After the excitement of Christmas and our first visitors, normal transmission has resumed in Monforte. Master T, Jo and I are all back at ‘school’ and we have settled into the usual rhythm of daily life. Amongst other great things, this includes the resumption of our weekly ‘Adventure Day’.
As you can see from many of our photos, the vistas from Monforte and its environs are dominated by the Alps, and in particular Monviso (or Monte Viso).
As a result, Monviso features regularly in our discussions of possible new adventures, and we have been asked repeatedly if we can climb “all the way to the top”.
Master T, showing complete disregard for geographic norms, has christened Monviso the ‘King Mountain’; Monte Rosa the ‘Queen Mountain’ and Mont Blanc the ‘Princess Mountain’ – but I digress!
So, this week we decided to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and ‘climb’ as far up Monviso as the road would allow. We traipsed across to the west of Piemonte and drove up the Po Valley towards our ‘King Mountain’.
At the head of the valley, from a spring on the side of Monviso, the mighty River Po begins its 650km journey across the breadth of the Country.
As it makes its way to Italy’s eastern coast, the Po manages to saunter past Torino, irrigate Italy’s entire rice crop, give a nod to Parma and Ferrara and then spill into the Adriatic Sea via at least 14 mouths.
However, before the meandering bends of its lower course, the River Po literally falls out of the mountains and plunges down the upper reaches of the Valley. As is the way of these things, the road up through the Po Valley follows the course of the river, making it a spectacular, if slightly scary, drive on what might generously be described as a goat track.
At the top of the valley the ‘road’ stops at the alpine meadow, Piano della Regina (literally the Plain of the Queen), and further adventuring must then be done by foot.
As an historical footnote, it is thought that Hannibal bought his army and 37 war elephants down this route before terrorising the Romans in the 3rd Century BC. Defeating the Romans at any stage is a notable achievement but to my mind, getting an elephant down that valley road is a far more impressive feat.
The weather has ensured that there is not a lot of snow, but there was enough for the boys to get their first taste. Master T made snow angels and lost a battle of snowballs with his Mum, while Master S just made himself comfortable and proceeded to eat as much snow as he could!
On the way home we stopped off at Saluzzo, a beautiful little town (we saw it referred to as the ‘Little Siena of the Alps’) at the foot of the Alps.
In its heyday (the 15th Century), it was a wealthy independent state ruled by marquises that were scholars and art patrons. Today, much of the town’s charm stems from that period with narrow, cobbled streets lined by quaint porticoes and lovely old buildings seemingly frozen in time.
For us though, the highlight was a small Gelateria in one of the porticoes – Master T takes the view that it is never too cold for gelati, and we tend to agree!