The Stura Valley

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Fundamental way of communication between Italy and France through the Colle della Maddalena, the valley was in ancient times one of the main “salt ways”, for centuries a very rare commodity and of great importance and value.

The Stura valley extends starting from Borgo towards Gaiola, passing through Roccasparvera and continuing towards Rittana where the sanctuary of San Mauro rises majestically. From Gaiola, surmounted by the remains of an ancient castle too, you can go up to Valloriate, divided into 41 villages. Just before, instead, there is the junction for Moiola, which has developed around the few ruins of a Benedictine monastery.

This valley, partly included in the Parco delle Alpi Marittime, is the ideal place for those who love hiking in the mountains, sports activities such as mountaineering and sport climbing: there are endless possibilities for choosing both along the main axis of the valley, both in the lateral valleys of the Arma, Bagni di Vinadio and Sant’Anna. At Festiona di Demonte and Gaiola it is possible to go fishing, canoeing, kayaking, rafting, while those who love winter sports can devote themselves to Nordic skiing on the homologated Festiona slope or to the descent on the Argentera slopes.

An interesting excursion can be those to the chapel of the Incoronata on the rocks of the Rovere, from which you can enjoy a beautiful lookout, and a few kilometres further, at an altitude of 730, you can see Demonte. The valley is almost flat even if continuing towards Vinadio the scenery becomes more austere. Continuing at an altitude of 2351 metres we meet the Colle della Lombarda. From Strepeis it is possible to undertake excursions including the one in San Bernolfo, a village of typical alpine architecture with wooden houses and thatched roofs, a trip to the Migliorero refuge, the starting point for the Tenibres and Corborant peaks. Right up here, in addition to mountaineering also the cross-country skiing is very popular.

For those who like to explore small towns, Sambuco houses a 13th century church and a 14th century bell tower, while in Pietraporzio the narrow barricades with very high vertical walls cut into the rock are worth a visit to allow the passage of the road.

For those passionate about uncrowded excursions, Vallone della Valletta is a real paradise where it is possible to meet grazing chamois herds. The municipality of Aisone is the starting point, from which to descend and cross the Stura river and connect to the ancient ferrata on the right bank of the river from where a forest road leads back to the broad-leaved forest up to the Grange Pinet.

Inaugurated in 1990, the Valderia Alpine Botanical Garden is a faithful reconstruction of the different plant environments present in the park. It is divided into single zones characterised by wooden panels that describe the characteristics.

The charm of the valley is enclosed in intact nature, in the complex network of paths, mule tracks and military roads and in stone houses built to withstand the passage of time.

In the lower valley the roofs are made of stones, while higher up they were made of straw or wood shingles. Typical examples are the villages of San Bernolfo, Ferriere and Neraissa.

Other curiosities worthy of note are the sulphurous baths in the valley of Bagni di Vinadio, the imposing and nineteenth-century fort of Vinadio, one of the most significant examples of military architecture in the Alps,home to interesting exhibitions, the sanctuary of Sant’Anna (2,010 metres above sea level, the highest in Europe) located at the head of the valley of the same name that leads to the Colle della Lombarda (2,351 metres), and the Ecomuseo della pastorizia (in the Pontebernardo district of Pietraporzio) which celebrates the famous Sambucana sheep for the tasty meat and symbol of the valley.

Santuario of Sant’Anna

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