Maira Valley in summer

Maira Valley

Italy is a country so rich in historical, artistic and landscape beauties that it is really difficult to find places far from mass tourism: yet in Piedmont, right on the border with France, there is the Maira Valley, rural, authentic and not very touristy, despite the fact that CNN (American television station) has defined it as the most pristine valley in all of Italy.

This alpine valley, which in prehistoric times was completely submerged by the sea, extends for about 45 km in the shadow of Cottian Alps, nestled between the Po Valley, the Varaita Valley, the Stura Valley and the Grana Valley.

Its isolation, which has allowed it to preserve an ancient and silent atmosphere, has allowed the preservation of the Occitan language and culture: the Maira Valley was in fact part of the Occitan lands and this cultural heritage embellishes this strip of Piedmontese land in the province of Cuneo, all to be discovered and experienced.

What to do and what to see

A summer holiday in the Maira Valley allows you to spend days full of history, good food and unspoiled nature, made up of chestnut and oak woods, ravines, canyons and extraordinary geological formations.

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THEsummer in the Maira Valley lets do walks and excursions in the fresh and pure air, both on foot and by mountain bike and suitable for both families and more trained tourists.

For example, from the village of Canosio you can reach the Pis del Passet waterfall e the Gardetta plateau, defined "Italian Geological Heritage": in the shadow of Rocca la Meja, one of the most scenic peaks of the valley, is this plateau at 2200 meters high, which still bears the footprints of a colossal species of prehistoric crocodiles that lived about 250 millions of years ago.
To protect these finds and other fossil remains of marine organisms, the Triassic Park, which will certainly make young and old happy.

Lakes and waterfalls

maira valley lake

Not far from the Rocca la Maya the picturesque is also found Black Lake, in whose crystalline waters the surrounding larches and the bulk of the Monviso are reflected.

Instead, starting from the town of Marmora and passing through the Colle del Mulo, you can visit the Resile Lake of glacial origin, while from the Campo Base di Chiappera refuge you can undertake the exciting one Dino Icardi trail. The latter takes hikers to cross the Valley and the Colle dell'Infernetto at a height of 2783 meters and to rest at the Barenghi Shelter: it is the perfect solution for those who want to visit the Lake of the Window and the Lake of Nine Colors. If you want you can go as far as Stroppia waterfalls which, with their jump of almost 500 meters in height, are considered the highest in all of Italy.


Among the most beautiful excursions to do in the Maira Valley is the Ring tour that Maira Bridge leads to chiappera at 1601 meters above sea level, crossing splendid fields dotted with fragrant lavenders and brooms: once you arrive at your destination, it is advisable to reach the Sources of the Maira, the river that crosses the valley for its entire length. The waters come from a glacial basin and flow among dense pine woods, digging caves in travertine.

Beautiful are then the Path of the Deer which starts from the hamlet of Frere and the Path of the Cyclamen which instead has its starting point in Bedale, a hamlet of Macra: between the months of July and September it is possible to walk among colorful meadows of orchids and cyclamens, in the shade of ash trees, wild cherry trees, hazelnuts and beeches.
This route also allows you to reach the hamlet of Camoglieres and visit the Church of San Pietro, where there is a fresco from the end of the 400th century depicting the Danza Macabra.

I Occitan routes then they represent a real must of the Maira Valley: it is a path that in 177 km and 14 stages crosses the symbolic places of the valley such as churches, refuges and historical sites linked to the period in which the Marquisate of Saluzzo dominated the territory.

Just follow the wooden signs with yellow notches to find yourself in a world full of traditions that inevitably refer to the Occitan minority.

It starts from Villar San Costanzo and, crossing the most beautiful villages and municipalities of the valley, you arrive at Elva and the Gardetta plateau. Along the way there is no shortage of inns where to eat and taste i typical dishes of the territory, based on anchovies, Prazzo potatoes and chestnuts: not to be missed in particular i ravioli Occitans, the rabbit with juniper, the Ola at the oven, gnocchi with Castelmagno and the Torta dei Tetti, typical of Dronero, made with spices, pears, rum and amaretti.

Alpine villages

In addition to engaging in more or less easy excursions in the nature of the Maira Valley, in summer the area also invites relaxing walks among the beautiful villages such as Macra, where the Chapel of San Salvatore stands, decorated inside with frescoes from the '300-'400 depicting the Dance of Salomè and the Genesis and Dronero. The latter is instead a village located right at the entrance to the Maira Valley and hosts a very popular one in June Anchovy Fair: it is here that the fifteenth century is located Devil's Bridge with three spans, embellished with Ghibelline dovetail battlements.

Legend has it that it was the devil himself who built it: it is said that he asked in exchange for the soul of the one who would pass first on the bridge, but the citizens of Dronero deceived him by making a dog cross him.

A Villar San Costanzo, located at the foot of the San Bernardo, rise the Longobard Abbey of San Pietro in Vincoli And that of St. Constantius Martyr, built according to the Christian tradition on the spot where the saint was beheaded.

Villar San Costanzo is located a stone's throw from the "Cieciu del Villar Nature Reserve", a natural area characterized by the presence of rocky columns called ciciu, formed by the erosive work of rivers: they have the curious shape of a mushroom, with the stalk in crushed stone and earth, dominated by a mammoth boulder called eye gneiss.

A legend cloaks the reserve and tells of a San Costanzo who, fleeing from the Theban legion to which he belonged, cursed his pursuers who suddenly turned into rock, precisely the ciciu.

Also worth a visit there Church of St. John a Celle di Macra , Parish church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary ad Eleven: in these buildings are in fact preserved respectively a polyptych and a wonderful pictorial cycle made by the Flemish painter Hans Clemer.

Elva is also not to be missed Pels Museum, dedicated to the ancient art of wig merchants, whose products in the past have traveled the world.

To take a leap into the most ancient history of the Maira Valley, all you need to do is reach Roccabruna, where it is located the Archaeological Area of ​​Monte Roccerè: thousands of cupels engraved in the rock dating back to the Bronze Age are preserved here, unequivocal evidence of the presence of man in the Maira Valley since ancient times.

Eco-friendly holidays

Reaching the Maira Valley, one immediately realizes how different it is from other Italian Alpine valleys: overbuilding is far away and there are no seasonal structures such as ski lifts.

It was in fact decided to preserve the wild, authentic and uncontaminated aspect of the valley, with a view to a green tourism ed eco friendly.

The same accommodation facilities in the Maira Valley are naturally inserted in the landscape and historical context: it is possible to stay in refuges, in camping areas, in restored grange or in converted farmhouses. There is no shortage of hotels, B & Bs and holiday homes, which meet the needs of every type of traveler, from families with children to the youngest looking for adventure.

To enjoy all the beauties of this intimate and spectacular valley you need at least one week, in order to have the necessary time to make excursions even with several stages, to discover the many villages that dot the valley and perhaps participate in the many festivals and fairs that animate this ancient Occitan territory especially in the summer season.

Summer holidays Valle Maira

If you are considering a summer holiday in Valle Maira, below you can find useful links to find hotels and holiday apartments.

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    Region: Piemonte
    Minimum altitude:900m above sea level
    Maximum altitude: 2400m above sea level
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