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There is so much to do and see in the heart of the Pesio Valley in Lombardy’s Cuneo province and more specifically within the picturesque landscape of Marguareis Park.
Being an environmental hiking guide, I have practically explored and photographed the entire valley, following the “self-guided” routes recommended by the Park Authority and other less-known ones, virtually ignored by hikers. Among all these paths, there is one in particular that made me fall in love with this valley: the Trail of the Waterfalls or il Sentiero delle cascate.
…a nature lover like me cannot remain impassive in the face of so much beauty.
I don’t want to seem corny, given that this trail is the most requested and well-known in Valle Pesio, but a nature lover like me cannot remain impassive in the face of such beauty.
This iconic nature trail culminates with the Pis del Pesio: a spectacular waterfall where the water gushes directly from a rock face making a jump of about 20 meters. A fascinating phenomenon that occurs only for a few weeks, in late spring, when the thaw of the snow and ice upstream fills the underground cavities until they overflow from the terminal siphon of the Pis at an altitude of 1,410m.
How to Get to Parco del Marguareis
But let’s start from the beginning: How does one reach this enchanted place?
First of all, we have to get to Cuneo, the capital of the Piedmont province of the same name. The city was built at the confluence of the Stura and Gesso waterways, on a cùneo, or wedge, whose characteristic shape inspired its name.
Taking the city as a reference, we reach the Certosa di Chiusa Pesio, about twenty minutes away by car. The Certosa is a point of arrival for tourists and a crossroads for hikers. It is located in the Marguareis Park area, which is the largest and most famous alpine karst area in Piedmont.
are you ready to go?
The first part of the trail is equipped with a series of educational panels highlighting the landscape. You’ll find yourself surrounded by a noble hardwood forest managed by the Carthusian friars. A pleasant walk along the Pesio stream leads us to the “green island” of Pian delle Gorre.
From the Pian delle Gorre refuge, you will have lots of trails from which to choose, and you’ll see the Sentiero delle Cascate clearly marked. I still recommend taking the trail with an official park guide for the full experience.
It becomes immediately evident that this trail is spectacular. The partnership between rock, water, and sun has skillfully shaped the entire valley in a continuous metamorphosis.
In addition to the rivers, in the first part of the trail, we can admire the majestic silver firs which with their deep root system, are able to colonize heavy and wet forest soils, thus helping to retain water in the soil. In the fir wood, you’ll often sigh roe deer that have literally colonized the entire valley.
The first real attraction of the hike is the Saut waterfall. In reality, there are two separate waterfalls: the first, “the smallest”, can be seen by going up the path that enters the woods; while the second, just a short distance away, has a wooden balcony that allows you to enjoy the show in total safety. They are both formed by the waters that descend from the Marguareis which, together with the other tributaries, give life to the Pesio stream.
The regime of the Pesio is fairly constant, being fed by the rains in autumn and by the melting snow of the Alps in late spring.
It can be greatly affected by the rainfall trend: in the event of violent and prolonged rains, the watercourse is able to swell very quickly, above all due to the brevity of its course.
After admiring the first waterfalls, continue on a pleasant panoramic climb through a fantastic beech forest, yet another highlight of the park. The beech forest appears mostly in the form of a dense mass of bushy saplings. This aspect makes it an ideal place for summer hikes where you can escape the heat.
The Moment You’ve Been Waiting For: The Pis del Pesio Waterfall
After an ascent followed by a slight descent, we’ll arrive at the Pis del Pesio. Unlike the other waterfalls, the Pis is a seasonal phenomenon that can only be admired in the months of April/May, all the more reason to see it.
The Pis phenomenon is quite simple: the surface rains and the frozen snow that melt penetrate into the underground cavities of the karst terrain, then feed the underground lakes.
Inside this karst plateau, there’s a system of underground trenches which give life to a gigantic and intersected system of canals dug over time by the continuous influx of water. And it is precisely in this underground abyss that the water reserves are found: they flow from the rock thus creating this splendid waterfall.
Gias Fontana Waterfall
Retracing our steps and continuing our descent into the beech wood, we quickly reach the last waterfall of the tour, the Gias Fontana. Undoubtedly the most photogenic of those seen so far, immersed in a beautiful wooded basin, it is difficult to see it from the path, but impossible not to hear its call. Its maximum flow is in spring, but it can be admired until autumn.
After seeing the last waterfall on the nature trail, we reach a crossroads that will lead us to a wildlife observatory where we can watch the deer, reintroduced into Marguareis Park in 1991.
As for the roe deer, the wolf has proved to be an effective regulator, preying on large animals and essential for the biodiversity of Piedmont.
The wildlife observatory is the last stop on the nature trail before returning to the Pian delle Gorre Refuge.
I hope I have aroused your curiosity I’d like to take this opportunity to invite future hikers to visit Marguareis Park. It’s a place for nature lovers of all kinds to experience Piedmont’s endemic species in a truly peaceful oasis.
Photo copyrights: Michael Gaddini
About the Author
Born in Barga (in the Lucca province) in 1988 in the Garfagnini mountains, and after having explored the Pisan and Apuan mountains, I have found a second home in the Cuneo area immersed in the mountain community around the Bisalta. The latter is the first thing I see out the window when I wake up in the morning and in recent years, it has become my gym.
I have embarked on my journey by exploring nature through photography and video, studying and understanding the effects of natural light hands-on in the field.
Thus, I discovered a new vocation, that of an Environmental Hiking Guide: the perfect union of location shooting and environmental disseminator.
Thanks to this role as a guide, I have become more and more passionate about mountain landscapes, constantly looking for new paths, villages, and stories to tell. I am in love with the mountains and their magic, and I am convinced that nature itself is the greatest form of art. I always try to be present with a certain awareness on my hikes, allowing nature to set the pace.
I also enjoy reading, watching movies, simply listening, and being a silent observer of my surroundings.
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