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A holiday in the heart of the Alps: Valmalenco

A holiday in the heart of the Alps.

With its sky-scraping peaks, dominated by the Bernina massif, glaciers that testify to the real age of our planet, fragrant woods and towns nestling in luxuriant green nature, Valmalenco is the ideal destination for those who love to combine sport with total relaxation, taking time out to enjoy the mountain’s scenery, culture and pleasures of the palate.

Step by step
Strenuous, relaxing, adventurous or peaceful. All different kinds of hikes for those who love walking in unspoilt natural surroundings, listening to what the mountains have to say. Here, hikers are spoilt for choice in terms of trails. The giants in rock and ice that tower over the valley also have gentler slopes, welcoming visitors with the infinite beauty of little Alpine lakes, the peace of mountain pastures or the typical atmosphere of a mountain refuge with the added pleasure of genuine local specialities.

Right up to the glaciers
For those not afraid of long distances, the Alta Via della Valmalenco is an absolute must. This is a high altitude hike, about 110 km long, which can be completed in 8 stages or broken up into “mini Alte Vie” taking just 2 or 3 days. A truly enjoyable route that takes
in the valley’s most important and scenic points: the Chiareggio hollow, Lake Palù, the Scerscen narrow valley, and the dams at Campo Gera and Campo Moro. Including the exciting must of actually “touching” a glacier. To do so, simply get to Alpe Ventina and follow the Vittorio Sella glacier path from Rifugio Gerli, or the “sentiero glaciologico Luigi Marson” path that goes from the Bignami mountain refuge to the foot of the
majestic Fellaria glacier.

Hiking in nature and culture
The Valmalenco mountains also hold surprises for children thanks to the Alpe Prabello trails, which start from the Zoia and Cristina mountain refuges and from the Campagneda lakes. Slightly harder, but feasible for all, is the circular route
that allows hikers to discover the soapstone towns. The mule track, which starts at the
entrance to Primolo and then continues through a magnificent larch wood, offers enchanting views of Valmalenco and Pizzo Scalino. True natural wonders not to be missed are the “Marmite dei Giganti”, literally the “giants' bowls”. These amazing hollows in the rocks, rounded and smoothed over thousands of years by geological processes, moulded by water for centuries, can be admired from the circular route that starts and ends in Franscia, up the Cormor river. Here, hikers will be immersed in an enchanted world of rare pastures, red pine trees, waterfalls and rivers where brown trout splash
and swim upstream.

Adrenaline and altitude
The River Mallero and its many tributaries crisscross the whole of Valmalenco, together with a busy network of paths that link a good number of refuges, making this valley particularly popular among fans of canyoning. A session on the River Cormor is a must, down between the green serpentinite rocks hollowed out over the centuries by the rushing water. Those who prefer to pedal and want to enjoy breath-taking views of the entire valley can follow the path that winds at a great height for almost all its length, linking Chiareggio with Campo Moro.

Art and culture
With Piazza Garibaldi at the heart of its nineteenth-century old town centre, Sondrio offers fine cultural and architectural examples such as Palazzo Sertoli with its beautiful frescoed hall and Palazzo Martinengo. Just a few minutes outside the town is the Shrine to the Madonna of Sassella, surrounded by flowers, rocks and vineyards, and Grumello Castle.
 

 

Highlights

1. Soapstone. The Italian name for Soapstone is “Pietra Ollare”, and it comes from the Latin “olla” meaning pot, oil container. Highly resistant to fire and capable of
conserving heat at length, this stone was used here almost exclusively for making containers such as “lavècc”, “stüin” (stewing pans) and “fùràgn” (containers for storing cheese, butter or lard).

2. Cheese. Casera and Scimudin are two typical local cheeses. The animals are free to graze on the thousands of mountain herbs that then enrich their milk with essences
and aromas, in turn used to make unique cheese, protected by the “Consorzio Tutela Valtellina Casera e Bitto” consortium and very popular with gourmet food lovers.

3. The Magic Mountain. The castle inside the rock. Legend has it that right inside the top peak of Pizza Scalino there is a fortress, divided into two parts, where the black armies of the night and the white armies of the day battle it out, a symbol of the eternal fight between dark and light.

4. Cliffs for climbers in Campo Moro. Campo Moro is a vast, interesting area high up in the mountains with walls for climbers of any level and any style. With an average height of about 2000 metres above sea level, this is an extraordinary high altitude environment with the artificial lakes of Campo Moro and Gera.

5. Secular wood. More than a thousand years old and still in fairly good shape. This larch tree, the oldest in Italy and one of the oldest in Europe, is surrounded by other centuries-old trees, together forming a wonderful woodland area in Val Ventina.

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