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 pasture experience.
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. 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.
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.