Why the Uriezzo Gorges are the new Grand Canyons

A walk in the gentle half-light of the forest, immersed in a regenerating silence, broken only by the sounds of nature. Then, all of a sudden, the descent into the heart of the earth begins. 

And it is a riot of deep, rocky gorges, winding tunnels and high vaults covered in moss… no, we are not in America, but in Piedmont!

In the splendid Antigorio Valley, located in the part of our region known as Alto Piemonte, nature created a spectacle thousands of years ago that has nothing to envy from the Grand Canyon: the Orridi di Uriezzo. 

A name that inspires fear but hides real beauty

The Italian name “Orridi” inspires a little fear.  Don’t worry, the Latin adjective horridus was used to indicate a rugged and wild landscape. And what better description for this incredible place?

If you’re already quivering with curiosity, take advantage of your next free weekend and immerse yourself in the nature and history of our land!

You’re in luck: this is the best time of year to visit the gorges, so put on your walking shoes, comfortable clothing and don’t forget your swimming costume. You’ll find out why later, you don’t want me to reveal everything now! 

Organised as a couple, alone or with friends and why not, even with the family: older children can easily follow the entire route on foot, while younger ones can enjoy the trip comfortably seated in their trekking backpacks!

gorges-orridi-domodossola-piedmont

There are three gorges that can be visited: the North-East Gorge, the smallest and with some very narrow points, the West Gorge, for the most experienced hikers, and the South Gorge, which is unanimously considered the most spectacular and the easiest to walk through. 

There is also a fourth gorge, called Vallaccia, but it is very difficult to access without special preparation.

But how did the Uriezzo Gorges form? We have to go back in time to the last ice age to admire the millennia old work of the torrents and waterfalls of the Toce Glacier, which occupied this valley until 12,000 years ago. The erosive action of the water sculpted this rock in the granite, carrying sand and debris. When the torrents dried up, these narrow valleys and gorges remained: a testimony to the artistic force of nature, now easily visited on foot

The path to this magical, thousand-year-old world

Our excursion starts from Baceno (but you can also access the Orridi from Premia and Verampio), more precisely from the church of San Gaudenzio: if you have time, its 16th century frescoes, a testimony to local art, are definitely worth a visit.

To the left of the church façade is the start of the route, which begins on a mule track and continues through an enchanting little wood. If you follow the signs, you will reach the staircase that leads to the descent into the South Gorge, which is over 30 metres deep. orridi-uriezzo-piedmont-domodossola

Walking among these eternal rocks makes you feel part of one big story, where time seems to stand still. The spirit of adventure in you takes over as you walk through the tunnels with their high walls, which come so close that it is impossible to see the sky.

These passages, incredibly chiselled into the rock, open up into large, sinuous cavities, covered in vegetation, known as chambers. 

Don’t stop, it only takes a few minutes to reach the Marmitte dei Giganti, rocks that the water of the ancient glacier has shaped into small inlets. Here, the Toce River has fun creating small waterfalls and other water features, ending in a crystal clear mirror.marmitte-giganti-domodossola-piedmont

If a dip in the clear mountain waters doesn’t frighten you, it’s the right time to get out your swimming costume, otherwise you can take the opportunity to relax on the pebbly beach. 

You are in the ideal place for a well-deserved break: take a cue from the snack of the shepherds who populate the valley!

A picnic at the Marmitte dei Giganti

Get yourself some wholemeal rye bread and accompany it with one of the area’s tastiest and most characteristic products, Mortadella Ossolana: don’t let the name fool you, this is actually a delicious salami, made from raw pork, to which a small percentage of liver and vin brulé is added.

The uniqueness of this product is protected by the Slow Food presidium, which is committed to safeguarding local excellence, prepared with artisan care and according to traditional methods.liver-mortadella-ossola-piedmont

A final touch? Add a few slices of Oira Cheese in Marc, a cheese produced in the valley and matured in Oira, a village that lies right next to the Orridi. The historic raw-milk processing of this toma is enhanced by a brief immersion in the marc of local wines, such as Prünent, which colours the rind and gives it a spicy, intense flavour.

Taste and tradition at 0km are the worthy conclusion to an exciting leap into the history of this fascinating territory.

– Until next time, With Love!
Maria Chiara