The Gesso Valley

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It is nestled in the Argentera massif, the highest peak in the Maritime Alps, among the typical features there is the highest conifer forest in Europe which is located on Mount Stella, at an altitude of 2,600 metres.

The Gesso Valley, in its lower part up to Valdieri, has a calcareous soil and a barely mountainous landscape. More upstream instead, the territory is divided into small basins dug into granite caves, features for choked gorges and open basins.


Valdieri is the first obligatory stop which owes its name to Wald, which means woodland. After the town we will find a crossroads. Go up to Entraque, a town that rises where three streams join. Here you will find many shelters, ideal places to live in contact with nature. Going up straight instead you reach the hamlet of San Lorenzo and then the beautiful village of Sant’Anna elected by the Savoy as a privileged place for summer refreshment, as well as for the hunts, practiced until the time of Vittorio Emanuele III. From here it is absolutely necessary to continue up to Mount Matto and then to the Rifugio Livio Bianco, in a landscape rich in lakes: Sottano della Sella, Soprano della Sella and Soprano della Valletta.

S. Lorenzo

At about seven kilometres instead above Sant’Anna there are the thermal baths of Valdieri, already known in Roman times and a popular destination also for the Savoy. These are thirty-two hyper-thermal springs that generate sulphurous waters, at a temperature ranging from 50 to 70 degrees. Unique in Italy, they are also famous for treatments based on therapeutic algae, indicated to fight rheumatism or treat dermatological imperfections.

Behind the thermal baths there are several paths that lead to the Argentera, in a fascinating landscape thanks to a variety of environments and sensations. The top of the Argentera is then located within the homonymous Natural Park, established in 1980 by the Piedmont Region. Here you can see chamois, ibexes, marmots, ermines, foxes, eagles, black peaks. And from the point of view of flora: beeches, white firs, larches, rhododendrons, violets, chestnuts and then saxifraga florulenta, an endemic species. Walking in this paradise means discovering the sweet paths, built for the kings, that lead to Valasco, where you can see the small Savoy hunting lodge, and beautiful lakes like the Claus or the Portette.


After crossing the bridge over the Gesso creek, leave the car at the entrance to the Vallone di Lourousa. At this point the mule track leads with twelve hairpin bends in the dense wood full of larch trees up to the Gias Lagarot. The tiny little lake is surrounded by the north face of the Corno Stella and the steep glacier of the Canalone di Lourousa. We then reach the Morelli Buzzi refuge. Now it is advisable to go back along stony ground until you reach the mule track that leads to the Chiapous pass. From here the access is towards the Vallone delle Rovine from which you reach the Genova refuge. Continue along the path that runs along the lake.

Particularly suggestive, then, is the directive that with the car or bicycle reaches Madonna del Colletto and then descends back towards Demonte in a rather panoramic landscape.

Argentera – Fremamorta lake

Going up the valley, instead, there is the Argentera Natural Park which covers an area of 25,000 hectares and is a real paradise for chamois, ibex, marmots and eagles. A demanding environment, to whom plants, animals and even people have been forced to adapt. Among botanical endemism and typically alpine animal species, the cultural heritage of the valley stands out, enhanced in the Eco museum of rye.

Ecomuseum of rye

The most important examples of this philosophy are the Alpine carnival of Valdieri, dominated by rye bear and the summer rye and lavender festivals. The Gesso Valley is devoid of road crossings: you don’t pass here by chance, it’s a world to discover on purpose. And you can do it in all seasons: on foot, on the pedals or on skis, along the paths that lead to the shelters and peaks of the Maritime Alps Park. You will encounter a landscape and a nature that are an example of a tangible contrast between the wild and the chiaroscuro, with steep walls, wide pastures, small lakes set among the rocks and small stubborn glaciers, the southernmost of the entire Alpine arc. Also worth a stop is Roaschia, known for the interprovincial fair dedicates to the ‘roaschina sheep’, held spring and focused to the promotion of the sheep breed and local dairy products. A short distance away, the limestone gives a beautiful show: at the source of the Dragonera, the water flows from the rock, while further downstream the caves of the Bandito open up, today a natural reserve included in the Maritime Alps Park.

Caves of the Bandito

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