4 GOAT CHEESES: A SUMPTUOUS STOP-OFF
Continuing along the Panoramica, we have another
spectacular vision: the daunting massif of the Monte Rosa group that comes into
view at the Bocchetta di Margosio. There’s another reason, beyond the
magnificent panorama, for stopping off here: the goat cheeses at Alpe Margosio.
Cacio ricotta, caprino fresco and
other raw milk products at a family run farmstay/dairy, which also has a lovely
outdoor kiosk where you can stock up on cheeses and/or lunch on platters and craft
beers, whilst enjoying the awesome view. In the warm season, Alpe Margosio also
organizes visits to see the milking and dairy process and enjoy the alpine
Build a ski resort from scratch, a place to take
kids skiing in “Biella’s mountains”: this was the dream of Ermenegildo Zegna
that gave rise to Bielmonte. A dream that came true in 1957, when the first
ski-lifts, including the one at Monte Marca, entered service. That one, albeit
single-seat, is still working and takes you up to the refuge of the same name
at 1,620 meters. The panorama awaiting you on the hut’s sunny terrace is spectacular,
but there’s another nice surprise, Elena’s cooking.
Stop for lunch and order some “Sacocce di Fra Dolcino”, one of her specialties.
And to return to Bielmonte, don’t be afraid of trying the Rolba Run for "mini-bobs" with wheels, a 640 meter downhill course full of bends, an exhilarating alternative to
the chairlift. Another idea for lunch at Bielmonte is Albergo Bucaneve’s restaurant,
with the excellent cuisine of chef Giuseppe Gallina, who also prepares fish dishes, a novelty in the mountains of Oasis Zegna.
A final tip for 2-wheel fans: Chalet Bielmonte hires out mountain bikes, the
best way to discover the Upper Valsessera.
6 UPPER VALSESSERA
This is the wildest part of Oasi Zegna, inhabited
by deer, roe deer and the protected rare beetle species Carabus olympiae. It’s crossed by trekking paths and mountain bike trails
connecting alpine grazing grounds, panoramic view points and old mining sites. Only
on foot or on two wheels is it possible to cross from Valsessera into Valsesia,
along a 20 km road
separating Bocchetto Sessera from Alpe di Mera. Upper Valsessera also falls within the confines of the Sesia Valgrande Geopark, one of the 10 Italian geoparks recognized by Unesco. In summer 2018, enthusiasts can explore
this part of Valsessera
with geologists and nature guides from Equipe Arc En Ciel (info: 015.0990725,
7 FOREST OF SMILES
Trees are good for us. They make us happy. It’s
what you discover in the Forest of Smiles, which extends from Bocchetto
Sessera, about half way along the Panoramica Zegna, into Upper Valsessera. The
route was designed by bioenergetics expert Marco Nieri, who studied the plants
in the area and has put up info boards along the path to explain the effects
that larch, fir, birch and beech can have on our energy and psycho-physical
systems. Influxes that differ with the type of trees, which we can not only
read about here but breathe in and experience on the easy 4.6 km walk. There
are pleasant rest areas with stone seats and big cedar wood “books” on which
forest-inspired tales are carved (great for kids).
8 “LE TEGGE”: THE ALPE ARTIGNAGA PATH
An hour’s walk from Bocchetto Sessera on path 16
(OK for mtb too) takes you up to one of the most beautiful alpine pastures in Oasi
Zegna. Alpe Artignaga surprises with its renovated stone huts (called tegge) in an ample basin beneath the towering
Cima delle Guardie. Artignaga in winter is a favorite route with cross-country
skiers, who have various trails leading up from Bocchetto Sessera.
9 POLENTA IN THE HUT. AND BATHING IN THE STREAM
An authentic mountain refuge, at 1,100 meters,
in Upper Valsessera, open from June to October and animated by festivals and
other events all summer through to the end of September. It sleeps 24. To eat, polenta
and other typical dishes, and homemade bread and cakes. This hut (Rifugio Piana
del Ponte) can be reached by a mostly descending path from Bocchetto Sessera, or
by leaving a car at Casa del Pescatore and taking path F10 along the banks of
the Sessera to Piana del Ponte (35 minutes). To cool off on arrival, you can
bathe in the stream, in three natural pools, near the hut.
10 VALLE CERVO
From Bocchetto Sessera, the Panoramica Zegna descends
into a different world, the landscape changing into something harsher and more
vertical. Shaped by glaciers and its eponymous stream, Valle Cervo is the only
valley in the Biella area with true alpine characteristics. It’s hard, grey
terrain characterized by igneous rocks, including syenite. Visit the village of
Rosazza, which has interesting architecture and an atmosphere of mystery due to
certain esoteric (masonic) symbols that can be seen.