Valtellina represents today a really appreciated and animated tourist zone. This is principally due to its incredible natural position, which occupies the heart of the Europe’s highest mountains. Set in the extreme north of Italy, on the border with Switzerland, Valtellina is a beautiful Alpine valley that mixes mountain landscapes of perpetual snow and glaciers, with great natural parks and the peculiar vineyards known all over the country. Although, there is much more to see in the valley than these sceneries: visitors will also find ancient towns and pretty villages, medieval castles, museums, art collections, and a great variety of sport activities to enjoy all year round.
I’m going to show you five of the best things to do in Valtellina, each one very different from the others so that you can organize the perfect holiday, pleasing every kind of tastes.
Enjoy nature and breathe deeply
Not only your eyes, but also your lungs will take advantage from this green heart in the middle of the Alps. More than half of Valtellina is protected in a natural reserve. The Stelvio National Park is the most famous, and the largest in Europe, and you will have the possibility to see thick groups of deers, chamois, marmots and ermines, sometimes really close to you! The park is also a place where eagles, hawks, and several protected species of birds fly high above your head. The Orobie Valtellinesi Park is another important protected area that hosts a wide variety of birds, those you will see if you’re a bit lucky; the park’s symbol is the grouse, represented on every souvenir from the place. Moreover, you can visit the bears hosted in the Osservatorio eco-faunistico in Aprica. Of course you can also enjoy beautiful views by simply walking along mountain paths, or stopping for a night in one of the many refuges you will find on your way to a peak.
Do your training in this unconventional gym
If you love skiing and winter sports, this valley will always be a guarantee. Bormio city, in particular, can be said to be the queen of these sports, because it hosted the Alpine Skiing World Cup several times. But, it’s also necessary to name Livigno, Santa Caterina and the Palú alp as the most popular places to practise winter activities: here you will find excellent slopes and lifts, located just a few hundred meters form the town centre. The large-scale snow cannon programme guarantees good skiing possibilities starting from early December (and sometimes even before!).
But skiing is only one of the sports offered in Valtellina: it’s impossible counting the walking itineraries, the paths and the refuges, which offer great possibilities for trekking and hiking. Another way to discover the valley is by cycling or walking along the Adda and Mera rivers. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the historical city centres you will find along the Sentiero Valtellina (the path that crosses the entire valley), or along the Valchiavenna cycling path: these two routes are apt to everyone and won’t tire yourself out. Stop along the rivers to have a picnic, and if the mountain conditions are not good to walking ahead, take a train to reach your destination; fortunately the railway runs along both paths.
I also have to signal two real paradises of climbing: the Masino valley, with its immense rock walls made of “ghiandone”, a special kind of granite that is suitable for climbing, and Mello valley, especially famous for its boulders, that attract, every year, enthusiastic climbing-lovers.
Treat yourself to a regenerating stay at the Thermal Baths
If you prefer a relaxing and regenerating holiday more than a sporting one, the best alternative you could choose is spending a day (or more!) at the famous Valtellina’s Thermal Baths.
Bormio city boasts three ancient thermal centres; together they will offer you more than fifty different beauty, wellness, and health treatments, tailored to meet everyone’s needs. The hot waters of Bormio have been use since ancient times. We know the beneficial waters of Bormio were already appreciated by the time of the Romans, because even the Latin poets, Pliny the Elder and Cassiodoro, mentioned Bormio in their works!
Among the important thermal localities, Masino Baths also need to be mentioned because of their modern structure suitable for all tastes: there are pools dedicated to children too, including both water games and funny slides.
The thing that I love most about these typical mountain baths is staying immersed in the really hot water while it’s cold, and sometimes it even snows all around you: it’s such a great paradox!
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Take your chance to travel on an Unesco World Heritage train!
This is always the undisputed star of a holiday in Valtellina. The “magic” red train will carry you from the Italian city of Tirano, to the Swiss St. Moritz, through an incredible and unforgettable journey. Watching out of the window, the two hours and a half of travel will pass in a minute! You will have the unique experience of crossing green fields and the snow-clad glaciers of Bernina by simply sitting in your seat; watching the blue mountain lakes and the blooming lawns pass by. This is the highest railway line of the Alps, and began Unesco World Heritage in 2008 thanks to the incredible beauty of the landscapes it crosses. It’s always recommended to book tickets in advance, because of the large number of tourists that come every year to Valtellina specifically to take this fantastic train.
Taste Valtellina’s original wines and typical mountain food
In Italy, wine is made even in the most improbable places. One such place is the full area in the province of Sondrio, the main city of Valtellina, where the wine is the first protagonist of typical groceries. Here, the vineyards have been built on mountain slopes, at an altitude that can reach sometimes 2,500 feet (762 meters). The characteristic walls support the terraced hillside vineyards, erected thousands of years ago, to allow even this mountain land to be cultivated. It is hard work to make wine in a similar environment, but the results make it worthwhile. Four types of red wines are produced here from Nebbiolo grapes, known everywhere in Italy as Grumello, Sassella, Inferno, and Valgella.
And of course, you won’t leave Valtellina without tasting the local culinary specialties, as a perfect “valtellinese” would do. The specific ingredients of typical recipes are those offered by this land. Begin to whet your appetite with an aperitif of Bresaola, dried and salted beef, normally thinly sliced and with a really delicate taste. Enjoy it accompanied by Sciatt, small pieces of typical cheese, breaded in buckwheat batter, and quickly fried. As a following dish, try the famous Pizzoccheri made of buckwheat flour and seasoned with cheese, potatoes, cabbage, sage, and a lot of butter. As a dessert, a slice of Bisciöla, a rustic cake made with walnuts, figs, and raisins.
Give yourself a gift with a mountain holiday suitable for all tastes
Don’t miss the chance to organize a brief holiday in a precious valley where all tastes can be pleased: you will find a lot of possibilities to spend your free time and to have fun in many different ways! Valtellina is also easy to reach by train and by car, travelling about two hours from Milan.
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