The Tour of Castellata is a route that winds in the upper valley of Varaita, on the trail of a unique experience in European history, the one of the Republic of Escartons. This Federal Republic, which developed between 1343 and 1713, consisted in five cantons (Escartons) that stretched between Italy and France. The Castellata, the canton of the valley of Varaita, had its capital in Casteldelfino and also included the towns of Pontechianale and Bellino. It used to self govern in a democratic way, faculty had to coin money and legislating in all fields, including environmental protection. Those were centuries of peace and prosperity, which have left a significant legacy from the historical, architectural and artistic point of view; Casteldelfino’s tangible traces are the castle, which offers a splendid panorama, the marble relief above the fountain in the center of the village depicting the flanked Madonna by the arms of France and the Dauphiné and Ronchail house, a fine example of stately architecture of the sixteenth century. Pontechianale has gained at the time of the Castellata, the ancient parish church of St. Anthony in Borgata Chianale, recently included in the club of the most beautiful villages in Italy, where there is also a hall of worship where the Protestants could profess their faith in Following the Edict of Nantes.
Tour of the Castellata
Between the villages of the Escartons
Travel time: 5h
Difference or level: 1.257 m
After leaving the Chianale (1.797 m) you have to hold on to the paved road of the hill of the Lamb, so that you pass the old customs and a curve with a bridge and then turn right on the path leading back on the road. You will come to a bend to the left side of some mountain huts, where you will find the path to the valley of Soustra and the valley of Losetta. This path is to be taken in order to climb gently up to a great plan with the mountain pastures. After climbing up regularly until another small plateau, then you will alert the final step that leads onto the Losetta, from which the Monviso appears in all its splendor. From here you can take a short detour to reach without great difficulty the top of Losetta (3.054m). Returning to the hill, with a pleasant descent into the valley of Vallanta you will arrive at a junction where if you turn left in order to find the shelters of Gagliardone and Vallanta (2.445m), which can be reached shortly.
Travel time: 6h 30’
Difference or level: 1.029 m
From the hut, down to the township Castle Pontechianale, passing through a beautiful floor at the base of the peak Caprera. We will skip the turning for the valley of Forciolline and take the path that crosses the stream with a footbridge leading to the passage from St. Chiaffredo, towards the Quintino Sella hut. This stretch runs along the classic route of the Tour of Monviso, and has a pleasant climb through the woods. Once out of the woods you go along a stony road and with a steep climb you get near the bivouac Bertoglio. Soon you will reach the pass of San Chiaffredo (2.743m), where you turn right and follow the signs to the Bagnour shelter. You climb into a regular stone path until you come to a passage called "the descent", which allows you to arrive in the valley of the Duc. With a descent steep in places you come to a small lake on whose banks usually meet some donkeys and horses. The descent, now sweeter, is leading to the Alevè Forest, the largest forest of stone pines in Europe. Outside the woods you get to Bagnour lake, on whose shores you can find the homonymous refuge (2.017m), the arrival point of the stage.
Travel time: 5h
Difference or level: 409 m
From the Refuge Bagnour you go down to the Dry lake, passing through the heart of the forest of Alevè. After the lake you will reach the upper and lower grange of Pralambert, following the signs for Bertines and Casteldelfino, it continues to go down. It crosses Bertines to arrive soon in Casteldelfino. The path that leads to the valley of Bellino begins in the lower part of the town, near the chapel of St. Eusebius and the playground. To get there, take a small paved road downstream from the gas station. The trail passes under the old castle and begins to rise, coming out on the paved road at the height of Posterle. Here you can follow the road until you find the signs that indicate the path to the left and to Ribiera Borgata’s Church. From here you can walk on a little road up to Fontanile, where you can take a path that leads into the forest and which leads to Pleyne and then to Prafauchier and Celle. When you arrive at the end of Celle, take a dirt road that passes in front of a garage and you get to Chiazale. Cross it, past the farm Lou Saret, and go up on the main road which soon leads to the Refuge Meleze (1.812m).
Travel time: 6h
Difference or level: 895 m
Technical Note: To reach the township of Bals you can also use the shuttle-bus available on call with reservations required at least 24 hours before (Info: Word Travels t. 0171.940711). The climb up to the hill of the village Battagliola starts in Bals, in a bend just below the village of Pleyne. A pleasant dirt road climbs gently up to the Punta del Cavallo and to the hill of Battagliola (2.282m), which owes its name to a bloody battle fought in 1744 between the Savoy and the Franco-Spanish troops which killed about three thousand people. From the top you can admire the majesty of Monviso, the valley of Vallanta, the Alevè Forest, the Pontechianale Lake and, on the opposite side, the Pelvo of Elva and the Maritime Alps. From the pass a steep descent through the larches door takes you quickly on the shores of the Pontechianale Lake. It switches between the two camps, crosses the river and turns left coming in a little square where you can find the town hall. Aside of the building of the town hall, you can take a climb that leads to the main road. You turn left and a few meters further you go down the signposted Crotto path, which leads up to Chianale on a pleasant walk to the side of Cuneo. Note the churches of St. Anthony and St. Lawrence, separated from the bridge over the creek.
The route takes you through the villages of the municipalities of the upper valley. The receptivity is the one in the inner part of the location and in high altitude, 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 money.