Valsesia Valley

This is an excerpt from the book “Turin


Valsesia is green, reflected in the river, in the shadow of the woods, in the moss and fields. Rosa is the name given to the mountain which fills the sky with a rosy pink glow in the winter sunsets and colors the tracks left by the skis.

The gold is in the Valsesian people in the art and folklore. Not just Green Valsesia: the greenest valley in Italy. It is sufficient to travel through the valley once to realize that this is not just a fortuitous slogan. The road from Varallo to Alagna is one long array of side-scenes and wooded slopes which give a foretaste of Monte Rosa’s splendors.

Not one hairpin bend breaks the continuity of the road which runs easily through the valley, never leaving the banks of the river far behind.

So not only is it the greenest valley, but also the most convenient way to reach Europe’s second highest peak rapidly in all seasons.

Much of the credit is due to the slow, powerful work of the great glacier which during the Ice Age reached the doors of the town of Borgosesia

The Valley of the Sesia consists of the main valley called Val Grande, the Val Sermenza, or Small Valley, the Val Mastallone and a wealth of other smaller valleys.

Green… water Its orographic qualities, remarkable flow and the wonders of its landscape have made the River Sesia and its tributaries well-known all over the world by lovers of canoeing.

Over a hundred kilometers of water can be negotiated, with varying degrees of difficulty, from the easy through to the extremely difficult. There are numerous well organized canoeing schools where it is also possible to learn the techniques of kayak and hydro-speed, take exciting trips in rubber dinghies, or be initiated into a new discipline which will bring you into direct contact with nature: “torrentismo” – where you are trailed down the river gorges, wearing a wet-suit.

Green… sport Sport lovers will find that there is a great deal more satisfaction to be had from their stay in Valsesia.

Mountain walkers have hundreds of itineraries to choose from along paths which are mostly well marked by the Varallo section of the CAI ( Italian Alpine Club) and which become increasingly difficult as the altitude increases.

There are well-equipped stables for equestrian sports lovers, a trial school and a mountain bike school, plenty of scope for mountain bike enthusiasts.

Just Nature Valsesia has a talent for safeguarding the environment which is born witness to by the Parco Naturale Alta Valsesia, the valleys below Monte Rosa and the Parco Naturale “Monte Fenera”, which is of considerable archeological interest.

The former park is considered to be the highest park in Europe as it includes several peaks over 4000 meters.

In the area of the park, but also in some of the neighboring territories there are numerous colonies of rock-goats, chamois, marmot, and great eagles, and the flora features all the typical alpine species. Tourists may take part in guided trekking parties, following itineraries with themes which have been developed for the purpose.

The Parco Naturale of “Monte Fenera”, slightly south of Borgosesia is famous for the numerous grottoes where races of prehistoric man’s settlements have been revealed. The remains are kept and can be seen in the Museo Paleon-tologico di Borgosesia.


Rosa… is the Mountain From the medieval Monboso to the latterday Monte Rosa, the history of the mountain runs through these names, and not only alpine history: the coming of the Walser people in the 17th Century, the quest for the “Lost Valley” in the same period, and Don Giovanni Gnifetti, the Alagna parish priest’s 1842 conquest of the highest point of the Valsesia. There are also royal tracks in the snow belonging to Margherita of the House of Savoy, not to mention those of innumerable pioneers of alpine climbing.

The Rose Pink Snow Alagna Valsesia, 1190 meters above sea level, at the head of the Val Grande, is the best known tourist resort, and the sea of the Parco Naturale, the Society of Alpine Guides and the starting point for excursions and climbing expeditions. Alagna is part of the Monte Rosa district, an extraordinary complex of ski-slopes and lifts which cover the south face of the mountain and allow skiers to reach the valleys of the Valle d’Aosta, Gressoney and Ayas, skis on their feet. For winter sports fans, Valsesia offers the beautiful district of Alpe di Mera, which can be reached either by car or chairlift from Scopello.

Mera offers easy as well as difficult pistes, good snow and tourist amenities. In the flat area around Scopello there is a track for cross-country skiing, in the high valley another one offers a ten kilometers track in rings, while there is yet another in Carcoforo which is highly appreciated for its technical qualities, though it is possible to indulge in winter sports activities in other minor localities. However, in the Valsesia skiing is also available at Punta Indren, while ample opportunity exists to take alpine excursions and enjoy off piste skiing in the most fascinating of scenarios.


Gold among mountains In a place where others would have built a castle or a fortified town, the Valseisians created their finest example of artistic and religious expression: Sacro Monte di Varallo, or the Holy Mount of Varallo.

Conceived as a “New Jerusalem”, it was developed by Father Bernardino Caimi at the end of the 1400’s and built thanks to the work of the major Valsesian artists, the most prominent being Gaudenzio Ferrari.

The ideal Holy City, it is composed of 50 chapels which portray the Passion and death of Jesus Christ in life-size paintings and statues.

Varallo is the historical and cultural capital of the valley, and quite apart from the Sacro Monte, deserves recognition for its characteristic 18th Century urban planning.

More art treasures are to be found here, such as the scenic Collegiata di San Gaudenzio and the Palazzo dei Musei which holds the Pinacoteca Art Gallery and the Museo Calderini di Scienze Naturali, the Natural Science Museum. A little further away is the Church with its beautiful cloister. Its fine interior harbors the splendid Gaudenzian Wall, a series of frescoes depicting the life and Passion of Christ, and is certainly Gaudenzio Ferrari/s masterpiece.

The Palazzo d’Adda deserves some attention, as does the ex-hydrotherapy building. At the entrance to Varallo, on the road to the Colma, the frescoes in the small Chapel of Loreto are of certain interest.

Gold of the past The Walser Civilization Another jewel shared by the neighboring valleys is the Walser civilization. A German speaking community has been living at the foot of Monte Rosa for seven centuries.

It originated in the High Vallese but has proudly maintained its culture which is expressed in the people’s language and traditions but above all in their architecture which expertly combines the use of wood and stone with the ability to organize the territory from an economic and social point of view.

The villages around Alagna, and particularly Otro which can only be reached on foot after more than an hour’s walk up steep pathways, are truly wonderful. However this boundless civilization, certainly the most important in the whole of the Alps, can be observed in other localities, too.


Two small museums set up in their ancient houses help us to become better acquainted with the Walser people: the first is at Pedemonte di Alagna, situated right in the center of the village and most expertly organized, and the other is at Rabernardo in Val Vogna, in a position with a wonderful view.

Gold of the tradition Craftsmen, costumes and tradition have all found their home in the Valsesian Folklore Museum in Borgosesia. A place of honor has been dedicated to “puncetto”, the ancient art of lace-work, which as once again found its true merit and value through the specially created schools which carry on the tradition, and also to the “scufogn” and “scapini”, the locally crafted slippers.

But the Valsesian artistic tradition is also being carried on today by the return to hand looms, the working and carving of wood and oiled stone.

Local cuisine is made up of dishes which make use of quite poor ingredients but are most originally prepared, due to the innate imagination of the people of the Valsesia: one example might be the “miacce”, simple pancakes stuffed with a variety of sauces, jams and honey. The local “toma” cheese deserves a place of honor here, being typical of the Valsesia, and produced high up on the alpine pastures and in the modern Dairy in Piode.

Where to stay in Alagna Valsesia

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