hungry. Cornmeal must be easier to store or cook than other foods, or  maybe alpine hikers are just crazy for corn. It usually comes with a choice of toppings, like melted cheese, or mushrooms or beef stew like beef and sauce or maybe sausage. There is also wine and beer and views.

We had our polenta and then waited for the coffee, as we were eating there were some inside,enjoying grappa in incongruous plastic cups. ( all else seeming so sturdy, permanent and natural).  Hearing my accent they knew I wasn't from these parts but the grappa glow made them generous anyway. At first i declined thinking I didn't want to be sleepy or stumbly on the way down, ( grappa goes right to my head) but I reasoned that with all of that polenta I could manage the small cup. The grappa guys fired a series of questions living in Italy vs. the US and the upcoming American presidential elections and asking why my Italian friends were not drinking too. ( they clearly were wiser, though I managed to stop at one small grappa).

A little further down the path we encountered our grappa buddies again who wanted to stop back at Rifugio Stoppani for more grappa, but we were taking another route back. Turns out they were from a town where the son of my friend was born and they knew people in common. The people of provinces of Italy can be  referred to as "provincial" in the pejorative sense, at least by the Milanese who often deem themselves as more worldly than their country neighbors. Perhaps they are more  closed to outsiders having lived in smaller communities  and known the same people their entire lives, with not much need to venture out. However our new  friends were quite welcoming (maybe the grappa helped) as they stopped and took pictures together  and talked about common connections. we parted ways and moved towards the top of the funiva which we would take down back to the car. the grappa guys thought the funivia people were coglioni  (literally testicles, used in the sense of saying idiots, dickheads) and helpfully suggested I call them such, as the funivia closed at 6PM, despite much day light left and  a lot of people around. They remained perplexed by the Italian insistence to close early when there could be more business. An added note on the coglioni of the Piani d'Erna funivia , while 6PM is not an unreasonable closing time ( think US chair lifts in the summer) they did shut down for lunch. In Italy food takes priority. I thought coglione was a  bit strong a term as the guy working the cable car ticket office seemed pleasant enough, but yes the hours of availability of things in Italy do take some adjusting.

As we left the grappa guys, we followed trail one to trail five and while described as rocky, and overall relatively flat, it did have some exposure. There were chains and cables to hold on to on the narrowest parts of the trail.  A couple of sections had steel rungs to be used as ladders to move up or down over rock faces and needing use of hands too, but even for someone like myself who is not a fan of heights it was manageable. Still I was surprised that the description didn't mention this part, but then I shouldn't have been as descriptions can vary quite a bit.

We made it back to the cable car before it closed. An easy to reach spot from Milan Piani d'Erna is worth the visit.

hikingboot

@MontanariLife

- 115 days ago

@MartinCKelly11 @CerviniaValt It's time to come back and make up for lost time!
h J R
@MontanariLife

- 116 days ago

@Livigno: Un messaggio segreto, nel cuore tricolore sui prati di #Livigno. Scoprilo: https://t.co/I3KrOu58ET 💚🤍❤️ A secret message, in the tricolor heart on Livigno's meadows. https://t.co/v9D1IaWdKu 💚🤍❤️ https://t.co/LdaTrSLRKA
h J R

Crazy Wind and White Out in Val Formazza

 

boden comparison

Yes it's the same spot: Rifugio Maria Luisa

 

 

 

The Italian word for blizzard is bufera, it is a good word for the storm that day which carried more wind than snow, as i definitely wanted to buffer myself against the wind which was laughably strong, so much so that at points I had to anchor myself and with trekking poles planted firmly in the snow to keep from being knocked over. ( added and less considered benefit of poles when walking)  While snowing heavily the wind made it white-out conditions at time so that it was not possibly to see the person in front  of you until I walked into them. The temperature at the start of the walk, at the bottom without was a refreshing -15C ( 5F). though before the wind set in and as we started walking up hill on snowshoes, it was not so bad. I don't know what the wind was blowing so I can't say the windchill but it would have been satisfying to know that and take pride in our short but intense time in the wind and cold. There are bragging and/or whining rights when telling the tale of the day after safely warmed up post "weather".

The Refuge of the Rifugio

I like the variety of days like these, the cold and wind add to the feeling of reward and adventure. However on cold days I don't like to stop, because my hands freeze instantly ( note to techies, if you can replicate this instant freeze mechanism, it could be useful to chill room temperature beverages for impatient drinkers).  and today my hands remained consistent with their ability to freeze instantly during a pause. As we climbed higher there was grumbling in the group, and the goal of reaching the original lakes seemed to be unlikely especially as not much could be seen anyway, We trudged up heads down and snow forcefully piercing the foam at the top of my goggles and hitting my eyes ( at least the trail was wide so really didn't have to see. Our guide and accompagnatore recognize the general level of unpleasantness  was perhaps higher than it should have been and word from descending ski tourers and snowshoers as that a rifugio in the was a welcome refuge and fortunately way open and just about 15 minutes walk further. So we altered our route and headed for the rifugio Maria Luisa. A welcome respite where the group was able to thaw out though not sure of over the course of the not rushed meal I dried out fully. Yes I ate what else, polenta, though the menu offered a bit more choices than the typical rifugio fare. It may have been the only time I have ever finished an entire plate pf polenta, but fighting that wind took a lot of energy.

Eventually we had to leave behind the polenta and wood stove an venture out and back down again. Nobody was moving particularly quickly, but fortunately the wind had died down and there were even pockets of blue sky. There were some nice short cuts through some fresh accumulation, fluffy but due to the lack of snow everywhere we still bottomed-out on roots and rocks. Still the descent was decidedly more fun than the way up and the poles were used for balance more than anchors.

The sun and the group wind down

The group stopped at the Ristorante Albergo Aalts Dorf for a final warm up before returning to our homes. By now the light was soft and blue and the tea was warm. As the valley darkened the warmth and softness seemed all the sweeter after the wind and cold earlier. It was a good day.
snowshoes02

English Language Links for Val Formazza

Val Formazza is a is the very northern tip  of Piemonte that juts up into Switzerland, surrounded on three sides by the Swiss. Riale is the town at the literal end of the road.  Especially popular for cross country skiing, the valley offers choices of trails and rental centers. English language info is lacking, but here are a few Italian links. 

Formazza Ski  ( this one is in English, the others no) 

Val Formazza Official Tourist Site 

Italian Lakes District Site ( Riale) 

Piemonte Neve

 

 

 

Raised Heart Rates Just Driving to the Hike

Free coffee and a Seven Dwarves tunnel on a rainy day in Parco Nazionale Val Grande.

Photo 16-04-16, 13 47 33

Taking the long and winding and very narrow road 

In seeking out new spots to explore, especially during mud season where upper elevations were still snowy but maybe too patchy for snowshoes, Parco Nazionale Val Grande seemed a good choice for a Milan day trip. The starting point was in Cicogna, which was just 17km but a world away from Lago Maggiore's less rustic lakeside Verbania. The road up was described  ..alla strada molto stretta .. (very narrow) but while accurate, the description was not  comprehensive. My friend, and fellow American transplant, Michele, was kind enough to drive so off we joined the Milan mass weekend exodus and drove towards greener pastures.

The road trip up is not for the faint of heart, serving to raise my heart rate even before doing any hiking.  The rocky walls stingily yielded space to the single lane road with numerous blind spots and curves as it switchbacked up away from civilized luxury of Lago Maggiore to a more rustic environment. As we climbed higher, even in a small car, we had to make 3 point turns on some switchbacks as the car couldn't manage the tight radius. On some sections it was possible to see down to the alpine green blue rushing rapids at the bottom of the narrow gorge we were driving up. I was unsure which was the less scary  way to look but still attractive view, the long ways down river or waiting to see a surprise vehicle around the next curve.

Hand Carved Tunnel

Like many places in Italy, the journey not only seemed to be one across distance but time, complete with warnings that there was no cell service in this part. the final 10Km is particularly stretta with an incredible tunnel  that seemed to have been carved by the seven dwarves, low and rocky with no lights or warnings , the car entires and for a moment it is completely black, then a second or two into it, the figurative and literal light is seen. I am not sure who made this tunnel, but another peculiarity of Italian front yards is an affinity for Snow White and the Seven Dwarves sculptures. Maybe it's like the past trends of pink flamingoes, lawn jockeys and more recently garden gnomes, not sure exactly about this affection for plastic Disney figures in the country which gave birth to Michelangelo. So maybe it really were the seven dwarves who carved this spooky tunnel with their pickaxes.

Largest wilderness area in the Alps

Some more twists and turns arrived at the town of Cicogna and could imagine the town itself would offer great views if the clouds had not been thick and misting, allowing us to glimpse a few skinny waterfalls across the narrow valley. Val Grande is the largest wilderness area in the Alps and word is that there are a lot of snakes in Val Grande. We didn't spot any serpents,  maybe they didn't like the rain but we did come across a big fat black shiny spotted salamander.

Photo 16-04-16, 12 31 51

Hospitality and coffee just for us

Accustomed to having coffee everywhere in Italy, we figured there would be a bar to find an espresso and bathroom break before we started on our planned  trail: La civiltà della fatica  an intermediated level loop estimated at 5 - 6 hours . I recalled the notice on the website that the visitors center would be closed for repairs for 2016. Before arriving in Cicogna, I wondered why they were allotting an entire year for redoing the visitor's center,  I couldn't imagine that the visitor's center was a large multi media creation that you might find in say the Grand canyon, it was likely no more than a room,  so a year seemed a generous allotment for redoing it, but after driving the road I am thinking they may have a hard time getting workers to make the commute, so they allowed a year's buffer.

In any case I was not too concerned,  in Italy there seems to be some unwritten law about having coffee available where more than three people may congregate. Walking a narrow pathway between buildings built on terraced hillsides we looked for signs of caffeinated life. All seemed closed and dreary when we passed  by three people who looked out of place, dressed  and asked if they knew of a bar or place for a coffee. They said everything was closed. So I said to Michele that we would have to find a tree  to pee on and go without caffeine.

The troop of 3 must have taken pity on the wet foreigners as they turned around and told us to follow them. They led us down some stairs between buildings and they knocked on the door of the Ostello del Parco ( which also seemed closed, but was open to those who wanted to stay overnight) the briefcase man  asked the man who answered if he would offer us a coffee and if we could use the bathroom. He welcomed us in and sent a colleague into the kitchen to brew us up a caffè lungo on with his stove top Moka. The room we waited in had a few dining tables draped in vinyl covered cloths with one bearing a display selection of locally made genepy and chamomile liquor. Some other hikers with their dog were checking out and had left the dog's plastic baggie of poop in the yard, a few minutes later they returned to retrieve it. It seemed Cicogna was filled with people displaying little niceties, providing a silver lining to the clouds leaking on us from above.

Our coffee and bathroom break were free but we did buy some dried genepy to make an herbal tea and a bottle of chamomile cordial. Then we started our walk up.

Eerie mist make for otherworldly atmosphere

The place seemed otherworldly, perhaps a combination of weather and that road up. The mist and clouds masked the views, but it was still scenic. Occasionally we could glimpse something in the distance giving us an idea of what it would be like on a clear day.

Photo 16-04-16, 13 47 12

The weather and a later start modified our hike to just and out and back to the rifugio Alpe Prà . The rifugio closed, some info indicates  it is opened occasionally though it is not clear when those occasions are . The loop seems like a nice walk though and now that we know how to arrive, we will depart earlier or there is the option to stay overnight at the Ostello del Parco.

 

English Language Links for Parco Nazionale Val Grande

 

We did a much shortened version of the trail to  Alpe Prà and Casa dell' Alpino (suggested time 1.5 hrs up with vertical gain of 518 meters on w ell defined trail) The trail is dotted with signs sharing information on the people, flora, fauna and history of the area. While the signs are in Italian, they are illustrated so you can get a sense of the information with the images.  It is recommended to do this tour in the fall when the leaves are changing.

  • http://www.parks.it/parco.nazionale.valgrande/Eindex.php
  • http://www.distrettolaghi.it/en/blogpost/val-grande-national-park-largest-wilderness-area-alps
  • http://www.parks.it/ost/ostello.del.parco/