Italy at your fingertips

La Dolce Vita is yours!

From immemorial times, in the Queyras via multiple passes and in the Guillestrois via Montgenèvre, a simple truth has prevailed: our closest neighbors are the Italians. So whether on foot or by bike, by car or on horseback… La dolce vita transalpine is ours!

The Queyrassins and Italians, a mutual aid history

In these high valleys, fiercely guarded by the Combes du Guil, the nearest exit has always been Italy. On the 45 km border shared with our transalpine friends, no less than five valleys are served by an incredible cultural diversity. Judge for yourself. The steep Thures Pass leading to the immense Val Susa, the Valpréveyre Pass gateway to the Val Germanasca, the discreet Urine Pass or the easy  Lacroix Pass going into the Val Pellice, the Traversette Pass and its stunning astonishing tunnel servicing the importantissimo val Po, Valante Pass source of the Guil or Agnel Pass second highest road crossing in France tilting over the val Varaita… Phew! These are just a few of the many trade routes available to the people of the Queyras and Piedmont. Going back and forth for ages have left a mark on the local dialects. Ask a Basan (an Arvieux inhabitant) where he picked up his mushrooms, and he’ll reply with a lilting accent and a mysterious smile, “par-là, à travers” (“here,through there…”) reminiscent of the Italian“attraverso”. To say “c’est compris” (“understood”), a molinard will say “ça va” (“all good”), reminiscent of the well-known transalpine ” va bene “.

Guillestre, reached once or twice a year for the fairs, was “quite a story”, as Antoinette Meissimilly writes in “Une des Escoyères”, her delightful memoir. Whereas “crossing the passes, my goodness, we knew how to do it well”!

Agricultural fairs are important places for trade, share and have Franco-Italian encounters!

The autumn Saint-Luc fair in Guillestre (October 18), Saint-Mathieu fair in Château Ville-Vieille (September 21) and Saint-Michel fair in Ceillac (September 25 and 26) were, are and will remain great “da non perdere” (not to be missed) agricultural festivals. Even today, they mark the start of the winter transhumance. Italian artisans and local Guillestrin horse dealers trade in sheep and cattle, fabrics and local produce.

The Guillestrois: a commercial crossroads

Perched on its plateau, at the gateway of the Queyras mountain range, the village is “hors le Guil”, in Latin “Guil-extra”, in Occitan “Guil-estra”. From the plateau, you’ll quickly grasp the strategic position it occupies: heading towards the Vars Pass for the Ubaye, which was once Piedmontese. 180 to face the Durance valley. The plateau meets the confluence of the Guil and Durance rivers. Guillestre was the perfect commercial crossroads for the exchange of Provencal, Italian and northern Dauphiné flavors. Italians came in force to trade cattle. The Saint-Luc fair in mid-October, when the streets are decked out with stalls, still bears witness to this lively capital, and often signals the end of the Agnel’s Pass winter closure.

Eating pasta in Italy? Where do we go?

The Lacroix Pass is THE place to eat in Italy. It’s a 2-hour walk from Monta or Echalp. After 30 minutes of a spectacular descent, you’ll land in the Val Pellice, where you’ll discover pastoralism that’s still very much alive. You’ll be watching over the gleaming Lanzaï salamandra, Viso‘s endemic and symbolic species, as if it were a treasure. If the wind blows over the mountain pass, the walls of the Napoléon refuge  or the ruined customs post will give you shelter to take out your thermos before going back to the valley. If you’re a good hiker, you can aim for Pian del Re or Pian della Regina over the Traversette Pass and its tunnel (a 5-hour walk from the Roche Ecroulée). You can even take the car down to Chianale via the Agnel Pass…And last but not the least… Eating pasta in Italy is a succulent summer ritual you don’t want to miss!

Our experience

The Queyrassins’Italy is first an Italy to be savored with your shoes. When the “nebbia” (literally “the fog”) settles on the ridges during your “Tour du Viso”, it’s not because our transalpine friends are all cooking pasta at the same time. It’s the local weather phenomenon synonymous with good weather, unlike the return from the east, which is not to be taken lightly. So don’t let it stop you from visiting these Vaud valleys, especially along the Huguenots trail!

A summit meeting

To finish the season on a high note with the “reserved mountain passes for cyclists” in the Alps… Go for the Agnel Pass, the last mountain pass in the Alps reserved for cyclists for the summer, at 2744m! For the occasion, the Italians and French are offering you a unique “reserved pass” edition, with a rich Franco-Italian provisioning and many other surprises, including music at the top of the pass. No registration, open to all, and free refreshments “made in Hautes-Alpes”!

MonViso UNESCO Transboundary Biosphere Reserve

A space to be protected from everything… Except love. On our side, the environmental protections of the Regional Natural Park, Nature Reserve and Natura 2000, associated with the Italian side with the Parco Naturale del Monviso, saw themselves umbrellaed, in 2013, by the vast UNESCO Transboundary Biosphere Reserve. This is only the 13th of its kind on the blue planet. In the Queyras, the Alpine ecosystem has been slowly rebuilt over half a century of reasoned protection. From the lichen to the dwarf willow to the large predator at the end of the food chain, such as the eagle or the wolf, not forgetting the emblematic mountain hare or black grouse, the French and Italians, supported by Europe, allow nature to play its enchanting symphony. When you come to admire this Eden, remember to silently contribute your little stone to this collective effort… Leaving nothing more than the trace of your footsteps.