The Alta Via Del Sale
Why This Name?
An element that today seems to us even banal, like salt, in antiquity was instead precious, to the point of being considered for centuries a commodity of exchange par excellence. The notorious “salt gabelles” have oppressed the populations for a long time since the compulsory purchase of salt from the monopoly of power by each family, in proportion to the consistency of the family nucleus and other peculiar elements, corresponded to what we would now define the payment of taxes. Because of the salt, bloody wars have been fought; some alpine areas of the cuneese low, to defend ancient privileges related to exemption from the payment of this tax have fought a war lasting decades and ended with thousands of deaths, fires of villages, deportation of families who had rebelled in power.
It is therefore not surprising that some roads connecting the plain with the sea, the natural source of this precious element, are still remembered today with this name. The Alta Via del Sale links its toponym to the ancient caravans that crossed one of the oldest historical passes that cross the Alpine chain: the hill of Tenda. From this hill 1,870 meters above sea level in ancient times known as “Cornio”, thousands of caravans of mules have passed, (means of transport par excellence of antiquity) loaded with salt, oil, cheese, wheat to feed the businesses of the Cuneo plain with the Ligurian coast and vice versa. It is precisely from this place that the Alta Via del Sale starts, a road that travels at high altitude, always touching the two thousand meters of altitude, to reach Monesi, a small fraction of Triora and crossing an area of incomparable beauty and charm. A changing territory, which passes from the rocky aspect of the karst area that accompanies the first stretch to the shady path that cuts through the Navette forest, a boundless coniferous forest, skirting high and austere peaks, cutting pastures and slopes decorated by extended rhododendron blooms and other alpine essences.
Today the road leads to the sign of history and of the centuries that saw it trampled by shepherds, wayfarers and soldiers; passages that have left their mark, increasing each time the heritage linked to the road itself and made of bridges, embankments, walls built by hand, with the stones made on site. Sometimes dug into the rock, sometimes almost suspended on daring hairpin bends that gain altitude turning into the void, sometimes traced between the larches and the firs, this road is itself a monument and as such should be seen and traveled. Today the Alta Via del Sale is more than ever the pulsing artery of a vast territory that can be discovered, through the path of the road itself but also thanks to the numerous itineraries that in this region develop, between Italy and France, between the mountains and the sea. An articulated proposal of routes suitable for those who simply want to walk, for those who use mountain bikes and also for those who practice off road, allows you to discover a territory that touches three large park areas, quilted towns and villages that have so much to offer the visitor, from every point of view. In fact, if you are looking for contact with the wild nature of the peaks or the pleasure of pedaling along one of the countless paths you will also find museums, delightful historical centers, ancient traditions, prehistoric graffiti, excellent gastronomy, areas equipped for playing in the air open and much more.
THE ALTA VIA DEL SALE TRACK
From Colle Tenda To Colle Boaria
Taking Limone Piemonte as a starting point, one must first follow the signs that lead to the entrance of the Alta Via del Sale, first reaching the village of S.Anna and the Catlin Tetti then facing the road that climbs, after passing through the inhabited by Limonetto, until reaching Colle di Tenda (altitude 1,871 m.). From here you turn towards the Central Fort, ignoring the detour that leads to the fort Tabourde, continuing to recover altitude. The forts are austere and imposing military buildings that deserve a stop and a visit before continuing along the road that continues up to some modern lifts (Pancani and Cabanaira) and the chalet Baita 2000. The road climbs and, after the ridge, you meet a wide curve downhill to the Lake of Pearl (2.036 meters altitude) and then go up to the hill of the same name. From the Conca of the Colle della Perla you continue to climb along the sides of the Cuni peak, passing on a spectacular curve, which appears almost suspended in a vacuum. The structure that supports the hairpin, built by the military genius is a true masterpiece of road architecture. From here you go down until you reach the Colle della Boaria at 2,102 meters above sea level.
From Colle Boaria To Colle Signori
On the hill appear the remains of nineteenth-century military buildings forming part of a large fortified wall. By now you travel constantly at altitudes of over two thousand meters and the landscape takes on all the characteristics of the high mountains, while the road continues cutting, in the middle of limestone, a karst landscape of great beauty that travels on the border line between the two States trespassing often in French territory.
Once you reach the Malaberga mountain pasture area, after a winding climb, the roughness of the landscape is reduced, while you cross the junction leading to the Morgantini hut. The route continues touching the rocky spur of Castel Chevolail and, passing some gorge and overriding two ridges, we proceed on the southern side of Marguareis until you reach the Colle dei Signori.
From Colle Signori To Monesi
Here a road slopes down towards the Don Umberto Barbera Refuge on which stands the top of Marguareis, a border point between Italy and France. The Refuge is a meeting point between many alpine routes: in fact, the Colle dei Signori is easily accessible from Valle Roya, Valle Tanaro, Valle Pesio and Valle Ellero. From the hill the main route continues until you get around, with a wide hairpin bend, the top of the Pertega (2,404 meters above sea level) and climbs to the Framargal pass which represents the highest point of the track, with its 2,260 meters of altitude. Here the spectacle that can be seen is sensational and ranges from the Marguareis chain to the Navette wood to the valleys that stretch to the south. The road continues slightly downhill until you reach the Colle delle Selle Vecchie (2,098 meters above sea level). After a short while the landscape changes radically. The rocky area gives way to one of the widest woodland extensions of this area of the park: it enters in fact the Bosco delle Navette, an astonishing coniferous forest that accompanies a less rugged and smoother road. At the foot of Mount Saccarello, on whose top stands the majestic statue of the Redeemer, you will meet the junction for Monesi, about six kilometers away. From here you can then proceed to Upega, a small and quaint alpine village, curled up in a short flat stretch to the bases of the steep steep slope towards the rocky tops of the watershed and then descend, on the asphalt road, through the suggestive rocky gorg of the pass delle Fascette, up to Ponte di Nava and to Ormea.