The Valle Varaita is a valley of about 70 kilometers long where the gentle, fertile slopes of the first part gradually transform into alpine landscapes, meadows and steep fields, vast broad-leaved forests, larch woods and the Alevè forest, the largest stone pine forest (ca. 91%) of the Alpine arch. High above all this, as a symbol and master of the valley, is towering the Monviso, a pyramid of rock that, disappearing and reappearing depending on the track and the perspective, offers unforgettable panoramas with its unmistakable silhouette.
Why visit the Valle Varaita
A visit to the Val Varaita is a journey in the mountains, but also a descent into the memory of the Occitan culture that has remained rooted in these valleys. This is demonstrated by La Baía(or Baìo as we call it here), the traditional celebrations held once every five years in the municipality of Sampeyre in the first weeks of February. One of the most important and antique traditional celebrations in the Italian Alps.
Are there more famous valleys? Yes. Other valleys with more efficient skiing facilities? Sure. More glamorous mountain towns? Absolutely, but the Valle Varaita conquered our hearts precisely because there is almost nothing glamorous about it and because it has remained intact, wild, and with the right mix between local economy and tourism.
All you need to do is visit us! We are waiting for you, but in the meantime we will tell you a bit more.
Imagine it like a catapult…
Imagine the Valle Varaita as a catapult or a divining rod. The grip starts at Costigliole (460 MSL) and continues until Casteldelfino (1296 MSL), along the center of the valley which follows the Varaita river. Here the valley bifurcates: the start of the catapult.
Left branch: the Bellino Valley
On the left is the Bellino Valley, the part that is best preserved, intact and characteristic, that you can drive through by car up to S. Anna (1852 MSL), the starting point of numerous routes for walks, mountain passes and cols.
The Bellino Valley definitely deserves a visit to its ‘têtes coupées’ (anthropomorphic heads used as ornamental elements according to the tradition of the old Celtic populations) and to the megalithic portals; the Parish of San Giacomo in Borgata Chiesa; the sundials and the Museo del Tempo (Museum of Time) at Borgata Celle, the observatory in the village Mas di Brun.
Right branch: Pontechianale and the Colle dell’Agnello
The other branch of the catapult rises from Casteldelfino (1296 MSL) along the dam and then the lake of Pontechianale, up to Chianale (1797 MSL) which is, with its 214 citizens, the last hamlet of the valley and an architectonic jewel that was chosen as one of Italy’s most beautiful hamlets. From there the road continues up to the Colle dell’Agnello, one of Europe’s highest car passes with its 2748 metres MSL, and then descends into France, in the Queyras valley.