We continue on the Great Crossing of the Alps with an medium-long stage, characterized by two significant climbs (Colle della Battagliola and Colle Bicocca) and very panoramic in some sections.
We arrive in the magical town of Elva, with its splendid view of the beautiful Monte Chersogno (3.023 m).
Water points can be found only in the hamlet of Chiesa and just before the village of Martini.
On the descent from Colle Bicocca, the signage is not always very clear and you need to pay attention to take the right direction (the traces left by grazing animals are misleading).
We leave Pontechianale immediately uphill (approximately 700 m height difference), constant but intense, towards Colle della Battagliola. The stretch is on a good path, but it is difficult due to the sometimes significant slope. Once out of the woods, we walk on a short cross path. At Colle della Battagliola, we admire the Pelvo d'Elva (3,060 m) to the south, with the nearby vertical wall of Bric Camosciera (2,934 m).
After a very panoramic stretch on the ridge, we start the beautiful descent (about 800 m drop), initially on a carriage road. After Grange Espeirea, we pass on a path and enter the woods. Nimbly, we reach the hamlet of Chiesa (those who are tired can interrupt the stage here), which boasts, rightly, a beautiful church.
We catch our breath and we start the second climb (about 800 m height difference), long but regular, on a good path in the woods. The forest is populated by many deer and, if it's mating season, we hear their powerful bellowing. Finally, we come out on Colle Bicocca (2,286 m), where the wood also ends. The view embraces the Vallone di Elva and, to the west, the beautiful Chersogno (3,023 m).
We take the beautiful road (a former military road, called "Strada dei cannoni") towards Colle Terziere, first on the ridge, then halfway up the hill, on the southern slope of Mount Morfreid. Staying on the GTA, we leave the carriage road and take the path that goes down to our right, surrounded by pastures populated by gigantic Fassona breed cows. The path is not always well marked and you have to be careful to follow the right direction, without getting confused with the tracks left by the cows. Finally, we cross the small village of Martini, and shortly after we arrive in Elva.
In Elva it is possible to visit the Museo dei Pels (“of the hair”) which is a testimony of a singular profession of the past, carried out by many inhabitants of the town: the hair collectors (pellassiers).
In autumn, after the summer work in the fields and pastures, the pellassiers left for the plains to go from house to house looking for women willing to sell their hair. They were skilled storytellers and could speak many dialects. Afterward, Elva's women transformed their hair into wigs, intended for upper-class ladies and actresses from France, England, and even America.
These activities were a significant source of income, especially at the beginning of the 20th century, when the inhabitants of Elva reached 1300. After the Second World War, the activity decreased drastically, both for the depopulation of the valleys and for the use of synthetic fibers, until it disappeared completely.
The museum collects precious tools and testimonies, thus documenting the sometimes surprising talent of the mountaineers. For more info, timetables and tickets, follow the LINK.
In the Val Vaira lived the Flemish painter Hans Clemer, known as “the teacher of Elva”. Between the 15th and 16th centuries, he decorated the Parish Church of Elva, a fine late Romanesque building inside which he created a cycle of frescoes with scenes from the life of Mary and a Crucifixion, well preserved to this day.
The frescoes are beautiful and, thanks to the vivid colors, amaze with their dynamic drama.
Throughout the territory you can see huge white cows grazing, with powerful and very muscular buttocks: they belong to the Piedmontese Fassona breed, much appreciated for its tasty, lean meat and with an extremely low cholesterol level.
The soft and tasty Fassona tartare is particularly recommended: raw meat, beaten strictly with a knife, not minced, and seasoned only with oil and salt.
Trattoria del Pelvo (GTA stopover), Chiesa hamlet. Tel. +39 0175 956026 - +39 349 813 7234
Locanda di Elva (GTA stopover), in Elva. Tel. +39 335 573 6255
Starting point reachable by car.
Starting point reachable by bus from the city of Cuneo.
Here the LINK to check the timetables.
Starting point NOT reachable by train.
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.