The Biella Alps: from the slopes of Bielmonte to Monte Sacro di Oropa
Oasi Zegna, Ermenegildo's dream
Ermenegildo Zegna himself wanted to create this natural park, planting 500,000 trees on the mountainsides around his wool mill.
Today it is a 100-square-kilometre nature reserve that reaches the Biella Alps from Trivero via a 26-kilometre panoramic road. It climbs up to the Bielmonte ski resort at 1,550 metres.
Fly down the Bielmonte slopes
Overlooking the Po Valley and kissed by the sun, the Bielmonte ski resort offers 18 kilometres of downhill slopes and 20 kilometres of cross-country trails between 1,200 and 1,650 metres.
More experienced skiers must try the black Dosso Grande slope! But if you really want to try flying, try kite-skiing or snowboarding pulled by kites on the Colle Marchetta side.
For those who enjoy cross-country skiing, there is a 9-kilometre loop starting at Bocchetto Sessera and passing through beech and spruce forests with breathtaking views of the Sessera Valley. And at the end of the tour make sure to get your well-deserved prize: a polenta concia at the refuge.
Not tired yet? Continue skiing by night: the slopes are illuminated.
Bielmonte with snowshoes
Bielmonte can also be explored with snowshoes , slowly immersing oneself in the landscape of the Sessera Valley, with the Alpine peaks on one side and the Po Valley on the other. On clear days one can see Turin's Mole Antonelliana and the domes of Superga in the distance. But even when the fog lifts from the Po Valley, the glaciers of Monte Rosa glisten in the sunshine and ensure you have a wonderful experience.
Forest bathing in Val Sessera
Sessera Valley is the perfect place for forest bathing, immersing yourself inthe forest as if you were in a bath of pure relaxation.
The most beautiful trail is the one that reaches Tegge dell'Artignaga, an alpine pasture with stone huts. Keep your eyes out, you might spot a chamois or a lone fox.
The panoramas of Bielmonte
Do you prefer contemplation to speed on the slopes? Then mountain watching is for you.
From the Monte Marca refuge, the 360° view sweeps from Monviso to Monte Rosa and includes Val Sessera and the Po Valley.
When evening comes, enjoy a high-altitude sunset from the hut's large windows while sipping a bombardino or Menabrea beer, brewed in Biella.
Then dine on a plate of pizzoccheri or a charcuterie board with local cured meats and cheeses and wait for the spectacle of the starry sky, when all the other lights go out for the night.
On the slopes of Oropa
Oropa is splendid in any season. In summer it offers trekking, downhill adventures and climbing. In winter, you can freeride down from the summit of Monte Camino, passing from 2,400 metres to 1,200 without ever taking off your skis.
The Oropa Sanctuary
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, the Sacro Monte di Oropa stands at 1,159 metres and is home to a Marian sanctuary that soars with its 80-metre-high dome.
Every year 800,000 pilgrims visit it, but it’s in the evening, when the quiet returns, that the place becomes truly magical. Come at dusk when the pilgrims return to the valley, to enjoy the view of the Po plains lit up by a thousand lights.
The construction of the sanctuary dates back to the early 1600s, but it has been extended over the centuries to accommodate the growing number of pilgrims. The Black Madonna is worshipped here, a 13th-century statue of wood, gold and gems preserved in a frescoed Romanesque shrine. The first church consecrated in 1294 rose around the shrine, followed by the 17th-century basilica. Today the entire complex has 700 rooms.
You can visit the Cloister, Old Basilica, New Basilica, Museum of Treasures, Royal Apartment, Sacro Monte, Library and the 12 chapels dedicated to the life of the Virgin Mary.
By reservation only, you can visit the Meteorological Observatory.
Fun fact: in the north-west corner of the church, an ancient erratic boulder known as the Pietra della Vita (Stone of Life) and formerly linked to the cult of fertility is still visible. According to legend, St Eusebius hid the statue of the Black Madonna under this rock so that it would not fall into the hands of heretics.