Via del Sale: a great little solo adventure

Discover one of the best hikings in the Northern Italy and learn more about this amazing solo adventure

Wake up at 5:30 am. I leave home in Bogliasco (Liguria) by train, heading towards Varzi. This is where I will return in 3 days, on foot, along the Salt Road. The idea that has always fascinated me is to start a journey from a place 90 km away, crossing 4 regions (Lombardy, Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna, and Liguria) and gradually getting closer to home. It’s for its beautiful anachronism. For slowness. To reshape the way we experience time and space.

Starting to see the sea, then recognizing the towns, and at some point, identifying the roof of my house.

In such a journey, things become simple, essential. A goal, one step at a time, few thoughts, and warm meals.

The journey starts from Varzi, in the province of Pavia, and reaches the Ligurian Sea just east of Genoa, in the so-called Golfo Paradiso. The first steps are meant to ease into a sense of blissful solitude and silence. Even the smartphone has been left at home. Nothing can disturb this journey through time and nature.

After passing through the town of Castellaro, I enter a vibrant forest and I am fascinated by it. It’s the most extraordinary forest I have ever seen, it feels like being in a Disney cartoon. Surely it must be populated by fairies, gnomes, and other creatures. I imagine they are just a bit shy.

After passing through the forest, the path ascends to a ridge that seems to dominate the world. I follow it until I reach Monte Chiappo, the highest point of the journey at 1700 meters above sea level. Right at the summit, Lombardy, Emilia, and Piedmont intersect. I have reached the end of the first stage, and for the first time, I see the sea, my sea, so far away. I had never seen it so distant.

I then arrive at Capanne di Cosola, where I will spend the first night.

The next morning, it’s pouring rain, it’s 5 degrees Celsius, and the wind seems to want to uproot the trees. But I decide to start anyway. Two other couples of walkers, whom I had met the previous evening at dinner, also decide to proceed. I will encounter them occasionally throughout the journey, until our destination.

I walk clumsily through the mud on what should be an incredibly panoramic ridge; I struggle to even see the tips of my shoes. I navigate using a map and compass (no smartphone, no GPS, no trail…), but in these conditions, I can’t consult them, and I end up getting lost on Monte Carmo. I lose altitude and have to walk at least a couple of extra kilometers, which is not what I needed. However, in one fell swoop, I find: the trail I had lost, one of the two pairs of “fellow travelers,” a shelter where we can take cover, and a kind lady who offers us a hot coffee. The simplicity of the adventure makes this moment magical, unique, and unforgettable. Once again filled with positive energy, I continue on my own, heading towards Rifugio del Monte Antola.

I arrive at 2 pm, after 6 hours of nearly uninterrupted walking, soaked, hungry, and tired. And I enter paradise. I am welcomed with dry clothes, a wood-burning stove, and a hot meal. This is the true meaning of the word “refuge.” The people managing it are wonderful, and the atmosphere is perfect. I eat, write, think, and recharge for the final descent to Torriglia. Meanwhile, the rain has stopped.

Between low-hanging clouds, I enjoy some glimpses of the view of Lake Brugneto.

I then arrive at Hotel della Posta, an old inn that feels very ’60s, and I get carried away by the stories of the owner, a cheerful 80-year-old young man. Stories of UFOs, castles, the holidaying Italy that no longer exists. I go to bed early, as the next day awaits the final and longest stage.

And so, the final approach begins. If in the previous days I hadn’t thought about it, now it really feels like I am shortening the distance to my origins with every step. The landscape changes, becoming increasingly Mediterranean. And at a certain point, I emerge on Monte Fasce and see home. Only 3 days have passed, but it feels like an eternity to me. Now, the final descent awaits me. I pass under Santa Croce in a light drizzle, accompanied by deer, buzzards, wild boars, and roe deer, faithful companions throughout the journey.

I arrive home at 6 pm on Saturday, May 20, with shining eyes, a clear and sharp mind, lungs full of life, and the desire to keep walking and walking and walking because we were born to do this.

Add Comment

Join us!

Join the Outdoor Portofino Community and share the pleasure of living the best of nature with others!

You can choose to become a member of our sports society and use discounted services and special offers!