The Hut Regina Margherita sits at 4,556 metres on top of the Signalkuppe (Punta Gniffetti) and is Europe's highest staffed hut. Its distinctive dark silhouette is clearly visible from the valley and from other peaks of the Monte Rosa massif.
It owes its name to Queen Margherita of Savoy, who personally climbed to it in 1893 in order to attend the inauguration ceremony. The queen, with her well-known passion for the mountains, did not miss the opportunity to visit the hut in the year it was built, thus becoming the first woman to climb Mount Rosa.
The building was completely restructured in 1980 and houses an important laboratory for scientific research on high-altitude physiological response. It also has the highest-altitude telephone connection in Europe.
Accommodation for up to 70 people is available in several rooms with bunk beds and shared bathrooms. Services include internet access, a library and a restaurant and bar. Stays can be booked on a B&B or half board basis.
Because of its very low impact on the surrounding environment, in 2002 the refuge obtained the UNI EN ISO 14001 Certification, which sets out the criteria for an effective environmental management system. Water is produced in a snow melting machine that is filled when needed and ceramic dishes are used instead of plastic, reducing the amount of waste.
The climb to the refuge is not easy and requires physical fitness and mountaineering skills. It is highly recommended that you hire a guide for the ascent.
Group climbs are organised every Thursday and Friday in July and August. The ascent takes two days and includes a chairlift ride and dinner with overnight stay at Rifugio Città di Mantova, a refuge at 3498 metres which is a 5 hours walk away from Rifugio Margherita.
The refuge is open from June to September and offers an unmanned winter room with 12 beds, blankets, gas for cooking and electricity in the remaining months.
The queen was quite a tough lady so don't think for a moment that this is an easy place to reach: weather conditions can be challenging so make sure you plan your trip in all details before you start!Any suggestions?
Alagna Valsesia is a lovely village on the Piedmontese side of Mount Rosa. Resulting from its remote position at the end of the valley and the severe climate, the area was uninhabited until the 13th century, when a group of Walser settlers from neighbouring Switzerland decided to make Alagna their home.
Walser influence is still strong in the village architecture, traditions and Germanic dialect.
In fact, despite its growing popularity as a ski-resort and the subsequent development of new residential complexes, Alagna is worth visiting because of this heritage and the variety of churches, chapels and typical houses that still stand.
Especially interesting are the historical Walser huts with their surrounding wooden frame resembling ribs around the main structure.
The houses are harmonically built very close to one another so that the snow can't fall from the roofs and block the passage between the buildings. One of these houses has been turned into the Walser Museum and contains a display of furniture and household objects, work tools and other typical items representing the culture and traditions of this proud people. The village also has a still functioning mill.
In 1948 the first lift built in Alagna allowed visitors to reach peaks that could otherwise only be conquered after long and demanding climbs, thus making it possible for everyone to enjoy the breath-taking panoramic views of Monte Rosa.
This followed a long history of mountaineering started in the 18th century by famous climbers, mainly British, who came to the village to attempt the ascent of Mount Rosa. It wasn't until 1965 thought that a more modern system of cable cars was opened. Recent additions and state of the art lifts now connect Alagna with the Aosta Valley "Monterosaski" resorts of Gressoney and Champoluc.
Known as the "Freeride Paradise", Alagna is particularly renowned for the outstanding off-piste opportunities it offers but guarantees nonetheless excellent facilities and a unique experience to downhill skiers of all levels.
Wonderful hikes, challenging climbs, many other sport opportunities and a rich variety of cultural events are available to tourists in the summer, when the weather is pleasant and the peaceful village attracts visitors in search for a relaxing break.
The village has many hotels and restaurants and is the perfect place for all mountain lovers. It has also been awarded the "orange flag" by the "Italian Touring Club", a special award for small villages distinguished by their high touristic interest and the quality of their infrastructures.Any suggestions?
The picturesque village of Rimasco, in the Val Sermenza, is a tiny peaceful village surrounded by mountains and woods. It lies on the shore of the homonymous lake, from which it derives its popularity as a holiday resort and prime fishing village.
The lake is an artificial basin created in 1925 to produce electricity in the Fervento hydraulic power plant. Mountain and water embrace each other with various colours of deep green and blue and the dark shadows and silhouettes of the village houses and church reflect off the water creating a fascinating mirror image of the hamlet.
The lake particularly attracts fly fishing enthusiasts and is available also to occasional fishermen. The region offers stocked areas where families with children can spend the day fishing and relaxing immersed in nature.
Today most people visit Rimasco and its lake for a day trip but in the past this was a popular holiday destination, chosen mainly by international travellers for its beauty and peace.
The village itself has a beautiful parish church with an interesting wooden altar, a magnificent crucifix and fragments of medieval frescoes dating back to the 15th century. Younger visitors will enjoy the marmot fountain.
For breath-taking views there is a chairlift that climbs up to Alpe Campo. From there, in winter it's possible to ski down whereas in summer the more adventurous can try a fun and safe attraction suitable for children and adults: the "Fun Bob" track, an exhilarating high speed toboggan riding down the mountain on a monorail.
If you are not afraid of fast rides this is the perfect activity for you but if you prefer taking it easy simply relax on the terrace of the Rifugio Alpe Campo, where you can enjoy a refreshing drink or a meal.
Back at Rimasco, after a beautiful sunset, hope for the moon to see its reflection in the lake. You won't regret it!
While Italian liqueurs such as limoncello and grappa are renowned and consumed the world over, it is unlikely that many are familiar with the Liquore d’Erba Bianca outside of the Piedmontese alpine valleys where it is produced.
This pale white to straw-colored liqueur is made in the Valsesia area of Italy, in the province of Vercelli, using the Achillea Moschata, or Simple Leaved Milfoil plant, which typically grows only at high altitudes in the Alps in Italy, France, Switzerland and Austria. The dried plant is steeped in a mixture of ethyl alcohol, water and sugar for a minimum of 60 days, and the resulting filtered liqueur has an alcohol content of 40-42%.
Like many plant-based liqueurs, including the Liquore d’Erba Bianca’s more famous cousin Genepì from the nearby Aosta Valley, it has a slightly bitter taste and a distinctly herbal flavour.
Because of its digestive and diuretic qualities, it is generally consumed as a digestivo at the end of a large meal – perhaps one that includes rich Valsesiana dishes such as polenta alla moda di Fobello (polenta with potato and leeks) or uberlekke (a stew of mixed boiled meats and vegetables).
Although certainly a niche product and not widely available outside of the Piedmont region, connoisseurs and common folk alike can appreciate the unique qualities of this high mountain specialty.Any suggestions?
A famous architect of the 19th century, Alessandro Antonelli was born in 1798 in Ghemme, a small town about half an hour away from Novara.
He studied in both Milan and Turin and worked for years in the state territorial planning offices.
Finally, he won an architecture contest at Turin’s Accademia Albertina and moved to Rome to study deep prospective geometry.
In Rome, he reconsidered some of his architectural views and elaborated a more functional idea of architecture.
Upon his return to Turin, Antonelli embarked on an ambitious plan to renovate the city’s historical centre.
He became a professor at Turin's famous art academy, the Accademia Albertina and deputy in the Kingdom of Sardinia's Parliament.
His involvement in politics also touched his closest towns; Antonelli served as a member of Turin's communal council and in that of the Province of Novara.
In the years to follow, Antonelli started many ambitious projects, most of which in Piedmont. Unfortunately, some still lie incomplete to this day.
Among his most famous works are the Mole Antonelliana in Turin (named after him and originally planned to serve as a Jewish synagogue) and both the Novara Cathedral and the Basilica of St. Gaudenzio in Novara - this last work displays a stunning 121m high cupola and has become the symbol of the city.
In the heart of the Western Alps lies the incredible fossil known as the Supervulcano Valsesia (the Valsesia Super volcano).
A unique scientific discovery, the volcano is said to have been formed 60 to 30 million years ago by the same process that formed the Alps: a part of the earth’s crust, lifted and rotated, is thought to have created the volcano’s structure.
The Supervulcano del Sesia, as it is also known, was a discovery of immense scientific value and the fruit of research conducted by Silvano Sinigoi, Professor of Petrology at the University of Trieste and James Quick, vice-rector of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
The results of their research were presented on October 2, 2009 at the Pro Loco Borgosesia and would revolutionise scientific understanding of the structure of super volcanoes.
The studies aroused such great interest that in 2011, the geo-tourism association 'Supervulcano Valsesia' was formed and is an excellence point of reference for anyone interested in visiting the area.
The good news is that, today, the volcano is inactive and visitors can therefore breathe easy, as there are no fumes in the air.
With none other like it in the world, the volcano is visible in the area which includes Valsesia and Valsessera, until it reaches Lago Maggiore.Any suggestions?
Located in Romagnano Sesia in the province of Novara, Cantina dei Santi (The Saints’ Cellar) is an ancient cellar that vaunts religious frescoes dating back to the beginning of the 15th century.
As the name suggests, the cantina was once used for storing wine and was originally part of the Benedictine Abbey of San Silvano.
Today, the cellar stands as the only remaining evidence of the abbey and the building features a ceiling a botte, that is to say, in the shape of a cylinder that has been cut in half.
Its walls are made of river stones held together by mortar and arranged in alternate rows while other portions, due to later transformations, are composed of other various materials.
The name 'Cantina dei Santi' seems to derive from the knowledge that the structure was once used for wine storage and the fact that, at an earlier time, it wasn’t entirely clear what the significance of the frescoes was; consequently, the figures represented were simply referred to as “Saints”.
However, even if the subject of the frescoes is biblical in nature, it is thought that the Cantina dei Santi never served any religious purpose.
After the property passed through the hands of several owners, it was finally acquired by the Pro Loco di Romagnano in 1971, thanks to the help of donations from private citizens and help from the city.
This allowed the cantina to undergo 2 restorations: the first took place in 1975 and the second in 1986, which gave the cantina the appearance we still see today. The restorations finally enabled historians and visitors alike to read the writing that accompanies each of the depicted scenes, and it became clear that the frescoes told one long story.
The frescoes can be dated back to the 15th century thanks to artistic stylistic features representative of that time, as well as the civil and military dress depicted in the works.
Although some of the works have been irretrievably lost, fortunately a good many of them still appear perfectly visible and we can retrace the story of King David, including David the shepherd protecting his flock from a lion and the heroic triumph of David over Goliath.
Biblical quotations from the first and second book of Samuel are still legible.
The Cantina dei Santi has been open to the public since 1975. It is a place which begs to be explored not only by art lovers and historians, but by anyone who wishes to step back in time in an atmosphere which most certainly rises to the occasion.Any suggestions?
The beautiful Alta Valsesia Natural Park, created in 1979, covers an area of 6,511 hectares. With a maximum altitude of 4559 metres at Punta Gniffetti, it is considered the highest protected area in Europe. Over time the ice, the River Sesia and the stream Sermenza, digging deeply into the rock, have forged dramatic gorges in the region and created the characteristic formations named “Caldaie del Sesia" (the boilers of River Sesia), beautiful waterfalls that flow down the mountain.
The park has a "glacier itinerary" with informative boards which explain the history of the area from a geological point of view.
The trail is the only one of its kind in Italy and provides an innovative and unique way of getting to know the glacier following a two-hour walk guided by the panels.
In addition to the multitude of hiking paths and more demanding trekking itineraries, there are two visitor centres, a museum and a botanical garden, which together make the park a favourite destination for locals and tourists alike.
The Fobello Visitor Centre focuses on essential aspects of the area associated with production such as old agricultural and cheese-making techniques while the Carcoforo Naturalistic Museum, situated in an ancient Walser wooden house, provides information on the ecosystem of the park's territory.
Close to Alagna, at Alpe Fum Bitz, you'll find the Fum Bitz visitor centre and botanical gardens. Here too you'll be able to acquire precious knowledge pertaining to the region and its environment and see examples of typical alpine flora, for example glacier buttercups, wormwoods, gentians, Alpine rhubarb and green alder just to mention a few.
If you are lucky, on your way there you might even chance a "close" encounter with chamois, marmots, weasels, wild goats or deer. Bird sightings are also possible and nothing is more fascinating than the rare sighting of the majestic Golden Eagle.
For those who would like to spend some time in the park region, several mountain huts and holiday farms offer accommodation. At 1575 metres above sea level, Rifugio Pastore is one of the most popular destinations to stay and affords magnificent views of the Monte Rosa south face. Alta Valsesia natural Park is waiting for you so don't forget to include it in your next summer plans!Any suggestions?
The Walser community (from the German Walliser) is a population of Germanic origin who settled in the alpine regions of Monte Rosa around the 8th century. While there is still no precise explanation as to why the Walsers immigrated to the area, it was most likely the need for new land to cultivate and the favourable conditions of the area that attracted these hard-working, high-altitude farmers.
The Walser settlers were also offered incentives to colonize the Piedmont and Val d’Aosta regions by the territorial lords who promised them not only tax incentives, but even more important, personal freedom.
Today, the Walser community has a strong presence in Valsesia (colonised in the 13th century) and Ossola. Their language is a particular variant of Southern German dialect and an enchanting museum has been created to preserve their rich history; located in Alagna Valsesia it is one of a group of exhibitions dedicated to the preservation of the Walser heritage. The Walser community has left a distinctive mark in the Piedmont Valley and the museum, inaugurated in 1976, is an enduring tribute to a people, their architecture, culture and daily lives.
The building that houses the museum was sold in 1974 for 2 million lire (a symbolic sum) to the Unione Alagnese under the precise and binding condition that it would be used as a historical museum exhibiting the customs and traditions of the people of Alagna. As a matter of fact, a sign in Walser dialect sums it all up: Witte mu hed aswenn glebe dim Land or “What life was once like in Alagna”.
Visitors to the museum will have the chance to learn about the Walsers all in an authentic setting. The 3-floor house was typical and designed to serve as the home to multiple families as well as serve as a barn and granary… all under one roof!
A curiosity: all the objects in the museum were all donated by local families and showcase the everyday objects in both their simplicity and their ingenuity.
Tip: if you're curious to learn more about the Walser community there is also a Walser museum in Macugnaga, situated in Fraz. Borca, 263.Any suggestions?
True treasures stand the test of time and this is certainly the case with one of Piemonte’s gastronomical prides. Italy is a country well renowned for its versatile and delectable cheeses, but its hidden gems such as the ‘Toma della Valsesia’ is what keeps lovers of all things ‘foody’ returning to explore local regions year after year.
The ancient art of cheese making has always been an important staple of Piemonte’s food production and one of the finest examples is this straw-coloured, sweet yet intensely flavoured cheese from Valsesia. We know that the ‘Toma della Valsesia’ has been popular for centuries, as there is historical evidence of the payment of taxes for the passage of goods, rather than documents concerning the rent of land used for grazing.
This dairy lovers’ delight is made using a principle ingredient of full-fat, raw or pasteurised cow’s milk.
Liquid calf’s rennet is added to the whole milk and an hour is left to pass before the freshly formed curd can be broken into small lumps. The product is then heated at a temperature of between 36 to 39 degrees for about 30-60 minutes. After this process, the cheese is left for a resting period of five minutes, before being stored in moulds with a manual pressing.
For about one week, the cheese is left on wooden boards and the maturing process is allowed to continue. After this, the product is salted for either 24 hours in brine, or dryly, 2 hours per side. Finally, the cheese is left to cure for a period of between 15 days and 2 months. However, a period of 3-6 months curing is not unheard of and, in some rare cases, the cheese can be cured for up to one year.
The final product is cylindrical in shape and is available throughout the year.
It is the perfect Piedmontese cheese, as it can be added to classic local dishes such as polenta or boiled potatoes. It can be eaten as an after dinner cheese and can be served with red or white wine, fresh fruit, marrow chutney, black rye bread or polenta. If you're looking to try some, its main production areas are Alagna Valsesia, Campertogno, Piode, Rimella and Riva Valdobbia, but it is produced in all municipalities of the Valsesia province.Any suggestions?
Carcoforo is a charming small Walser village that lies in the flood plains of the Egua Valley in Valsesia. It’s an agricultural and pastoral hamlet famous today as a popular tourist destination due largely in part to its breath-taking landscapes.
The keys to success for Carcoforo are the dedicated families that still own and run businesses that thrive in the beautiful mountain pastures - especially during the summer season - as well as the community’s dedication to preserving the pristine nature of the area.
The people of Carcoforo have always worked diligently to preserve the area’s natural landscape, community and cultural identity all in harmony with the promotion of sustainable tourism; this staunch commitment is what earned Carcoforo the title of “Ideal Village” by Airone magazine in 1991.
Tourists can expect to enjoy a well-constructed network of hiking trails and paths all lined with rest stops that link the mountain pastures both comfortably and efficiently. If hiking isn’t your cup of tea, the rich history and traditions of the area certainly offer something for everyone.
Inside the Church of Santa Croce stands the magnificently decorated wooden organ made by famed organ-maker Bartolomeo Gippa.
The oratory of La Madonna del Gabbio is another stop worth seeing. Legend tells that the oratory was constructed when the shepherds carrying the Madonna grew too weary to carry the statue any further and thus decided to construct her home on that spot. There is also the Arco di Buona Accoglienza (The Welcome Arch), which was constructed by the locals in 1734 to mark the point where the Egua Valley trail meets the village.
If you are interested in Walser culture or simply intrigued by the idea of an area so rich in well-preserved beauty, the village of Carcoforo is certainly worth exploring!Any suggestions?
Punta Malfatta on Monte Rosa is one the most fascinating and challenging off piste itineraries in Italy, located in the area called the "freeride Paradise". Access to the starting point at Punta Indren (3275 metres) has been made easier since the opening of the Alagna-Punta Indren cable car a few years ago.
This cable car represents the last of several with a starting point in the main valley of Alagna, but is also accessible from the other main valleys of Gressoney and Champoluc that all together make up the Monterosa ski resort, one of Italy’s most famous.
This means one is able to take the cable car and reach the glacier, previously only accessible by mountaineering or by helicopter, and start the ride down to Alagna, at 1200 metres of altitude on the Piedmont side of the mountain.
From Punta Indren you'll make your way to the Malfatta by crossing the Bors glacier. From here a 30m rope is necessary to reach the ski route below. Your amazing free ride continues now and if snow conditions allow, you can ski all the way down to the village, where a warm drink will reward your incredible effort.
The excursion is recommended for top expert skiers only.
There are steep stretches with gradients up to 45 degrees and the route requires high competence, physical fitness and mountaineering skills. At times the use of ropes to climb down the steepest gullies is essential.
Ideally any group wanting to take up the challenge should contact the local guides from the Alagna Alpine Group or other local clubs and ask to be escorted by experienced mountaineers who will share their knowledge and passion for the mountains.
Tip: check weather and snow conditions before you plan your trip as there are often high winds closing access.Any suggestions?