Jess and Charlie, the talented visual storytellers behind The Travel Project and Achievable Adventure joined us on an early autumn adventure in Valtellina, Northern Italy. They climbed mountains and stayed in alpine huts. They did scenic yoga sessions and cycled through ancient wine terraces, sampling traditional Italian food and local wines along the way. Read more about their journey in their daily journal entries from the very first Slow Adventure Field Notes.
Unlike most foreign adventures that begin leaking valuable hours in an airport lounge, this one began as we set foot on the Eurostar at St Pancras. In a bid to lessen our carbon footprint and see parts of Europe we’d never set eyes on before, we indulged in our love of train travel by traveling to the Italian Alps by train! From London to Paris, through Milan and finally into Morbegno we hurtled across Europe staring out the window, absorbing the views. It was glorious!
We met our local mountain guide, Savario at our gorgeous hotel, Via Pruila before driving the winding mountain roads up and away from town into Val Tartano. There we loaded our supplies for the night on to our backs and began the sharp hike up the mountain.
It was a beautiful September’s morning and we could see for miles back down across the valley and over the surrounding mountains. The sheer scale and beauty of this place hit us with immediate effect, snapping us out of our conditioned city pace and causing us to slip into a slower, more contented, mountain pace.
Our trail led us up through beautiful traditional villages, across long grass meadows and through thinly scattered forests, before we arrived at our home for the evening a mountain Refugio.
The small stone hut was perfectly positioned, framed up by the surrounding mountains and with views to make your jaw hit the floor. This was a totally different side to Italy to the one we knew.
Inside the hut was modest but very comfortable with a large double bunk, dining area, benches and wood burning stove and hob. The walls were adorned with maps and memorabilia giving the hut a homely feel that was very welcomed.
An afternoon of soaking in the views, listening to Savario tell us about the region, feasting on local meats and cheeses before watching sunset then pasta and bed. A good day.
We woke at sunrise, stepping out of the hut and shaking off the sleep to the sounds of the local goats scoffing the long grass. Coffee brewed as we breathed in the Italian views and digested our new environment. Waking up there was nothing short of extraordinary, the feeling of exhilaration that comes with being in the mountains - the rush of adventure, the childlike sense of inquisitivity, all combining to make us feel completely alive. What a place.
This was going to be a good trip, we agreed.
Coffee, breakfast and we were off down the mountain, this time taking a longer, slower route that enabled us to see a totally different side to things. We passed through old stone villages comprised of only a handful of traditional huts, woodland walkways and trails over mountain streams, before Savario led us back down for a well earned local feast for lunch.
After lunch we met the team from Asfo Val Corta, a voluntary association working to regenerate Val Corta valley and its community. Asfo Val Corta was our chosen local impact organisation and a real inspiration with the small but dedicated team working hard to big difference to area.
The day began with a slow breakfast in our Morbegno hotel where we met Davide and Michelle, our bouldering and yoga teachers respectively. We jumped in the car and headed to the famous Val Masimo and hiked to the enchanted forest where we found ourselves all alone surrounded by dramatic mountain backdrops.
Here we learned the basics of bouldering, with Davide showcasing the various techniques for this unique mountain sport with spellbinding balance and precision. The more we practiced, the better we got and the clearer it was as to why this is such a popular sport - a real test of skill and athleticism.
Tired from having worked muscle groups that we didn’t even know we had, we warmed down with a Hatha yoga session with Michelle.
After an action packed, all that was left was to get to our new home for the night Rifugio Luna Nascante, a gorgeous set of huts tucked away deep in Val Masimo.
We ate our body weight, drank delicious local wines and hit the hay.
Sticking our heads out of our wooden hut we were treated to a dawn light show in the skies above the surrounding peaks - another beautiful day in the Italian Alps was heading our way!
Pre breakfast we met Michelle on top of a huge boulder overlooking the valley. It was from this extraordinary vantage point that we contorted ourselves in ways we didn’t think were possible in another yoga session. There are thousands of ways to start the day, but yoga on top of a huge boulder overlooking a stunning Italian Alpine valley certainly isn’t the worst!
Feeling refreshed and genuinely connected to our surroundings we filled our breakfast boots with a feast at Luna Nascante, before meeting up with Davide, the mountain goat!
Today we were going to add to our rapidly growing mountain sports CV by learning rock climbing. But we weren’t going to do it at any old place.. No no, we were going to be cutting our teeth at Sasso Remenno, the biggest erratic rock in the whole of Europe. After a quick session covering the basics of the sport, Davide had us learning the practical way as we harnessed up and began learning the ropes on the rock face. We spent the morning scaling this mammoth chunk of geological marvel, finessing our new found skills and absorbing Davide’s wealth of knowledge. The adventure culminated in us climbing to the top and being treated to the epic 360 views of the surrounding landscape, what a sense of achievement!
The afternoon saw us slowing right down, napping in a lakeside hammock, strung between two trees. The lake in question was Bidet della Contessa, a small alpine lake with perfectly turquoise water. To say it was idyllic would be about right!
Back to Morbegno for a different type of action packed activity, the annual e-bike festival where we hopped on electric bikes and embarked on a day of winding through the town and into surrounding landscapes stopping every hour or so to feast on local cheeses, meats and wines. It was a gastronomic bike tour through gorgeous Italian landscapes and villages - what's not to like!
That evening we made our way to Le Case dei Baff, an Agriturismo in a nearby valley to meet owner x and learn about how he runs this unique operation that includes stables, vineyard, diary, kitchen and accommodation. This restored mill offers the most incredible experience for diners, who feast on delicious foods and wines all grown and reared on site. Here we spent the evening getting to know Baff and sampling it’s famous delights - what a way to end our time in Italy!
One final al fresco breakfast at Via Pruila, goodbye to Luca, our host, and we were off back home on the train. What a week, the perfect balance of action packed and relaxed. So many amazing people, so much incredible local produce and a set of memories to last a lifetime!
Photographs and field notes by The Travel Project.
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