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Outdoor & Nature

HISTORIC MOUNTAIN ROADS: Simplon Road

Valli dell'Ossola
19,60 km
Length
520 m
Difference in altitude
3-6 hours
Duration
Average
Difficulty

The Sempione Road is the tourist route that leads from Crevoladossola to the Simplon Pass at 2005 metres above sea level in Canton Valais (CH), one of the great Alpine routes of Europe. As proof of its strategic and commercial importance in antiquity it was a path, in the Middle Ages a mule track, in the 17th century a paved road, and in the 19th century a carriage road wanted by Napoleon Bonaparte as a connection between Milan and Paris, uniting Italy with the rest of Europe. In 1906, the Simplon Tunnel was also inaugurated, the 19.8 km railway tunnel that was an extraordinary work of engineering for the time and still represents an important cross-border connection for goods and passengers. In the period between the two world wars, important new defensive works were built along the Simplon Road in caves with numerous cannons, including the two forts of San Giovanni, the Iselle Fort and the Balmoreglio Fort.

The route begins in Crevoladossola, in the locality of Preglia, in front of the imposing Napoleonic Bridge over the Diveria Torrent. Continuing along the carriage road in the direction of the Divedro Valley, one can admire the remains of the San Giovanni Fort and the suggestive Roman bridge over the Diveria, known as Ponte Nuovo, consisting of a perfect round arch. The bridge provides a priceless view of the entire valley. Continuing along the route, you skirt the marvellous Simplon international railway line and reach the sunny municipality of Varzo, where the massive Medieval Tower (14th century) rises in the historic centre. From Varzo, the Cairasca Valley opens up to the hamlet of San Domenico and the splendid Alpe Veglia plain, an enchanting basin of glacial origin, now part of the Veglia-Devero Natural Park. In a dominant position is the municipality of Trasquera, with a breathtaking view of the 4000-metre peaks of Switzerland. The village is the starting point  of numerous hiking trails. Continuing the itinerary in the direction of the state border, at Iselle, a hamlet of Trasquera, you encounter numerous remains of military structures dating back to the Napoleonic era (Balmanolesca ruins, Nante hospital ruins, Napoleonic barracks, military garrison) and the famous Simplon Tunnel. Crossing the border, you come across the Gondo fort in the homonymous gorges, until a few years ago still garrisoned by the Swiss military and now converted into a museum.

This route offers a number of  interesting features: from the astonishing eight-metre width of the roadway even in the Alpine section to the original adoption of the parabolic arch to draw the curves, from the harmonious altimetrical modelling to the stone barriers. The Simplon Pass, conventionally the border point between the Lepontine Alps and the Pennine Alps, fascinates travellers because of the strong contrast between the steep walls of the Pale di Gondo and the immense vastness of the alpine pastures just beyond, with breathtaking views of the jewels of this corner of the Swiss Valais: the peaks over 4000 m and the Rhone valley that opens up far below, upon reaching the highest level of the route (21 km from the State Border - total height difference approx. 1750 m).

The Simplon Route - which today can be travelled by car, motorbike, road bike, e-bike or on foot along the ancient Via Stockalper Valle Divedro – makes it possible to rediscover at a leisurely pace the many historical, cultural and natural testimonies that this important historic road has to offer.

POINTS OF INTEREST

In Crevoladossola, worth a visit are the Parish Church SS. Peter and Paul and the Ossola Museum of Sacred Architecture www.amossola.it 

Varzo is home to the headquarters of the Ente Gestione Aree Protette dell'Ossola (Parco Naturale Veglia-Devero and Parco Naturale Alta Valle Antrona) with the Archeomuseo Multimediale www.areeprotetteossola.it 

The famous Balmanolesca and Gondo rock faces (in Switzerland) are ideal for climbing enthusiasts.

On Swiss territory, the Simplondorf Ecomuseum in Simplondorf, the Stockalper Castle in Brig, the Alter Gasthof in Simplon Dorf, the Napoleonic Alter Kaserme, the 20th-century Fort and Military Museum in the Gondo Gorge, the Gondo Gold Museum, the Old Hospice and the Simplon Hospice are worth a visit. 

Finally, the railway stations of Iselle, Varzo, Preglia and Domodossola are stops along the route of the Trenino Verde delle Alpi TVA (Green Train of the Alps), operated by the Swiss BLS company, which comfortably connects the town of Domodossola to the Bernese Oberland via the Valais in full contact with Alpine nature www.bls.ch

 

 

Live
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28,5°
Preglia
(VB)

46.167794732436, 8.3091402053833

46.167794732436, 8.3091402053833

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