The Off Road Way From Mountains To The Villages - Alta Via del Sale

The Off Road Way From Mountains To The Villages
Monesi-La Brigue-Colle di Tenda-Limone Piemonte

THE ITINERARY

This route is suitable to be driven by motor vehicles, both because it offers a rather long route (about 90 km) and because, in addition to its main route allows those who want to travel, to make trips to visit some places of sure suggestion which will certainly enrich the charm and completeness of the trip. Itinerary of great scenic beauty, runs through the Alta Via del Sale to proceed then, always through roads of sure seduction, to numerous and pleasant inhabited centers.

THE PATH

Taking as a starting point (and therefore arrival, being a ring route) the town of Limone Piemonte, you must first follow the signs that lead to the entrance of the Alta Via del Sale reaching first the Borgata S.Anna and the Catlin Roofs then facing the road that climbs, after passing through the village of Limonetto, until you reach the Colle di Tenda (altitude 1,871 m.). From here you turn towards the Central Fort, still continuing to recover altitude. The forts are austere and impressive military buildings that deserve a stop and a visit before continuing along the road that continues until you reach some modern ski lifts (Pancani and Cabanaira) to reach the Colletto Campanino first and the Colle della Boaria after. Now we are at altitudes above two thousand meters and the landscape takes on the characteristics of the high mountain, while the road continues cutting, amidst limestone rocks, a karst landscape of great beauty that travels on the border line between the two states often trespassing in French territory.

Once you reach the mountain pasture area of Malaberga, the roughness of the landscape is reduced, while you cross the junction leading to the Capanna Morgantini. The route continues touching the rocky spur of Castel Chevolail up to the Colle dei Signori. Here a road slopes down towards the Don Barbera Refuge, while the main route continues until you get round, with a wide hairpin bend, Cima della Pertega (altitude 2.404 m) and reach Colle delle Selle Vecchie (Col de la Celle Vieille – altitude 2,098 m). Soon the landscape will change 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. You will soon find yourself at a crossroads: a branch proceeds towards Upega, a small and characteristic alpine village, curled up in a short flat stretch to the bases of the steep slope that climbs towards the rocky peaks of the watershed. From here you can continue on the paved road, through the suggestive rocky gorge of the Passo delle Fascette, up to Ponti di Nava and to Ormea.
The other branch of the crossroads continues along the main path of the Alta Via del Sale until you reach the end of the tolled section, cross the junction for Monesi and continue towards the Tanarello Pass, arriving in sight of the monumental statue of the Redentore , built in 1900 on the ancient Monte Saccarello. This mountain, which is the highest peak of Liguria with its 2,201 meters, is both the meeting point of the Valleys Argentina, Tanaro and Roya as well as the provinces of Imperia and Cuneo and the French department of the Maritime Alps. The Saccarello has two massive slopes that descend towards the Roya Valley to the west and the Argentina Valley to the south, while to the north the slope slopes less steep towards the Tanaro valley.
If you arrive at the junction for Monesi and before continuing, you want to make a digression towards the town, take the road that descends to hairpin bends to get into the woods and come out near the houses. From here you can continue to Mendatica or head south, following the provincial road n. 2 in the direction of the Cima dell’Ortica and then, along Monte Cimonasso and the Rocca Rossa, close the ring again towards Monte Saccarello. Along this digression, near the Passo della Guardia, one meets the Provincial road n. 89 which, traveling on the ridge in the middle of a wooded area, descends to Triora.
But back on the main path and, from the slopes of Saccarello take the road that continues in French territory and, through the Collardente, descend until you reach La Brigue.
Before descending to the bottom of the valley, however, we have the opportunity to make two interesting digressions on the Ligurian side towards the cross-country track of Colla Melosa or reach the hamlet of Realdo di Triora.
Returning to La Brigue, if we still want to continue on an alternative route, we can ignore the comfortable road that leads to Tenda and, after passing Tenda’s Saint Dalmas, we can continue in the direction of Casterino, starting point for excursions in the Valley of Wonders to the discovery of known prehistoric graffiti. From here, going up the narrow road towards the Baisse de Peyrafique, it will be possible to return to the pass of Colle di Tenda in two different ways. You can deviate from the main route down to the Valle Roya and reach the town of Tenda and from here continue on the main road that leads to the tunnel and then to Limone or, alternatively from the Baisse de Peyrafique continue on the dirt road that left the wooded area climbs on the slope that goes up to Colle di Tenda.

POINTS OF INTEREST

  • Limone Piemonte
    Limone Piemonte is a very popular tourist resort especially as a winter tourist destination among the best equipped and sought after in the north west.
    The village has a historic center typical of mountain villages, with a central street where the main commercial activities are open, the Parish Church of San Pietro in Vincoli dating back to the fifteenth century and the Town Hall. From the central road there are many small roads that descend from the valley side towards the Vermenagna stream and on the other side they run along the slope, where it is pleasant to walk to discover characteristic corners.
    The town is located in the apical part of the Vermenagna Valley and behind it rise some imposing mountains among which stand out the Costa Rossa (altitude 2.404 m), the Top of the Fascia (altitude 2.495 m) and the Rocca dell’Abisso (2.755 m ).
    The road that leads to Limone furrowing the valley, after passing the inhabited area, climbs through wide bends towards the Colle di Tenda. Before reaching the tunnel, a detour leads along the road that climbs up the hairpin bends to the hill; this pass and this road have always represented an important binomial, not only for Limone, but for the entire Vermenagna Valley. Since the dawn of time, this passage has been a fundamental link between southern Piedmont and the west Ligurian coast.
    There are ancient documents that speak of this passage; even date back to the era of the Roman Empire when the Vermenagna Valley was part of the Province of the Maritime Alps. Its inhabitants were Roman citizens under the jurisdiction of Pedona, the current Borgo San Dalmazzo and the ancient road reached the hill, but was passable only on foot or on the back of a mule. In this way, therefore, the trades were carried out in ancient times with the Valle del Roya, which slopes, on the other side of the ridge, towards the Ligurian coast, until reaching Ventimiglia. This route was important and the interest towards it never diminished so much that important works carried out in the sixteenth century made it passable to the carriages while, already towards the end of that century, the Savoy, substituted for the Lascaris di Tenda in the dominion of the valley, they had tried to make the Colle di Tenda tunnel; the company had appeared too difficult and had been abandoned.
    This fact indicates the importance that was attributed to that path. The construction of the tunnel was tried again at the end of the eighteenth century, and once again the works were suspended due to the difficulties encountered because in those years the great works were underway for the construction of a new Cuneo-Nice carriage road. We will have to wait until 1882 to see the dream of the tunnel realized, the same that we still go through today.
    Limone is also a starting point for many excursions and is a tourist destination during the summer season, offering the opportunity to practice various activities such as trekking, mountain biking, via ferrata, rafting and climbing.
  • Casterino
    Fraction of the Municipality of Tenda, a tourist resort full of accommodation facilities and starting point for organizing visits to the Valley of Wonders, to the Valley of Fontanalba, to Valmasque, to the Fortress of the Abyss and to the forts of the Tenda hill. Here it is possible to organize excursions accompanied to the areas of the valley where there are the rock carvings (Meraviglie and Fontanalba). We also point out the amusement park that is located in the woods at the entrance of Casterino (crossings with aerial cables on the trees and other activities for all ages). Dogs are not permitted in the park and strict restrictive measures are in place for trips to places where graffiti is found.
  • Tenda
    Tenda is a discovery for every season: sumptuous mountain landscapes, picturesque places and a tormented past in which genders and styles of architecture are mixed, always in harmony with history. Routes of charm, unusual, reserved for the curious. Feelings and relaxation, fun for everyone, with family or friends.
    Alternatively Provencal, Savoyard, French, Italian, then again French, the Municipality of Tenda is the largest of the Maritime Alps with an area of 17,747 hectares. Bordering north with Passo Tende and the Italian border, it includes part of the Mercantour National Park, including the prestigious Valle delle Meraviglie, Fontanalba and Valmasque, the towns of Tenda and S.Dalmazzo and the hamlets of Viévola, Granile with its roofs of lose gray, which exposes its terraces in the middle of chestnut trees at over 1,000 m of altitude; Castérino, a Nordic ski center and gateway to the Valle delle Meraviglie and Canaresse. An important stop on the Alta Via del Sale, with Breil and Sospel, is one of the three largest Alpine villages in the Maritime Alps.
    The Valle Delle Meraviglie and the Mercantour National Park; the history of Tende and the Roya valley is closely linked to Monte Bego. A sacred mountain since the Neolithic, it is at the center of the largest outdoor monument in France: the Valley of Wonders. On the rocks smoothed by glaciers, the agro pastoral populations have recorded tens of thousands of signs, evidence of beliefs that have disappeared today. It is an extraordinary natural and archaeological protected site that everyone can discover with their own rhythms.
    A wall of the old castle rises above the village. Tenda County was founded in the Middle Ages by the disintegration of Ventimiglia County. The marriage, in 1261, of William Peter, Count of Ventimiglia-Tenda with Eudossia Lascaris, daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Theodore II, assures the power of this family until 1581. The last descendant Lascaris, Henriette de Savoie -Villari, donates then his county to the Duke of Savoy. The Lascaris Counts consolidated their development and their autonomy thanks to the possession of the Col de Tende and the imposition of taxes, gabelles and rights of way.
    In the nineteenth century the ancient court and its appurtenances become the cemetery, which still houses the tomb of Clarence Bicknell, among the discoverers of the rock carvings.
    Many architraves carved with phrases or coats of arms can still be seen at Tenda. The one in Place du Traou, the seat of the former court, dates back to 1510 and refers to the marriage celebrated in 1501 between Anne Lascaris and René the Bastard of the House of Savoy.
    Further on, Piazza Ponte houses the old Renaissance palace of the Lascaris and beautiful Gothic houses. The Collegiate Church of Our Lady of the Assumption is the most emblematic building of the eclectic style.
    In the seventeenth century, with the development of the “Royal Road” under the Duke Carlo Emanuele di Savoia, the village extends out of the medieval walls.
    From the center of the square it is possible to see the Chapel of San Sauveur perched on the cliff (XIII century). The main building of the square, the “Villa Alpina”, built in 1893 by a Protestant pastor, has housed the Town Hall since the 1930s; the Church of Saint-Michel, built in 1635, has a large window.
    To visit are: the Departmental Museum of wonders, the Casa del Parco, the House of honey and bee, the Museum of Vallo Alpino (fraction Viévola) and soon the mine of Vallauria (Borgo della Mine).
  • Colla Melosa
    It is a mountain resort of the Municipality of Pigna, at an altitude of 1,545 meters above sea level. Here is located the homonymous cross-country trail traced around Mount Corma, with rings from 1.5 Km – 3 Km – 4 Km – 5 Km.
  • Colle di Tenda
    Suggestive alpine pass placed at the altitude of 1,871 meters that separates the Ligurian Alps from the Maritime Alps. Its summit divides the Roya Valley to the south from that of the Vermenagna to the north, and is located between the regions of Piedmont and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. The origins of this pass are very old, for the transits between the plain and the sea: it was already identified as a point of delimitation between Gallia Cisalpina and Gallia Narbonense during the Roman Republic. The Colle di Tenda is mentioned for the first time in a document dated 1178 which indicated the waypoints that a traveler could meet along the paths that linked Ventimiglia to Borgo San Dalmazzo.
    Between 1881 and 1895 a massive fortified barrier consisting of six Forts was built here by the military genius to protect Piedmont from possible enemy assaults. In 1947 the Treaty of Paris gave France Briga, Tenda and most of the Hill, including the entire complex of Forts.
  • Triora
    Site inhabited by the Ligurians even before the Roman colonization, is a municipality of considerable size (still the largest of the Province of Imperia): Triora belonged to the Eleventh century to the Marca Aleramica, following the Arduinica and then became a important feud of the Counts of Ventimiglia. The notary deeds of 1261 tell us how the village became part of the Republic of Genoa, whose territory was long a part resisting strenuously to the numerous annexation attempts of which it was object, but thanks to large walls and five fortresses Triora confirmed its reputation as impregnable rock.
    After the sunset of the Republic of Genoa and the Napoleonic adventure, Triora passed to the Kingdom of Sardinia and, in March 1860, to the Kingdom of Italy. Since the 80s, tourism has become its new vocation; first the establishment of the Regional Natural Park of the Ligurian Alps, then the setting up of the Regional Ethnographic and Witchcraft Museum and a careful recovery of the historic center with the restoration of some important buildings and historic houses (Palazzo Borelli, Palazzo Capponi, Palazzo Stella), they favored the influx of Italian and foreign tourists. Both a more declared sporting tourism and cultural-folklore routes, the Municipality is now ranked among the most beautiful villages in Italy and has been awarded the Orange Flag by part of the Italian Touring Club and can offer the visitor many possibilities ranging from walks in the woods, trekking to mountain biking along the paths of the Ligurian Alps Park, to visits and walks of great interest in the concentric village of Triora. Among the many possible routes of visit we point out the wonderful Collegiata dell’Assunta, an imposing church of the distant Roman-Gothic origin still preserves the ogival portal inserted in the façade that dominates the square and the Regional Ethnographic and Witchcraft Museum (corso Italia, 1) where, in addition to the tools and objects related to ancient pastoral and peasant customs, visitors will be able to observe and leaf through books, documents and environmental recollections related to witchcraft and the obscure and intricate events related to the famous witch trials of Triora of the years 1587- 1589. To visit also the fortified village with slate portals, arches, narrow passages and fortress houses, the Arma del Grà di Marmo Archaeological Park, the Oratory of S. Giovanni Battista, the church of Santa Caterina, the church of S. Bernardino, the church of S.Agostino, the prehistoric cave of Monte Frontè. Triora is also included among the City of bread, for the traditional production of this product.
  • Upega
    Fraction of the Municipality of Briga Alta, at 1,297 m above sea level and with the typical conformation of Alpine towns with stone houses, is one of the main centers of brigasca culture.
    This village of the Alta Valle Tanaro is characterized by its houses leaning against each other almost as if they were like small skyscrapers.

GEOGRAPHICAL AREA INTERESTED

The area involved involves the entire cross-border territory, located on the Italian-French border, through the municipalities of Limone Piemonte, Tenda, La Brigue, Briga Alta, Triora.

Total length: 90 Km. Cross-border route: from the main route, different variants branch off to the neighboring inhabited centers such as Tenda, Colla Melosa, Realdo, Triora, Upega and Ormea, which connect various population centers to the network.

Difficulty and distance: The itinerary can be traveled by motorized vehicles, mostly on a partly asphalted dirt road.

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