Things to do in the Orco Valley
If you love to be in the mountains, then the Orco valley in Gran Paradiso is the perfect place to get away from it all. The Orco valley is situated in the south of Gran Paradiso National Park, and is made up of three areas: Locana, Noasca and Ceresole Reale. It is less busy than the more famous Aosta Valley which lies to the north, making it the perfect place to head to if you want to explore all that the region has to offer. Read on to find out more about the many different things you can do in the valley.
Take a walk in the mountains
Whether you prefer a gentle stroll through alpine meadows or longer days in the mountains with a stop at a Refugio, the Orco valley has something for everyone. There are over 500km of trails that wind through the mountains, taking in spectacular scenery including lakes, forests, old villages and alpine meadows. Many of the paths are ancient hunting routes dating from the 19th century.
In the summer, why not explore the valleys of Piantonetto, Ribordone, or Roc, or take a wander to one of the many refugios (alpine huts), where you can rest a while, take a coffee or even have a meal. There are numerous walks which take in abandoned villages and others which take you to amazing glacial lakes such as Serrù. If you like winter walking, then the hike from Ceresole to Cá Bianca will take you through fragrant forests up to the Ca Blanca Alp.
Or maybe go for a run
If you love trail running, then the Orco valley is a great place to base yourself for either training or just to explore. The Royal Ultra Sky Marathon is a breathtaking, technically and aesthetically pleasing route which takes place every other year. The next event is planned for July 2023 and will be 55km long with 4141m of ascent!
Go rock climbing
The Orco valley is rightly famous for its granite crack climbing, said to be the best in the Western European Alps. The epic walls of Sergeant, Caporal and the Torre di Aimonin provide many long multi-pitch trad routes, which are easily accessible. The style of climbing varies but involves cracks, delicate slabs and some excellent face climbs through a wide range of grades.
If you prefer sports climbing to trad climbing, there are many single pitch sports routes that line both sides of the valley around the villages of Ceresole Reale, Locana and Sparone. If you stay in Locana it is possible to walk to Bosco, which has 33 lovely sports routes!
Close to Locana is a historic ski resort, Alpa Cialma, which is located in a hollow enclosed by two mountain slopes. The resort is easy to get to, and an ideal destination for families with children, or those who a new to skiing. There is a ski lift, three slopes, ski, snowboard and snowshoe rental, a baby snow park and night skiing. Best of all, there is a lovely new restaurant, La Cialma, at the bottom of all the slopes.
Get out on two wheels and explore
Deep in the heart of the valley lies the Colle del Nivolet, a dead-end road which is one of Italy’s best-kept secrets and at 261m it is one of the highest roads in Europe. The original road took a decade to build between 1953 and 1963 and now acts to serve two hydroelectric dams.
If you cycle from Locana, it is a 40 km climb with 1959m of elevation gain and an average gradient of 4.9% – so not for the faint-hearted! However, if you tackle the climb you will be blessed with one of the most spectacular routes on offer in Italy, flanked by alpine lakes and over 30 hairpin bends. The climb featured in stage 13 of the 2019 Giro di Italia.
If cycling up mountains isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other on and off-road routes which can be explored. These include paved roads from Alpette to Campiglia Soana; an easy dirt route around the Borgata Presse or a picturesque route that goes around the lake at Ceresole.
Spot some wildlife
Gran Paradiso National Park was established in 1856 by King Vittorio Emanuele II who declared it a royal hunting reserve. In doing so he effectively saved the Ibex from extinction, and these animals now thrive in the park today.
If you venture into the park on foot, you may be fortunate enough to see some of these Ibex, along with Eurasian badgers, alpine chamois, wolves, weasels, hares, foxes, marmots or even a lynx.
The park has over 100 species of birds including eagles, buzzards, vultures, kestrels, sparrow hawks, goshawks, and owls. It goes without saying that if you love wildlife, then the park is a great place to come and spend time in nature!
Eat and drink delicious regional cuisine
Piedmont has an impressive gastronomic pedigree and is famous the world over for cheese, hazelnuts, meat and truffles. The climate and abundance of rock make Piedmont a world-class wine producer, making wines such as Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera d’Asti and Cortese di Gave, which are all grown around the foothills of Turin.
A famous dish of the region is bagna cauda, made with anchovies, oil, butter and garlic into which a selection of vegetables are dipped before eating. Another dish which is very popular is polenta. This is usually served with local cheeses melted through or with beef (Brasato al Barolo). It is rich, rustic and proper mountain food and the perfect thing to eat when you have spent all day walking in the mountains! And if something sweet appeals to you, be sure to try Bonèt, a creamy chocolate dessert which is made from amaretti cookies, eggs, milk and sugar.
The Orco Valley has something to offer everyone, and if you choose to base yourself in Locana, you will be in the perfect place to explore everything, including the city of Turin which lies less than an hour away. We welcome outdoor lovers, mountaineers, climbers, runners and cyclists, as well as those who just want to come to get away from the hustle of modern life. Best of all, you don’t even need a car to explore, as there is a regular bus service which runs from Locana to Ceresole Reale. Why not start planning your next holiday to magical Gran Paradiso? We look forward to welcoming you!