Stage apparently with a long distance, but very smooth, with only one initial difference in height, therefore mainly flat up to the beautiful village of Garessio.
We conclude the long and wonderful Piedmontese adventure on the route of the Grande Balconata di Ormea, which flies over the Tanaro Valley.
We take the decisive but short climb (approximately 300 m height difference) towards Villaro. After a stretch on the road, skirting the old castle of Ormea from below, we take the path that goes up into the woods. We pass Case Airola and on an easy path halfway up the hill, we arrive at the village of Villaro (1,070 m). We continue in the beautiful chestnut woods and, having reached the hamlet of Albra, we gradually lose altitude (approximately 450 m drop), touching small inhabited centers: Cario, Vacieu, Eca (where we admire the suggestive church of San Giacomo).
Finally, we reach the valley floor and cross the Tanaro river reaching the town of Breo, dominated by the ancient Torre dei Saraceni. From there, we take the flat cycle path that runs along the entire river, soon becoming asphalted. The stretch is long but runs fast.
After several kilometers, we spot the town of Trappa on the opposite bank of the river. Afterward, the valley narrows for a while, then opens onto the Garessio plain. We arrive in this way in the village, with its precious historic center (which makes it one of the most beautiful villages in Italy), the last Piedmontese stop on our journey.
In Barchi, a hamlet of Ormea, there are the remains of a Saracen tower.
A legend tells how a villager got rid of the Saracen pirates who had invaded the area. The tower had a single opening, difficult to access because it overlooked the precipice above the river. Thus, when the Saracens went out for their raids, a sentry remained in the tower (apparently it was the cook) who, when the companions returned, helped them to enter one at a time, extending his hand to them. The signal of recognition was a particular whistle. A young man from the village, after several stakeouts, understood the system and learned the whistle. One day he waited for the sentry to be alone, tricked him with the agreed signal, and, once in the tower, got rid of him. Then he waited for all the others to return and threw them one by one into the river that flowed below while pretending to hold out his hand to bring them back. The legend goes on to say that the villagers, enraged against the Saracens, demolished most of the tower, leaving only the stump still visible.
In reality, the Saracens abandoned the Tanaro Valley at the end of 900 AD, after being defeated by the Marquis of Provence who had faced them in order to set one of their prisoners free.
The Balconata di Ormea is a 40 km path on the left orographic side of the Val Tanaro. The route starts from Eca and, crossing ancient roads and paths, reaches Viozene, passing through 24 villages, many of which are now abandoned.
The Balconata allows hikers to cross landscapes that change colors and scents as the seasons change (the path is in fact accessible all year round, thanks to its proximity to the sea and southern exposure). The path highlights the virtuous relationship between the mountain and the man, who for centuries inhabited it, in a continuous and necessary, wise, and rigorous interweaving.
Characteristic of the route are therefore the very long dry stone walls, used to build terraces to grow vines, wheat, rye, potatoes, broad beans, lentils, buckwheat, as well as chestnut trees and drying rooms, used for the production of "white chestnuts", essential for food throughout the year.
Chestnuts have been one of the main foods on farmers' tables for centuries.
In particular, the Garessina chestnut stands out, a white species with a light straw color, renowned for its sweetness and particular organoleptic characteristics: it is considered by many the best dry chestnut ever.
Locanda Porta Rosa, in Garessio. Tel. +39 0174 087971 - +39 388 158 8757
In Garessio there are several accommodation facilities.
Va' Sentiero is a grassroot project, thanks to the spontaneous contribution oft housands of people.
Even the most complicated dream, a 7,000km uphill dream,
can be achieved... together.