Piemonte (the English name is Piedmont) is the Italian region that hosted me for several years, precisely from 2008 to 2017. The region is located in the northern-west part of Italy; it borders with France on the west and with Switzerland on the northeast. As the name indicates, it is a region that covers the area at the bottom of the mountains, the Alps. This area is characterized by several lateral mountain valleys (mainly on the west and southwest side), by a central part dominated by the city of Turin, by a hilly southern part towards the neighbouring Liguria, by an east side full of rice fields, and by several lakes in the north and northeast side.
Therefore, there is a lot to see and to do, and it is basically impossible to list everything.
Thus, after this COVID-19 crisis is over, I have in mind to experience again the beauty of this region and I would like to share with you my list of ten things to do in Piemonte / Piedmont, based on my passion for the mountains, the sport, the nature and the culture. If anyone has more interest to visit this wonderful Italian region, I will be glad to give more information.
#1) A visit of the city of Turin and its parks
Torino is the capital city of the Region and has a rich culture and history, testified by its numerous churches, palaces, opera houses, theatres, museums, libraries, and many other venues. The best view of the city is from Monte dei Cappuccini (see Photo 1), which can be easily reached with a 15-20 min walk from Piazza Vittorio.
There are many things to do and see in the city, which can be easily found on a lot of websites. Instead for those who like sports and running, I would definitively recommend two options.
The first option is to run inside Parco del Valentino, starting from Ponte Umberto I, in the direction of Castello del Valentino. While running, looking on the left, on the other side of the river Po, it is possible to appreciate the view of the hills around Torino. You can continue to run in the park passing through the Borgo Medievale, then below Ponte Isabella, until you reach Ponte Balbis. At this point, you can cross the bridge and return to the starting point remaining on the right riverside of the Po (see Photo 2). The overall distance is about 8 km.
The second option can be combined with the first one and allows to do a bit of trail running, just next to city centre. The starting point is Ponte Isabella. After crossing the bridge, turn left for 200 m, and then immediately right, in order to reach the entrance of Parco Giacomo Leopardi. Here the “Sentiero 16” begins and you will be completely astonished by the beauty of this footpath that brings you to the highest point of the hill, dominated by the Faro della Vittoria at 715 m a.s.l. (see Photo 3). The overall elevation gain is about 500m and the overall distance (up & down) can vary between 12 and 14 km, depending on the choices along the footpath. Of course, this option is also valid for a walk/hike or for mountain-bike.
#2) A hike or a run to the top of Musiné
I do not know how many times I have been on the top of this mountain (see Photo 4). I lost count.
The mountain is located 40 minutes far from the city of Torino and, with its limited elevation (1150 m a.s.l.), it allows to be experienced during all the seasons. I would only recommend to avoid it during a rain storm (lightning hazard) or in extreme icy conditions (unless properly equipped). The starting point is in the parking area of Caselette (TO), next to Kiosko, a small pub, bar, café where it is possible to refresh after the run or hike.
There are different ways to reach the top of mountain. I suggest the so called “Classic Route”: the shortest and the most demanding, but also the one that offers the best view (see Photo 5).
The route officially begins next to the football field, 500 m far from the parking area. The first part consists of a paved road that rises steeply towards S. Abaco sanctuary. At this point, the footpath begins: it is well marked with red and white signs, positioned mainly on the rocks. The footpath follows the east ridge of the mountain and it is most of the time steep with a slope above 20%. The last meters of the route are mainly rocky and require special attention in winter time with ice or simply downhill. The top of the mountain is dominated by a large cross (see Photo 6).
From here it is possible to have a beautiful view towards the south (the city of Turin and its hills), the southwest (the Monviso) and the west (the Sacra of S. Michele and the Val Susa).
For those interested in competitions, there is also a traditional event organized by the Valsusatrail team: http://www.valsusatrail.it/percorso-1.html
#3) A walk or a run through the vineyards of the Langhe-Roero & Monferrato
Piemonte is the region of Nebbiolo, Barolo, Barbaresco, and many other wines. Most of them are produced from the beautiful hills of the Langhe-Roero and Monferrato, inscribed into the UNESCO´s World heritage list in 2014.
The Langhe is an area located southern of Torino, in the province of Cuneo, and in addition to a glass of wine, it is also a wonderful place to run or walk (see Photo 7).
There are many routes, all of them well marked (see Photo 8). My favourite ones start from the village of Barolo (CN) and touch the other municipalities of the area like La Morra (CN) and Castiglione Falletto (CN). You can run 10, 20 or even 50 km, as long as you like and enjoy the view of these beautiful hills (see Photo 9). My favourite period is June.
Not far from the Langhe, another important wine district is the Monferrato, located between the province of Asti and Alessandria. Starting point for a walk or run is the little village of Grazzano Badoglio (footpath 505).
For those interested, there are several trail-running events in this area or in the nearby areas. I can mention a few of them where I took part: Trail dei Boschi del Roero, Trail del Moscato (http://www.dynamic-center.it/eventi/presentazione-trail-del-moscato/trail-del-moscato-2019/), and Trail Memorial Gemma Accomo.
#4) A hike to the top of Rocciamelone
The Rocciamelone (3538 m a.s.l.) is a mountain located in the Val Susa, not far from the border between Italy and France. It became recently quite worldwide popular, since it hosted the Red Bull K3: a race of about 10 km, starting from the city of Susa and finishing at the Rocciamelone´s summit after an elevation gain of 3035m.
However, for trail-runners and hikers living in Piemonte, it is a well-known mountain since decades. In fact, despite its elevation, it is marked as easy hiking path (E) and only the last 100 m require a bit of experience with the path equipped with fixed ropes.
If you want to experience the complete route, you need to start from Mompantero (535 m a.s.l.), a little village next to Susa (See Photo 12). Otherwise, the most common solution is to drive to the Rifugio La Riposa and start from the parking area located few hundred meters ahead of the rifugio at 2050 m a.s.l. The footpath is very easy and allows to reach the Rifugio Ca´d´Asti (2854 m a.s.l.) for a quick refresh before the last part of the climb (see Photo 13).
After the rifugio, you will observe a radical change of the environment and the green vegetation of the meadows is no longer present; you will be accompanied to the summit by the dark colors of the rocks and the ground. At 3306 m a.s.l., once the Crocetta is passed, it appears finally the view of the Rocciamelone (see Photo 14).
In case of rain or snow, I fully recommend to avoid the last part, unless properly equipped and experienced. In other conditions, you can enjoy the last part, equipped with fixed ropes, and the beautiful view from the top towards the surroundings mountains and valleys (Photo 15).
#5) A visit at Rifugio Melano (Casa Canada)
This mountain hut is located in the Alpi Cozie, not far from the town of Pinerolo, with a great view towards the Monviso (see Photo 16), and it represents a good location to do sport activities in all seasons. The mild altitude (ca 1050 m a.s.l.) allows to reach it, even in winter days. However, it is always important & recommended to check the latest news on the official website: http://www.casacanada.eu/
I discovered this place in 2012, when I was mainly performing some climbing activities. In fact, the area behind the mountain hut hosts the famous Rocca Sbarua (see Photo 17), an oasis for rock climbing, where the most famous generation of climbers in the 30s used to train and enjoy their time. All the climbing routes are well marked and there are different grades of difficulties. So, it is up to you which to choose!
In the following years, I used to pass here exclusively for trail-running training sessions or for special events like “Magnacanada” when, for one night, this place becomes the meeting point for about 150 trail-runners, hikers and mountain lovers. The event usually takes place at the end of January, after a night-hike along the surroundings footpaths. In the early morning, you can enjoy the view of the Monviso sitting outside and drinking a warm cup of Italian coffee.
For those interested, there is also a trail-running competition, starting from the Rifugio, organized by Escuriosando Trekking: Sbarua Trail (https://www.sbaruatrail.it/)
#6) A hike or run around the Monviso
The Monviso (3841 m a.s.l.) is a well-known mountain in Italy for its pyramid-like shape (someone states that Paramount symbol was inspired by the Monviso), for being seen from great distance (because it is higher than all its neighboring peaks by about 500m) and for hosting the headwaters of river Po (the longest Italian river) (see Photo 19).
The Monviso is also the center of a wonderful trekking route between the Italian and French borders (see Photo 20). This route can be covered in stage-days using the available mountain huts to spend the night and refresh: Rifugio du Viso (France), Rifugio Vallanta (Italy), Rifugio Quintino Sella (Italy), Rifugio Alpetto (Italy) and Rifugio Giacoletti (Italy).
But the same route can be covered in 9-10 hours by a prepared trail-runner or even in much shorter time during the official competition, usually organized at the end of August: http://www.tourmonvisotrail.it/.
The trekking route can be started from different locations. However, I suggest to start from Crissolo (CN), on the east side of the mountain. This allows you to hike or run through Pian della Regina and Pian del Re until reaching the Buco del Viso, a pedestrian tunnel excavated in the rock during the Reinassance located at 2882 m a.s.l. (see Photo 21). This tunnel connects Italy with France and it is usually opened in July or August, but it depends on the snow conditions. Do not forget to bring with you a headlamp! The tunnel is short (75 meters long) but completely dark!
The hiking path reaches the Refuge du Viso in France and then returns in Italy on the way to the Rifugio Vallanta (see Photo 22). The route proceeds towards Castello di Pontechianale; before reaching this village, you should follow the hiking path on the left, in the direction of Passo San Chiaffredo and Gallarino. Then I recommend to hike or run towards the Rifugio Quintino Sella (see Photo 23).
From this mountain hut, two options can be chosen. The first brings you downhill towards Crissolo. The second is longer but more fascinating since it allows to pass at the Rifugio Giacoletti and along the famous panoramic “Sentiero del Postino”.
The overall route characteristics depends on several choices, but it is at least 40 km and 3000 m of elevation gain. And, keep in mind that most of the time the hiking path is about 2500 m a.s.l.
#7) A hike to the Conca del Pra in Val Pellice
Well, if I visit Piemonte and if I do not pass for the “Valle” (the short name for Val Pellice), I might get in trouble with my friends of Magnacorsa, a local group of trail runners and mountain lovers.
But apart from this important reason, this valley is indeed one of my favorites. It ends with the Conca del Pra, a flat area at about 1700m a.s.l surrounded by high mountains (around 3000m a.s.l.) (see Photo 24). The area cannot be reached by vehicles, unless few exceptions in certain periods of the year.
There are two possible hiking routes, starting from the village of Villanova (1220m a.s.l.): one (my favorite) is on the orographic left of the Pellice creek (see Photo 25); the other one follows the forest road on the orographic right. In both cases, the footpaths end at Rifugio Willy Jervis (https://www.jervis.it/), just at the entrance of the Conca del Pra (see Photo 26).
The Conca hosts one of the historical trail running events in Europe (http://www.emigrantrailer.com/2020/01/12/ten-historical-trail-running-events-in-europe/): the Tre Rifugi Val Pellice (http://www.3rifugivalpellice.it/), which follows the footpaths between Rifugio Willy Jervis, Rifugio Barbara Lowrie (https://www.rifugiobarbara.it/) and Rifugio Granero (https://www.rifugiogranero.com/), passing also by Rifugio Barant (http://www.rifugiobarant.it/).
However, the entire Val Pellice offers several running and trail-running competitions, which allows to discover beautiful angles of the valley in addition to the Conca del Pra. Here is a short list I attended: Trail degli Invincibili (https://www.traildegliinvincibili.it/) and different competitions of the vertical race circuit (http://www.verticalsunsets.it/).
#8) An MTB tour in Val Maira
This valley is located in the province of Cuneo, next to the south-west border with France. This area is a real paradise for bikers and mountain bikers. There are hundreds of kilometers and several possible routes.
For sure, it cannot be missed the passage at top of Colle Fauniera (2511 a.s.l.), on the border with Val Grana, dominated by the statue of the great Italian cyclist Marco Pantani (see Photo 28).
If you have an MTB, you cannot miss the MTB route starting near the Colle Valcavera (2421m a.s.l.), few hundred meters after the Colle Fauniera in the direction of Demonte. It is fantastic to bike with this landscape, especially in a sunny day. More or less the route is always between 2400 and 2500 m a.s.l. and it is very well marked.
The route allows to appreciate the beauty of the Rocca La Meja (2840 m a.s.l.) from all visual angles.
#9) A hike or run around Lago d´Orta
This lake is located in the northern Piemonte, west of Lago Maggiore, with a length of about 13 km (see Photo 31).
I discovered this lake few years ago, when I attended for the first time the UTLO – Ultra Trail Lago d´Orta (https://www.ultratraillo.com/). I liked the event itself, but I liked mostly the complete area surroundings the lake: it is not a coincidence that I have been there several times in the last years and that it is on my possible destinations every year (see Photo 32).
There are several footpaths around the lake, but the starting point for me, it is always the town of Omegna. I love the footpath followed by most of the events at the UTLO, allowing to reach the Monte Mazzocone (1424 m a.s.l.). In particular, the sunrise from the top of this mountain in a clear day, cloudless, is really worth of (see Photo 33). I am looking forward to step on these footpaths and to hug and cheers with trail-runners there: hopefully this year, maybe in 2021.
Not far from Lago d´Orta, there are other two places I would recommend. The first is the Monte Mottarone (1491 m a.s.l.), which is also the highest point of Trail del Motty (https://traildelmotty.it/), and the second is the Lago Maggiore, which is the location of several running and trail-running competition, like LMIT-Lago Maggiore International Trail (https://www.lmit.info/). So, if you like sports, you will not be bored!
#10) A run nearby Ivrea and its lakes
I have no idea of how many lakes are around the town of Ivrea. I would bet that more than ten is a reasonable answer.
One of them is Lago Chiaverano (see Photo 34). I discovered it in the second part of my life in Piemonte, thanks to the Trail Laghi (http://www.trailaghi.it/), a well-organized trail which allows to run between the morainic hills, forest roads and single-tracks footpaths, all of them around the lake, with the Mombarone (2371 m a.s.l.) in the background. Spring is definitively the best season to visit it.
However, Ivrea is also famous for a lot of other running and trail-running competitions and the list would be too long to name all of them. Among them, one of the oldest competition is the Ivrea-Mombarone (http://www.amicidelmombarone.it/), which starts from the center of Ivrea (253m a.s.l.) to finish at the top of Mombarone, after 21 km and more than 2100 m of elevation gain (see Photo 35).
The Mombarone is also the finish line for another famous uphill competition, starting from Graglia in the province of Biella, just 30 km east of Ivrea. This province is also full of hiking paths, belonging to the Pennine Alps (see Photo 36). Obviously, many trail running competitions characterize the area every year. Among them, two very popular are the Trail of Monte Casto (http://www.emigrantrailer.com/2019/12/27/monte-casto-trail-2019-20k/) and the Trail of Oasi Zegna (https://www.trailrunningvalsessera.it/).