The Mont Moro 'Freedom Trail'

Tales of Allied servicmen's bid for freedom in World War 2

Introduction

Welcome to a trekking holiday with a difference. You are embarking on a journey, following in the footsteps of some of the allied servicemen who, risked all to cross the Alps to freedom broke out of their Italiian Prisoner of war camps, after Italy surreneded on the 8th September 1943.

Our journey begins in Biella, a small city in northern Piemonte, around an hour north of Turin, on the south side of the Alps. Piemonte is perhaps best known for producing some of the top wines of Italy (produced from the Nebbiolo grape) such as Barolo and Barbaresco.

Over the course of 9 days we will follow in the footsteps of allied 'escapers' crossing four mountain ranges, travelling 84 kilometres and climbing 6,800 metres.

Overnight stays include the Santuario di Oropa, a Monestary which provided shelter to many on the run. Some nights will be spent in mountain huts, known as a 'Rifugio'. Here the accommodation is basic but the hut 'guardian' will provide fantastic meals. After there is time to sit with a glass of local wine and watch the sun setting over the surrounding Alpine mountains. 

Although we are on an historical journey there are still many opportunities to see wildlife such as deer, chamois, marmots, eagle and wildboar as well as gaze at the fantastic scenery of the Monta Rosa massif. Finally we will summit Mont Moro, 2868 metres and decend into Switzerland where our journey ends in the mountain village of Sass Almagell.
Santuario D'Oropa, day 2 on the escape trail
Historical background

Our route traces the paths used by POW's to travel from northern Italy across the Alps to neutral switzerland. In most cases the POW's had little or no food, were malnurished from the poor diet in many of the camps, their uniforms and more importantly their boots were in a poor state of repair, they had no navigation aids and perhaps most importantly of all, no knowledge of the terrain they were about to travel on.

Many escaped from Prisoner of War camp PG106 at Vercelli, in Northern Piemonte or from the surrounding farms where some of them had volunteered to work. Heading for the city of Biella, some were assisted by Partisans but many were helped by the 'Contadini', local farmers and smallholders who would offer shelter or what little food they could spare - at great personal risk to themselves. Posters put up by the Germans or Italian Fascists warned that those harbouring escapers risked their homes being burnt to the ground, men deported to work camps in Germany or the whole family being summarily executed.

Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrive at Biella and check in to Hotel Agata by 5 pm. Meet your guide, who will run through the itinerary in more detail and answer any questions. A short stroll into town for dinner pacing the old tram station on route, used by some partisans and POW's.

Day 2 - Leaving Biella we climb 700 metres, over a distance of 9 kilometres, through shady forests to arrive at the Monestary. Stay overnight in Santuario di Oropa (see video clip above)

Day 3 - climb our first mountain range and stay in the Rifugio della Neve, above Rosazzo. 9 Kilometres and 700 metres ascent.

Day 4 - Dropping into the valley through beech forest we stop for coffee in the small village of Piedicavallo. The village is at the end of the valley and so the only way from now on is up! Leaving the village we follow a water course up through a stone walled forest before arriving at a more barren landscape and continue climbing to the Rifugio Rivetti at 2,350 metres. just short of the Col. 9 kilometres, 1200 metres ascent.

Day 5 - Follow mountain trails above the Valley Gressoney, we then swing north and a long descent to a hotel, just above the valley floor - 18km, 600m up/ 1000m decent. The hotel is in a remote setting but offers sauna/solarium and has comfortable twin/double rooms.

Day 6 - We descend to the village of Riva Valdobbia. Here, our trail converges with other escape trails, such as those of the Partisans who occupied the village of Rassa and Scopello. We are in the valley Cervo (Valley of the Deer). Another 90 minutes walk up the valley floor brings us to Alagna Valsesia.  After lunch we have a short easy climb to the Rifugio Pastore. 10 kilometres and 500m up/300m decent.

Day 7 -  We finally see the backbone of the Alps and the swiss border in the distance! Travelling 17 kilometres and climbing 1,300 metres we decend the same amount to arrive in the village of Staffa/Macagnaga. Hotel stay in village. 17 km, 1500m ascent/1500m descent.

Day 8 - There is time to explore the small village before the climb to the top of the Moro pass, 2861 metres and our final Rifugio just short of the summit. 6km distance 1,600 metres ascent.

Day 9 -  We cross into Switzerland and make our final decent to arrive in the picturesque village of Sass Almagell. 13 kilometres, 200 metre clib and 1,300 metre decent. Arriva at Hotel and celebrate the completion of our journey.

Day 10 - Departure after breakfast.
mont moro, freedom trail

View from just below the summit of Mont Moro pass, on the Italian side, looking west across at the Mont Rosa Massif. This is the location of  our Rifugio, prior to crossing to Switzerland.

Fitness Level

This is a tough journey with several days where the climb is around 1600 metres and up to 18 km long. You will need to carry a medium sized rucksac, a maximum of 30 Litres in size and the total weight, based on the kit list provided, should not exceed 10 kilograms. Baggage transfer on this trip is not available.

Time & Pace

5-8 hours per day, based on a walking speed of 3 kilometres per hour, known to some as 'Alpine plod'. It's not a race and there is time for taking in the scenery and stopping for picnic lunches on route. The tracks and paths are rocky in places, but of good quality.
What's included in the price?

Guiding services each day
Bed and Breakfast at Hotel Agatha on arrival day
One night half board at a Monastary (night 2)
4 nights half board in mountain huts, known as rifugio's in Italy (nights 3,4,6 and 8)
2 nights half board in hotels (night 5 & 9)

Not included:

Transfer to start point, Biella, Italy.
Evening meal on the arrival day.
Lunches each day - picnics can be purchased at huts and hotels
Transfer from end of trip, Sass Almagell, Switzerland

Additional information

Information on how to arrive at Biella from any airport/rail station will be included in your welcome instructions on receipt of booking. Likewise, return journey information will be included to get from Sass Almagell by postbus to Visp, in the Rhone Valley. From here you can connect to anywhere in europe by train! 

santurio di oropa, freedom trail
2017 Dates

Saturday 12th August - Monday 21st August  - 12 Spaces

Sunday 3rd September - Tuesday 12th September - 12 Spaces

Prices

   £1,449.00 per person*

*price based on shared twin/double room on hotel nights and Monestary with dormitory style accommodation (bunk beds) in huts. Single suppliments are only possible on the nights in hotels and monestary.​

How to book

​Just press the button below to go to the contact page or call +44 7955 280053


Mountain hideaways. In order to cross from one mountain range to another we will be decending into valleys made up of Beech forest. Ideal hiding place for wildlife...and people on the run!

How I came to design my first Freedom Trail

I've written a blog page describing how I stumbled upon freedom trails. It also suggests some good reads that will get you inside the mindset of some of those agents and servicemen who had to take that journey. Click here to read
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