The High Street of Smugglers
from Val Tanaro to Valle Roya


The hiking route develops in Alta Valle Tanaro, along a strategic path that allows the crossing of the two sides, through the practice of an easy trekking, alternating with fairly challenging sections, placed at higher altitudes, able to intercept differentiated targets of users for skills and interests.


Stage 1 – km 16,8
Garessio Rifugio Pian dell’Arma

From the village of Garessio (Borgo Maggiore), you reach the Pilone di Sant’Anna through woods of broad-leaved woods between dirt roads and ancient mule tracks. On a dirt road we continue to the ridge of the Truc Prato del Poco (1,312 m) to continue between wooded ridges and grassy ridges towards Mount Galero (1,708 m). From here we continue towards the Colle del Priore and passing through the territory of Caprauna, we reach the Pian dell’Arma Refuge, along a stretch of the Via Alpina.

Stage 2 – km 15
Rifugio Pian dell’Arma Ormea – Chionea

From the Pian dell’Arma hut, follow the Caprauna-Fraz path for a short distance. Ruora (A49), climbing up to the Fontana Fraja, to continue towards the Alpisella, and intercept the Path A47 (Ormea-Bivio S.P. 28) that leads to the S. Giuseppe Bridge and the village of Ormea. From the center of the village continue towards S. Mauro, then follow the path that leads to the Valdarmella valley up to the Colla di Chionea. Along the ridge, particularly panoramic, we reach the village of Chionea (1.091 m) and the homonymous refuge.

Stage 3 – km 7,7
Rifugio Chionea – Quarzina

From the hamlet of Chionea, where there is the homonymous shelter, we follow a wide mule track that leads to Porcirette Sottane and cross a chestnut wood, towards the Case Rian. After passing an ancient bridge you reach the hamlet of Chioraira. Once past the ruins of the Colletto hamlet you reach the wide pastureland of the Piano della Colma (1.520 m), where the church of S. Giovanni is located. From here the view can range from the peaks to the Ligurian sea below. We then go down towards the hamlet of Quarzina at an altitude of 1,347, half of the third stage, where the homonymous shelter is located.

Stage 4 – km 13,8
Quarzina – Rifugio Mongioie

From the oldest hamlet of the Municipality of Ormea, Quarzina, the only inhabited center of the area (where there is also the Refuge that bears the same name) from which you can see the sea, climb towards the Case Biranco, to reach the township Merea and Case Fasce. From the Cresta del Monte Baraccone (altitude of 1,380 m), from which you can admire an enchanting landscape, you go into thick woods of Scotch pine, skirting the peat bog of Pian della Madonna and the clearing of Celle Pian del Fo. After a beech forest that flanks the Rio Re Bianco and the larch forest near Pian dell’Arma (altitude 1,480 m), you reach Pian Rosso, surrounded by the walls of the Mongioie. The stage ends near the homonymous shelter located at 1,550 m.

Stage 5 – km 10,8
Rifugio Mongioie – Carnino Rifugio Don Barbera

From the Rifugio Mongioie, at an altitude of 1,550 m, follow a grassy plateau towards the hamlet of Carnino (Municipality of Briga Alta) and follow an evocative Tibetan bridge from which you can admire the karstic spring of the Veins, continuing through the thick wood of Sylvan pine. to the panoramic Colla di Carnino, then descend towards the village of Carnino Inferiore. In this area, the Rifugio Ciarlo Bossi and the guest quarters of the park offer bars, refreshments and overnight stays. Then you go up to the Chiusetta Gorge and from here through wide plateaus you reach the Vallone dei Maestri where there is an ancient bog and the Church of S. Erim (altitude 1,904 m). You then climb up to 2,107 towards the Colle dei Signori near which there is the Don Barbera Refuge (altitude 2,980 m), along the Alta Via del Sale.

Stage 6 – km.14,4
Rifugio Don Barbera – Tenda

From the Colle dei Signori, continue along the path up to the fork to descend to the left until you reach the Vacherie de Malabergue, and continue past the small village of Réfrei (altitude 1,444 m) to Castel Tournou (altitude 1,320 m). You then go down towards the Granges de la Pia and continue along the path that runs alongside the Refrei stream, passing the Lago de Pia, until you reach the parking lot of the Tenda Municipality station.


  • Garessio
    Garessio, a town rightly included among the most beautiful villages in Italy, is located at the center of a thick crossroads of roads; some of them pre-Roman memory, followed for millennia the same routes, those that lead from the lower Piedmont to the sea.
    There are four districts in which the city is divided: Borgo Maggiore, Poggiolo, Ponte and Valsorda. Starting from the bottom we meet the Borgo Ponte, stretched along the course of the Tanaro that cuts the neighborhood in two. Here is the seat of the trades and shops that follow each other along the state road and in the streets that go towards the bridge, which plows the bed of this restless river. In the Borgo Ponte stands the parish church of S.Caterina, designed by the famous architect Francesco Gallo. In the Borgo Maggiore there is the beautiful Palazzo Comunale on which stands a civic tower and whose central nucleus was built in the XIII century. The Borgo has its oldest part marked by the remains of the walls in which the city gates opened, two of which are still perfectly preserved: Porta Jhape and Porta Liaziolorum. In this neighborhood you will find the beautiful Romanesque Church of Santa Maria in Ripis, dating back to the 12th century and the most recent parish church of the Assunta. Also in the village stands the Confraternita di San Giovanni, with a characteristic octagonal Baptistery next to it. Also this building has very remote origins and here it is represented, every four years, a very suggestive sacred drama called Il Mortorio, written in 1433 and inspired by the Passion of Christ and his Deposition from the Cross.
    Going up the slope towards Calizzano, we reach Valsorda. The district is located on the ridge that slopes towards the lower part of the city and is dominated by the imposing dome of a sanctuary dedicated to the Madonna. The characteristic of this religious building is a record: it is in fact the first dome built in Italy in reinforced concrete, and this happened in 1924. The territory of Garessio is very extensive and also extends to the north, up to Mount Mindino and the hill Casotto. Born as a Charterhouse probably before the year one thousand, it underwent many transformations over the centuries, the last of which was designed by the architects of the real house of Savoy and became the Hunting House of Vittorio Emanuele II.
  • Ormea
    Ormea is a very extensive municipality, rich in hamlets where for centuries intense pastoral activity has been practiced and agriculture on the side with the cultivation of buckwheat, potatoes and chestnuts.
    The mountain cheeses and these simple products of the earth have always been the basic ingredients of a very original cuisine, which has preserved some truly unique characteristics over the centuries. The ormeasca cuisine represents in some way the trait d’union between that of lower Piedmont and that of nearby Liguria and among the most original dishes certainly stand out the “tultei”, particular tortelli filled with “cin”, a stuffing of potatoes and sautéed leeks, flavored with aromatic herbs and roasted on the wood-burning stove. What about the “fozze” a kind of bread made from the mixture of flour and milk, and the lasagne d’Ormea or buckwheat polenta, then the constant presence in the menus of the restaurants of a prized “Ormeasco”, wine that bears this name even if produced on the nearby Ligurian side, and it will be understood that the city can be a real paradise for gourmands.
    But Ormea, a city rich in history that is lost to the remote era of the Saracen invasions, can also attract many other reasons; it would be enough to think of a walk to the more than twenty fractions of the City to make the happiness of those who love walking in the mountains, but there is much more for outdoor lovers with the possibility of trips that go to the shelters at altitude and to the beautiful peaks and the mountain pastures that surround them, perhaps along the Ormea Balcony along all of its 40 km of marked trails. The search for historical traces of the city passes through a look at the imposing walls of the ancient castle of which remains a massive ruin that dominates the town, to continue through the maze of narrow streets, all paved, which intersect thick and suggestive for the village , until you reach the splendid façade of the richly decorated XIIIth century House of the Marquis and the Parish Church of San Martino built on top of what was once the city gate on which a beautiful Romanesque bell tower rises.
    The characteristic Casa Museo, an old traditional house in which a very rich ethnographic museum is set up, is worth a visit.
    The parks and gardens of the city are all decorated with sculptures of well-known contemporary artists made with the precious black marble of Ormea and certainly deserve a visit, as well as the round Saracen Tower that rises threateningly over the cliff overlooking the Barchi hamlet.
    Also worth seeing is the Church of the Madonna degli Angeli, the Chapel of San Mauro, the Chapel of San Rocco and the Sanctuary of the Madonna dell’Albareto.
    Ormea is also the terminus of the historic railway line coming from Ceva.
  • Borgate di Ormea
  • Colle dei Signori
    Located on the watershed near the French border with the Roya valley, it is a striking place at 2,111 meters above sea level, the base for numerous treks in the karst area of Marguareis. Administratively, the crossing point is located between the Italian municipality of Briga Alta and the territory of the French municipality of La Brigue while from the hydrographic point of view separates the high valleys of the Tanaro and Roya. Not far from the hill, on the Po valley side, stands the Don Barbera Refuge.
  • Tenda
    Tenda is a discovery for every season: sumptuous mountain landscapes, picturesque places and a tormented past in which genders and styles of architecture are mixed, always in harmony with history. Routes of charm, unusual, reserved for the curious. Feelings and relaxation, fun for everyone, with family or friends.
    Alternatively Provencal, Savoyard, French, Italian, then again French, the Municipality of Tenda is the largest of the Maritime Alps with an area of ​​17,747 hectares. Bordering north with Passo Tende and the Italian border, it includes part of the Mercantour National Park, including the prestigious Valle delle Meraviglie, Fontanalba and Valmasque, the towns of Tenda and S.Dalmazzo and the hamlets of Viévola, Granile with its roofs of lose gray, which exposes its terraces in the middle of chestnut trees at over 1,000 m of altitude; Castérino, a Nordic ski center and gateway to the Valle delle Meraviglie and Canaresse. An important stop on the Alta Via del Sale, with Breil and Sospel, is one of the three largest Alpine villages in the Maritime Alps.
    The Valle Delle Meraviglie and the Mercantour National Park; the history of Tende and the Roya valley is closely linked to Monte Bego. A sacred mountain since the Neolithic, it is at the center of the largest outdoor monument in France: the Valley of Wonders. On the rocks smoothed by glaciers, the agro pastoral populations have recorded tens of thousands of signs, evidence of beliefs that have disappeared today. It is an extraordinary natural and archaeological protected site that everyone can discover with their own rhythms.
    A wall of the old castle rises above the village. Tenda County was founded in the Middle Ages by the disintegration of Ventimiglia County. The marriage, in 1261, of William Peter, Count of Ventimiglia-Tenda with Eudossia Lascaris, daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Theodore II, assures the power of this family until 1581. The last descendant Lascaris, Henriette de Savoie -Villari, donates then his county to the Duke of Savoy. The Lascaris Counts consolidated their development and their autonomy thanks to the possession of the Col de Tende and the imposition of taxes, gabelles and rights of way.
    In the nineteenth century the ancient court and its appurtenances become the cemetery, which still houses the tomb of Clarence Bicknell, among the discoverers of the rock carvings.
    Many architraves carved with phrases or coats of arms can still be seen at Tenda. The one in Place du Traou, the seat of the former court, dates back to 1510 and refers to the marriage celebrated in 1501 between Anne Lascaris and René the Bastard of the House of Savoy.
    Further on, Piazza Ponte houses the old Renaissance palace of the Lascaris and beautiful Gothic houses. The Collegiate Church of Our Lady of the Assumption is the most emblematic building of the eclectic style.
    In the seventeenth century, with the development of the “Royal Road” under the Duke Carlo Emanuele di Savoia, the village extends out of the medieval walls.
    From the center of the square it is possible to see the Chapel of San Sauveur perched on the cliff (XIII century). The main building of the square, the “Villa Alpina”, built in 1893 by a Protestant pastor, has housed the Town Hall since the 1930s; the Church of Saint-Michel, built in 1635, has a large window.
    To visit are: the Departmental Museum of wonders, the Casa del Parco, the House of honey and bee, the Museum of Vallo Alpino (fraction Viévola) and soon the mine of Vallauria (Borgo della Mine).


The itinerary is cross-border, starting from the center of Garessio, leading up to Tenda crossing the Alta Via del Sale and reaching the Don Barbera Refuge at Colle dei Signori. It is designed in such a way as to favor access to the numerous refuges located along its six stages; you meet a refuge on average every three hours of walking (Rifugio Pian dell’Arma, Rifugio Chionea, Rifugio Quarzina, Rifugio Mongioie, Foresteria di Carnino, Rifugio Ciarlo Bossi, Rifugio Don Barbera). Throughout its development it allows both to appreciate the valuable landscape component of the Valleys, and to visit the centers of the three municipalities of the Alta Valle Tanaro: Garessio, Ormea and Brig Alta, as well as the French municipality of Tenda. We pass through some very suggestive historic villages such as Carnino, Viozene, Quarzina, Chionea, Chioraira, with the welcome accompaniment of the excellence of the table and local gastronomy, supported by the presence of typical and traditional quality products.

Total length: 90 km, passable in about 6 days. The itinerary is subdivided into 6 main stages, but offers the possibility of constructing shorter stages (in favor of a typical family user) or changes to the most demanding itinerary in terms of length, height difference and difficulty, in favor of users. more experienced sportsmen.

Difficulty and distance: The route is medium-easy, practicable by everyone; it is more challenging as regards the stage “Rifugio Don Barbera-Carnino-Rifugio Mongioie” and the initial “Garessio-Rifugio Pian dell’Arma”. The itinerary allows a fruition that goes from spring to autumn. In fact, the season of hiking and outdoor sports in the Ligurian Alps generally begins very early, as early as April, thanks to the more favorable exposure compared to the other Valleys of the Province of Cuneo.

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