‘Le Strade di Torino’, a highly popular blog for urban explorers who not disdainful of the countryside, visited Oasi Zegna. And they did it in style, this group of 12 people between 24 and 36, out and about in the mountains of Bielmonte (near Biella, an hour and a half from Milan and Turin). The occasion was a sunny weekend in mid-January spent enjoying the deliciously slow rhythms of Oasi Zegna. Their guide was ‘Le Strade’ blogger Mike Negrello, 29, architect, born and bred in the Biella area, though he’s lived abroad and is now in Turin (as a researcher at the city’s Politecnico). Here’s what he told us.
Why did your blog decide to explore Oasi Zegna?
“I wanted my friends to discover my mountains. They go crazy over the photos I put in my Instagram stories (the profile is Maik_20), so I decided to take them home with me for a couple of days; it was the weekend of 18-19 January. I was born there and go back often, partly because I’ve got a kitchen garden at my folks’ place near Biella, which I cultivate with my grandfather. I like to eat what I produce, as far as possible.”
What did they appreciate most?
“The view. The panorama is amazing, with Monte Rosa, Argimonia, Monte Mucrone, Monte Bo, Monviso and the whole of the Po valley plains. On fine days you can see Superga too, with Turin, and even Milan. The incredible thing is that you can have all this even though the highest point of Oasi Zegna is little over 1,500 meters. To get the same panorama from the Alps you have to go up to over 3,000 meters.”
What in your opinion are the strengths of the area?
“Bielmonte is accessible to everyone: even if you’re not a mountain expert, you can do the local peaks easily. It’s suitable for all ages. The ski slopes aren’t demanding (even though there are two black ones) and I see this too as an advantage, if you’re in a group of friends with different levels of ability, for example. Bielmonte is also accessible from economic viewpoint: it’s not expensive like certain other mountain resorts. I’d say within nearly everyone’s budget.”
So, beautiful, easy, panoramic and also economically accessible…
“I’d also add that there’s a vast choice of activities in every season. In winter you can do skiing, skating, snowshoe hiking, cross-country skiing; there’s even a spa, at Albergo Bucaneve. And in the warm season there’s mountain biking, hiking and also some rock climbing spots.”
How did you spend this weekend?
“On the first morning we visited Biella and its Piazzo district and after lunch we went up to Bielmonte, to a mountain refuge there. After taking some photos of the surroundings we treated ourselves to a Menabrea on the panoramic terrace of Monte Marca and took some more photos from the top. We then moved to Monte Cerchio, towards dusk, where we watched the spectacle of Monte Rosa at sunset: stunning. When it got dark, we took some more photos, and luckily the moon was new, so we were able to do some good night photography too. The sky was stupendous: you could see the Milky Way and the alpine skyline. Then drinks, with cheeses and cured meats, followed by dinner in the refuge, in the warmth of an open fire.”
And on Sunday?
“A breakfast of champions and a snowshoe hike, on our own without a guide. The paths are splendid and very easy: you won’t get lost even if you’re not an orienteering wizard, for it’s all well signposted. We started out from Bocchetto Sessera and walked along the crest to Monte Marca, again. Here we opted for a typical lunch of polenta concia, made with butter and Maccagno, a cheese, and stewed deer. We then had a relaxing rest on the refuge’s sunny terrace.”
Your favorite season at Oasi Zegna?
“I prefer the snow, and if it snows up there, it’s marvelous: the Panoramica Zegna becomes a fairytale and the view of Monte Rosa and Monte Mucrone is spectacular from there. But the autumn too is extraordinary, with all that foliage. And I’d also mention the rhododendrons blossoming in May. Anyway, I think every season there has something to offer.”
Tips for someone going to Oasi Zegna for the first time? Where’s it best to start from?
“In my opinion – given I like going high up – you should immediately hire a pair of snowshoes and walk up to Monte Cerchio, then have a walk around and enjoy the panorama from up there. Followed by a nice Menabrea at the refuge to wind down. If you’ve got a bit more time, there’s the splendid walk to the stone huts at Artignaga.”
Will you be going back soon?
“Very soon. I’ve got a group of friends coming over from London. They too saw my photos on Instagram and they’re determined to see Oasi Zegna.”
le-strade.com was launched in Turin in 2017. It’s fed by 15 or so young people, all sharing a passion for discovering the unexplored and innovative. Each contributor specializes in a field: food, photography, nightlife, lifestyle, trips out of town. It’s got 30,000 followers on Instagram. Just recently, the blog expanded to take in Milan (10,000 followers), Genoa (5,000) and Rome (2,000).
HOW IT ALL CAME ABOUT
Le strade di Torino came into being when Jehanne Oostra, from Haarlem in The Netherlands, moved to Turin. Fascinated by the city and the fact that no one in The Netherlands knows how beautiful it is, she decided to start writing about it on Instagram. Her encounter with Monica Pianosi was the spark that turned it into what it is today, an online magazine in which different personalities speak and write.
Mike Negrello continues: “I met Jeanne by pure chance, at a dinner. We were sitting next to one another and, in conversation, I discovered she’d opened an Instagram profile called @lestradeditorino. I had created a similar page, but in English: ‘Streets of Turin’. So she asked me if I’d like to join this adventure. Each of us brings a particular passion to Le strade, be it photography, communication, architecture, graphic illustration or project management, but we all share a passion for our fabulous city, each from our personal viewpoint. The project has grown, we now have over 15 content creators and nearly 30,000 followers. It’s ambitious because we want to give voice to those who bring innovation to our city and improve it. We try to give them space and a voice and to tell our public about them.”