Attention, please, web site updated at 31/12/2015.

Ormea's Balcony

Up and down between villages and hamlets around the corner from Liguria

The Ormea's Balcony has a length of about 40 km along the left orographic side of the valley of the municipality of Ormea at an average altitude of 1,200 m. It is divided into five stages plus the stage called "high variant", which can be walked as an alternative to the third stage. It is a suitable for everybody route, without significant difficulty. The units range from approximately 850 meters in Eca to the 1,500 meters of the chapel of St. John the Baptist in the locality La Colma. The track winds through a dense network of footpaths and bridleways, which allow you to merge, split, stretch, shrink, or change as you prefer the various stages. The altitude, the southern exposure and the proximity to the sea make the Ormea's Balcony an ideal path to be taken in the spring and autumn

  • Number stages: 6
  • Difficulty: for average hikers
  • Difference or level +1.670 / -1.281 m
  • Signposting: white-red notches
  • Suitable for families
  • Suitable for bikers
  • (+39) 0174 705600
Description of the stages

The Ormea's Balcony, was born in 1999 as a part of the local branch of the CAI and then enhanced by the activity of the Montana Alta Val Tanaro community (now Alto Tanaro Cebano Monregalese) with recent workings, developing between the villages of Eca, the most eastern of the many villages of the valley in the municipality of Ormea, and the fraction of Viozene. The route runs through the territory of nine fractions, permanently inhabited by a handful of residents, and its twenty-four villages, some of which come alive in the summer months due to tourism or other activities. Others are now abandoned, but still preserve an aura of charm and history. In the course of the route the hiker can pass along an intricate network of mule tracks separated by long stone walls and on which he can find many votive pillars. The landscape is very varied and characterized by terraces supported by dry stone walls, beautiful chestnut woods, squeegees for the production of "white" chestnuts, channels to irrigate the fields and much more. An ideal course for all those people who try to discover taste, to research new places, who are interested in rejoicing in front of natural and human documents that describe very well an area of the Ligurian Alps, and walking with the attention to everything around them.

Map to the itinerary
Stages of the itinerary
Eca / Villaro

Travel time: 2h 20’
Difference or level: 374 m
Eca to the Albra. You can take the route to the left for a few tens of meters, then go to the right and then take the trail that passes through the township Vacieu. The route starts to climb into the chestnut and, after passing two small watersheds, one comes to the township of Cariò. Towards the last houses of the village the trail branches ends in two directions, where you take the right branch, which leads to a dirt road. Follow the road to the left until the it bends, where it passes over the asphalt. You leave the road down to the right before reaching the cemetery and then to the beautiful church of the Holy Shroud to Albra, from the porch where you can enjoy an open view of the city of Ormea and its basin. From here a steep descent leads to the last houses of the village, where you take a path up the hillside towards the West. It penetrates into the deep valley of the Rio Peisino ("Rian d’rocche") along some challenging bends that go down to the watershed. After crossing the stream you can exit the valley thanks to a cross on a steep slope. You will then return on an easy trail and get to the church of the Holy Trinity and St. Matthew in Villaro (1.036 m). The church, which goes back to the 1720 is worth a visit; Also noteworthy are some squeegees of the chestnuts still in operation in the fall.

Villaro / Chionea

Travel time: 3h 20’
Difference or level: 418 m
From the church of the Holy Trinity and St. Matthew in Villaro you can turn right on the local asphalted road. Shortly after you can take a small road, always paved, which branches off to the right, and then leave a few tens of meters after continuing uphill on a trail on the edge of the chestnut. The township Lunghi can be reached by following the left part of the trail that, at the cemetery, leads on a paved county road. Continue on the road to the right for several hundred meters to the first bend, where it is left to continue to the left, onto the track. Once you get to the Houses Airola, you begin to go down on the trail, by staying on the right near a small pylon. At the next junction you neglect an old mule track to the left to turn right onto a path in the ground that leads to a turf track that comes from Ormea. Follow it to the right and you will reach a fountain and a crossroads. Here you turn right, uphill, passing upstream of the beautiful Houses Gialatti and by touching the pylon of Caranche, which thanks to its unusual vaulted represents a possible shelter in case of bad weather. From here, continue uphill along the dirt road that paves near the rio Conche, which can be passed on wooden bridges, placed one after the other. On the opposite side, cross to the terraced hillside between old earns and you will get to the township of Perondo Sottano, announced by the remains of the church of San Maurizio. It passes through the township, leaving the trail and turning right along a path. This leads to a scenic cliff top, at which you will come across quite evidently in the remains of the old paved mule track that climbs from Valdarmella and which on the right shows the branch for Perondo Soprano. You will continue straight, going down on a mule track through large chestnut fruit and reaching Valdarmella. Once on the road, you take it to the right uphill and leave it at the first bend and continue on the dirt road. A few meters after you leave the dirt road and proceed on the trail, you leave almost immediately to take the left path downhill, leading to cross the stream Armelia on a wooden bridge. After a steep climb you will reach the glue Chionea and descend on the other side along a cobbled track that quickly leads to the houses of Chionea (1.102m) and the church of Santa Maria Assunta. Chionea starts from the path, passing through the vast hill overlooking the village and along the long ridge of the Rocche dei Butti, the reaches the refuge of Valcaira and the summit of Pizzo di Ormea. It is a classic route and quite well known, especially by the people in Liguria. In fine weather, you can reach the summit, where you can enjoy a unique view of the Alps, the plains of Piedmont, the Ligurian coast from Imperia to La Spezia, the Ligurian Sea and profile of the mountains of Corsica

Chionea / Aimoni

Travel time: 1h 30’
Difference or level: 61 m
From the church of Santa Maria Assunta, take the road leading down towards West. Leaving the village, the road becomes a dirt road, at the first fork in the path you have to follow the sheep track on the right. Shortly after you get onto a wider path with flat trail that leads to Porcirette Sottane (referred to as Porzirette on the signs on the path). Over the township you are at a crossroads and can follow the sheep track on the left that descends on a narrow dirt road and soon you will reach the Houses Rian by crossing off some chestnut trees. You leave the dirt road to go down to the Watershed of the Rio Chiapino, which is crossed by an ancient stone bridge. You take a mule and go up on the opposite side, continuing along the hillside to the cemetery of Chioraira, where you take a paved road leading to the village. By crossing it, you will leave to the right two dirt branches that could take you to the township of Colma (the first of the two branches is crossed by those who opt for the "high variant" of the Balcony) and proceeding in the direction of Ormea, you will descend until you take the right fork for Aimoni. The asphalt ends to the watershed of the Rio Rava Grossa. On a comfortable flat dirt road you will reach the township Colletta and finally you will get to Aimoni (1.060m), where the dirt road joins with the paved road from Ormea.

Variant of the previous stage: Chionea / Quatrain

Travel time: 3h
Difference or level: 474 m
The initial stretch coincides with the main path of the Balcony, described in the third stage. Once in Chioraira turn right onto the dirt road branching to the location Colma. You gain altitude with wide bends, past the township Rizzi, you come across a chestnut and then you reach the hamlet of La Costa, then the handful of houses of the township Colletto. Just beyond the houses continue left on a narrow forest track turf, which you leave on an uphill path on the right. Climb the slope and you enter on the wide dirt road that climbs from Aimoni and you will reach the main route of the Balcony. Following the road to the right you will soon reache the small chapel of St. John the Baptist and the large dorsal La Colma, a location of pastureland, from where you will continue to Quarzina (1.332m) as described in the fourth stage.

Aimoni / Quarzina

Travel time: 2h 20’
Difference or level: 465 m
From the junction to Aimoni you follow for a considerable stretch the paved road from Ormea and direct to Quarzina. Near a bend to the left and by following the signs for the church of San Giovanni and Quarzina, turn right and go up the dirt road first with some turns, then with a long traverse along the hillside. Passing through the old lifts ignore the turn off on the right track that descends to Chioraira, as well as other branches are to be ignored and always on a dirt road flanking a larch wood, and a final hairpin path to the left, you will reach the wide ridge pasture land in the locality La Colma. Here is the small church of St. John the Baptist, whose porch is an excellent shelter in case of bad weather. You find your way, not without some difficulty, among the many dirt roads that cross here you head towards the dirt track that leads towards the south-west (trail sign pole) and at the first junction keep to the right. You will descend and cross the wide dirt road that climbs from Quarzina and continues now as old mule track bordered by dry stone walls. Back on the dirt road crossed shortly before you run slightly downhill for a hundred meters to resume the old dirt road that branches off to the left. A short downhill run to Case Brignacchi, finding the dirt track, crossed several times. Follow it down to the left until a fountain, at which the road becomes paved, the first bend to the left, on the right, take the cart for Pornassino and Viozene, along which runs the path of Ormea's Balcony. For the visit of Quarzina (1.332m), highly recommended, you must continue on the paved road to the houses of the hamlet, dominated by the church of the Madonna del Carmine. Quarzina is the oldest fraction of Ormea, and probably was the first village to be founded for the excellent exposure to the south of the territory.

Quarzina / Viozene

Travel time: 4h 5’
Difference or level: 224 m
From the church of the Madonna del Carmine climb on a paved road in the direction of Biranco and refuge Valcaira to the first bend to the right, where you take a dirt road in good condition which branches off to the left. At a clear bifurcation, the right track for the refuge Valcaira will have to be neglected and you have to continue left to the few houses Biranco. At the entrance of the village, immediately after passing a pylon and a fountain, you will encounter a new but much less obvious bifurcation on the left with an old mule. The two branches rejoin later, but the main route of the Balcony runs along the dirt road to the next bend, where you turn left onto a track turf. With a sweet and slow descent numerous terraced slopes are cut in order to gain a collection of the aqueduct. Turn sharply to the left and a take steep descent into the forest until you reach the variant route from Biranco, also mentioned above. Here you take the path that goes to the right and you will enter Merea, a small village where only one house is renovated and surrounded by various ruins. A cattle grassed leads to a dirt road that runs up to Fasce, a small and pretty village. Released from Fasce and once you have crossed the Rio Borgosozzo on two concrete bridges you cross the few remains of Pollaio and you will come to a crossroads. Continue left through the beech trees, dropping slightly. Leaving aside the various branches, you pass on a paved road just upstream of the houses of Pornassino. Going to the right will take you to the homes of Pian del Fo, then, at a bend between the houses of the village you leave the asphalt and continue on a dirt track. You will leave it shortly after, in order to follow a path overgrown with herbaceous vegetation on the left. In the forest, the path becomes clear again and it travels in the descent to the river Rio Bianco, which you cross over the wooden bridge. Continuing in the forest you arrive at the resort Casa Bruciata, where you take on a cart. Follow the road to the small paved road that connects Viozene with Cuchera. You will continue the horizontal path to the right and, after a slight descent, you will reach the village of Viozene (1245m). From here the walk that reaches Carnino Sottano is highly recommended, going to the source of the veins (rope bridge) and to the hill of Carnino, entering in the most mountainous part of the course and coming in contact with the karst phenomena of the Alta Val Tanaro.

Accommodation and rest stops

The route takes you through villages and surroundings of the town of Ormea. The receptivity is the internal one in the locality, for which reference should be made to the tourist offices of the territory, that will target on the basis of structure types and the possibility of spending.

Comune di Ormea - ufficio turistico
Place Ormea, via Roma 3
Info (+39) 0174 392157;;
Comunità Montana Alto Tanaro Cebano Monregalese - ufficio turistico
Place Ceva, loc. San Bernardino, via Case Rosse 1
Info (+39) 0174 705600;;