Trip Number: 12630A
Staff: John Doidge
- Dayhike in Italian alpine mountains
- Marvel at native wildflowers and wildlife
- Explore quaint villages, mingle with locals, and experience Italian cuisine
- Lodging with private bath in family-owned, country inns
- All meals and gratuities
- On-trip transportation
Please note that the trip dates have changed from what was originally published. If you
have questions, please
Photo: Joe Tonda
Few places are as intriguing as Italy's Western Alps, which extend along the
French border from southern Piedmont to the Mediterranean Sea. This area, which
includes the Maritime and Cottian Alps, is relatively unknown to travelers --
foreign or native.
The Maritime Alps are not high by alpine standards, but the glacially sculpted
peaks and lakes provide awe-inspiring scenery. To protect this area, Italy created
the Maritime Alps Nature Park (Parco naturale delle Alpi Marittime) in 1995.
This Park shares the French border for more than 20 miles with France's Mercantour
National Park. These two parks joined forces to cooperate in management, cultural,
and conservation work. Together, they share the ultimate aim of creating a single
large international park: "Montagne senza frontiere" (Mountains Without
Frontiers). The Maritime Alps Nature Park's wildlife includes chamois, ibex,
eagles, and bearded vultures, and the park has more than 30 endemic botanic
species and more than 2,600 botanic species -- almost half of the species living
in the entire Italian peninsula.
The Cottian Alps, just north of the Maritime Alps, is a landscape of jagged
peaks, clear alpine lakes, and mountain meadows. This is where Italy's longest
and most important river, the Po, begins its journey to the Adriatic Sea --
it's a river whose source is protected by the Po Regional Park (Parco Regionale
del Po). Towering over the Cottian Alps is Mount Viso, monarch of the Western
Italian Alps, a majestic and isolated pyramid that on a clear day can be seen
from almost the entire Piedmont region.
Warmed by the early summer sun, we'll explore this region's mountains and alpine
meadows, view its wildflowers and fauna, and mingle with local people in their
mountain villages. We'll stay in simple family-owned inns in two small villages,
and explore the surrounding mountains on moderately paced day hikes. Traveling
by van, we'll shuttle up narrow mountain roads to trailheads, hike in this inspiring
scenery, and spend our evenings savoring the region's Italian cuisine and experiencing
the charm of mountain villages and local people. On one of our six hiking days
we will offer the opportunity to extend that day's hike in terms of distance,
elevation gain, and time. On this option day, participants can choose between
more free time or more hiking time. Note: many of the trails are uneven and
rock-strewn with strong ascents and descents, contributing to a sense of full
day hikes over relatively short distances.
Photo: John Doidge
Day 1: The trip begins and ends near Milan's Malpensa international
airport, which is accessible via direct flights from the United States. We'll
meet and have our get-acquainted dinner at a nearby family-owned hotel that
provides free shuttle service to and from the airport.
Day 2: We travel from Milan to the village of Entracque and
settle into our small family-owned inn. In the afternoon, we'll enter Italy's
Maritime Alps Nature Park, where we'll familiarize ourselves with the region's
wide array of flora by touring the Park's Valderia Botanical Gardens. We'll
stay at this hotel a total of five nights and drive to trailheads to hike and
explore Italy's Maritime Alps Nature Park.
Day 3: Our taxi-vans shuttle us to the small village of St.Anna
di Valdieri, where we hike (2.5 miles; +600 ft) the cultural path of the Ecomuseum
of the Segale (Rye). We'll pass through two hamlets that are no longer inhabited
to see typical buildings of the area and learn about the traditional way of
life and the important role rye played in the alpine culture.
Day 4: We drive through the Rovena Valley to Lago Rovena to
hike (6 mi.; +1,600 ft.) to Refugio Genova, enjoying imposing views of the west
face of Mt. Argentera, the highest mountain in the park, as we hike past Lakes
Chiotas and Brocan to the refugio. After our refugio lunch, we'll hike back
to our drop-off point and shuttle back to our hotel in Entracque.
Day 5: We are transported to our trailhead in the Maritime
Alps Nature Park and hike (4 miles; +1,300 ft.) to the vast meadow of Piano
de Valasco, with its views of the Maritime Alps and King Vittorio Emanuele II's
Photo: John Doidge
Day 6: Today we hike (8 mi.; +3,000 ft.) to Lake Sella, where
we will see marmots and possibly ibex and chamois. We’ll have lunch at
the lake and then return to Entracque for our final day in this pastoral region.
Barring weather or other considerations, we'll have the option of an additional
hike of 3 mi.; +1,300 ft. to Lago Sottano della Sella.
Day 7: We leave Entracque and drive to Saluzzo, a 2,000+ year-old
city. In Saluzzo, we have time to shop and explore the old section of the city
and enjoy a special lunch. After lunch, we drive to the small hamlet of Crissolo,
which is located in the Cottian Alps and in the shadow of majestic Mount Viso,
Monarch of the Western Italian Alps. Using this hamlet as our second hiking
base, we shuttle to trailheads to hike in the mountains around Mount Viso. We
stay in a simple, family-owned inn and enjoy local dishes.
Day 8: Today we hike in the Pian del Re region, exploring
one of many trail options, depending on our group's strength and preferences.
Day 9: On our final full day in the Western Alps, we are off
to Pian del Re to 'discover' the source of the Po River -- Italy's longest and
most important river that flows from here to the Adriatic Sea. We'll hike (5
mi.; +1,200 ft.) the picturesque "Giro dei Laghi," one of the most
lovely itineraries in Po Cuneese Park.
Photo: Joe Tonda
Day 10: We leave Italy's Western Alps and travel to our hotel
near the Milan Airport for our farewell dinner together.
Day 11: Filled with renewed spirits and the peace and joy
of the mountains, we take the free hotel shuttle to Milan's Malpensa airport
for flights home or travel connections.
While every attempt will be made to follow this itinerary, this trip is subject
to change, depending on a variety of factors, including trail conditions and
weather (e.g. a heavy snow year that blocks access to trails). Health and safety
of participants is always the primary concern of the trip leaders. Even if we
must modify the planned itinerary, we will have a fantastic and inspirational
The trip begins at a hotel near Milan's Malpensa international airport, which
is accessible via direct flights from the United States. The hotel provides
free shuttle service to and from the airport. The trip ends at the same hotel,
where we may take the free hotel shuttle to Milan's Malpensa airport for flights
home or connecting elsewhere.
Participants are encouraged to arrive a day or more early in the Milan area
to explore the area and to acclimate to local time.
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Joe Tonda
Included in this trip is lodging in double-occupancy rooms with private bath,
as well as meals, beginning with dinner on Friday, June 29 and ending with breakfast
on Monday, July 9.
Breakfasts are continental-style, which is consistent with the local custom
and style of breakfasts.
Our picnic lunches typically include freshly baked bread, cheese, ham, fruit,
and something sweet. Trip members are welcome to assist in shopping for our
picnic lunches. Our refugio lunches are simple but tasty and typical of the
Evening meals at our small hotels feature a limited, but savory, selection
of Italian cuisine and traditional regional dishes.
When we stay at simple inns in two villages, participants share rooms with
private bath. Breakfasts and dinners are at the inns with picnic lunches provided
This outing is appropriate for adult Club members who are in reasonably good
physical condition and have some recent hiking experience. This is not a mountaineering
trip. Each hiking route has been carefully scouted and follows well-constructed
With a 9 a.m. starting time, we drive to the trailhead. The morning segment
of the hike may take two to three hours and ascend to a destination point, where
we spend an hour enjoying our picnic lunch. The afternoon walk is in reverse,
from high to low, in about two-thirds of the time. By 4 p.m. we are back at
the trailhead where the vans are parked, and by 4:30 p.m. at the inn. A typical
hiking day, moderate by most definitions, will be about four to eight miles,
with elevation change of up to 2,000 feet. Expect to be on the trail for four
to seven hours on our hiking days. The Maritime Alps offers a leisurely but
stimulating cultural and historical adventure. This trip is for adults only.
Equipment and Clothing
Suggested items to bring will be furnished to participants signing up for
this trip. For the hikes, you need well-broken-in hiking boots, and a comfortable
day pack to carry water, your share of the group picnic lunches, rain gear,
and something to keep you warm should the weather turn cold unexpectedly.
Photo: Joe Tonda
- Parco Nat. Alpi Marittime, No. 113, 1:25,000, Istituto Geografico
- Carta dei sentieri del Parco naturale delle Alpi Marittime, 1:25.000. Map
of the paths in the park, with 33 recommended excursions on foot and by
mountain bike, five traverses, and useful information about the park. Publisher:
Blu Edizioni. Author: Parco delle Alpi.
- Monviso, Carta dei Sentieri e dei Rifugi, No. 6, 1:50,000, Istituto
Geografico Centrale (IGC).
- Maps may be purchased for about eight euros in the towns we'll be visiting.
- Carles, Emile, A Life of Her Own, Penguin Books. This autobiography
describes turn-of-century peasant life in the region, and the transformation
of a peasant woman born into a rigidly conservative patriarchal world of the
- Prevas, John, Hannibal Crosses the Alps: The Invasion of Italy and the
Second Punic War, Perseus Books Group. The author focuses on one of Hannibal's
most famous exploits -- the crossing of the Alps. Hannibal's actual route
across the Alps has been lost to history, but Professor Prevas combines rigorous
research of ancient sources with his own excursions through the icy peaks
to bring to life this awesome trek, perhaps solving the centuries-old question
of Hannibal's exact route and shedding fresh light on the cultures of Rome
and Carthage along the way. John Prevas' conclusion is Hannibal crossed the
Alps at the Colle de Travesette.
Our conservation agenda has three parts:
- Gain a historical perspective of the Maritime Alps Nature Park and the
Po Regional Park;
- Observe and compare park administration practices with those found in
the United States; and
- Observe land stewardship practices in the mountain areas.
This trip requires a $200 per-person deposit. An additional payment of $300 per person is due six months prior to trip departure. International trip prices are subject to change and are based on double-occupancy or group accommodations as described above. Single rooms may not be available or may cost more than the listed price. If you have any questions regarding double occupancy, please contact the trip leader.
See the How to Apply for an Outing
section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the
trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing
up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing
approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical
Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on
the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to
the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and
notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
The Sierra Club accurately and fairly budgets and prices our trips. However, unforeseen costs such as devaluation of the dollar compared to other currencies and fuel surcharges assessed by our international providers may necessitate adjustment in trip price. We will make every effort to mitigate and absorb these fees. If a price increase is necessary, however, you will have 14 days after announcement to cancel without penalty.
John Doidge, leader, has participated in and led service trips in locations ranging from islands (Royale, Culebra, Manhattan, Vieques, St. John, St. Croix) to spectacular gems in the remote corners of California, Arizona, and Utah. Whenever he can, he is exploring: hiking, snowshoeing, or skiing in California's mountains, pedaling its roads and paths, or paddling its waters. He believes that being present in the outdoors is the best way to connect our core values with love of our natural world.
Mary O'Boyle loves to hike the world's mountains, where she locates and identifies meadow and alpine wildflowers. She is involved in conservation projects in Africa, Costa Rica, and the U.S. Mary is former Co-Chair of Sierra Club's International Outings Subcommittee and leads outings in Costa Rica, Italy, Germany, Austria, New Zealand, and Norway. She maintains a second residence in the mountains of Monteverde, Costa Rica.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips