When eight years ago I decided to look for a small mountain hut in a quiet place, where I could take refuge with my family in moments of rest, the choice fell almost immediately to Val Germanasca. Located just over an hour from Turin, less frequented by tourists than the nearby Val Chisone and Val Pellice, but with the Prali ski resort at the end of its route – in case we wanted a little more nightlife – this Valle was the perfect place to create our buen retiro, which we then found in a small village at an altitude of twelve hundred meters in the Municipality of Perrero. Once we bought the house, we began to explore the surroundings and a world made up first of all of welcome and solidarity, but also of numerous interesting stories to tell.
A fascinating place full of history, an integral part of Occitania, that ancient historical geographical area, without political borders, which embraces a large part of southern France and neighboring areas of Italy and Spain, characterized by a common language, an evolution of ancient Provençal. A meeting place of cultures and religions, where today Waldensians and Catholics live in harmony thanks to the incessant work of peace of the local pastor and parish priest. Right from the start we were warmly welcomed by the residents of these small settlements, once home to numerous communities dedicated to agriculture and cattle breeding and today unfortunately almost abandoned. A welcome that turned into solidarity when a few years ago the roof of our house caught fire and then into enthusiastic hospitality, when the small church in the nearby village of Vrocchi was reopened after decades to celebrate our wedding, for the organization of which many of the inhabitants of the place mobilized.
But they are the stories of the many people known in this valley that day after day have led us to love her more and more. The first is that of a family that lives a few meters from us: Angelo and his wife Daniela, who together with their two children moved here from Moncalieri about ten years ago and who, after having both lost their jobs, have chosen with great courage to start from scratch by opening a cultural association – the “Circolo Borgata Granero”. The guests of the Club have the opportunity to try Angelo’s specialties, tireless in the kitchen, always looking for combinations capable of enhancing local products and the tradition of the territory. “I could define my cuisine as“ zero meters ”, comments Angelo. In fact, many of the products we use come from our garden, others from producers in the neighboring villages. Our menu follows the cycle of the seasons and we always try to transform a meal into a real experience, telling stories related to the valley and also accompanying our guests on a botanical tour in the woods “. Even during the pandemic Angelo did not lose heart and gave life to a cycle of live shows on Facebook during which he cooked his own dishes live for an increasingly numerous audience. His latest effort is “Vegania” a book of vegan recipes made with mountain products, the result of three years of research.
A stone’s throw from Borgata Granero, towards San Martino, this time it is history that speaks to us. In fact, the ruins of the thousand-year-old church of the same name are clearly visible, witnessing an important religious community present in the valley since the early Middle Ages. In some corners of the single nave, small fragments of frescoes are still visible. Unfortunately, despite the commitment of the inhabitants who have mobilized several times to try to obtain the necessary funds for its restoration, the Church is still in ruins, overrun by brambles and its conditions are getting worse year after year. To date, a Facebook group is also active to raise awareness as much as possible on the subject of Institutions and any private investors.
If we move towards Prali and take the fork on the right that leads into the Massello valley, we arrive at Salza di Pinerolo, a village that today has less than a hundred residents, but with a great tradition of live music: here between 1988 and 1999 artists performed of the caliber of Branduardi, Ligabue, Vecchioni. And just this year the curtain should rise with a great concert by the Nomads scheduled for next 23 July. You can still see some photos of the time in the “Da Didier” Restaurant-Pizzeria, run by Marianna and Andrea. Marianna, from Benevento, arrived in Salza di Pinerolo 22 years ago for an internship connected to a cooking class. She never came back. “When I took over the place I was 23 – she proudly says. I cooked and served 30 covers practically by myself “. The local specialties are pizza, strictly cooked in a wood oven, also available with wholemeal dough, and fish, where Marianna pours out the tradition of her lands of origin, but there is no shortage of Occitan and Piedmontese recipes. Today the restaurant is a point of reference in the area and since 2015 Andrea has been helping her. “We met in chat – says Marianna with a smile. You joined me from Turin and never left! ”.
Coming down from Salza and entering the Vallone you come across the hotel – restaurant La Foresteria di Massello managed very well by Loredana Fancoli I arrived here twelve years ago from the distant Valtellina. “I came here for a photography course – she says – and I immediately fell in love with this valley. I began to frequent it more and more until the opportunity to take over this business presented itself. For me it was a leap in the dark, since I came from a work experience in the shop, but today I think I can say that I have won my bet ”. The menu offered by the Foresteria is refined, with great attention to detail, even in the dish and with a fair price. The game is exceptional. “We have chosen to focus on quality – she adds – by working as much as possible with local producers and breeders”. But in Loredana’s proposal there are some specialties of her areas such as zigoiner, a delicious skewer of meat typical of the Engadine. She comments on this choice with a voice that is made only for a moment a little melancholy: “If I put Pizzoccheri on the menu, it is as if I still had my mother next to me”.
But it wasn’t just the food and wine to attract our attention. In fact, my wife and I are passionate hikers (the trails abound in the valley and we have walked them far and wide, from the simplest to the most challenging ones) and we love artistic craftsmanship, in all its forms. For this reason we felt like we were in a playground when we discovered the Children’s Path, a simple and flat path suitable for anyone, inaugurated in July 2021, which connects Ghigo di Prali with Villa, about two and a half kilometers long and organized. in “stages”. Each of them shows a passage part of a story written by the writer Guido Quarzo and showcases wonderful wood sculptures, the work of the forty-two year old Daniele Viglianco, which have a particularity: they are all made entirely with a chainsaw. Over time we realized that Daniele’s works actually dot the entire Val Germanasca: there are in Massello, in Salza di Pinerolo, in Prali, and now also… in our home! In fact, we personally met Daniele at the traditional Livestock Fair which is held every autumn in Pomaretto and we were struck by his ability, later discovering that he is one of the best known artists in Piedmont specialized in this particular technique. His laboratory in Rorà, in Val Pellice is a magical place dotted with gnomes, badgers, owls, snowy owls, squirrels, eagles, bears, all life-sized. “I started sculpting with a child’s knife when I had to spend endless days watching the family beasts grazing – he says. Around the age of 15 I switched to the chisel and only in 2016 to the chainsaw. Since then my “illness” has worsened to such an extent that in 2018 I resigned from the company where I worked and I finally turned this passion into a job “. Today Daniele’s sculptures are present practically throughout Italy: from Padua to Caserta, up to Macerata.
Going down towards the valley you arrive at Pomaretto where we meet the gastronomy “Da Ferruccio”. A tribute from the twenty-six-year-old daughter Vanessa to her father who died prematurely two years ago due to Covid. Ferruccio Genre he was known and loved by all. A restaurateur at the “il Palazzetto” in Perrero, then in the kitchens of the Serafin refuge in Bourcet, he was famous for his agnolotti which I myself have had the privilege of tasting several times. While her father was still alive, Vanessa – a graduate in literature – was already thinking of leaving her job at Prali as a primary school teacher to join him in the kitchen. Then the final choice. “At the beginning it was hard – says Vanessa – but there hasn’t been a day in which I regretted the choice I made. Obviously, in our offer we cannot miss the fresh agnolotti, to which we combine a choice of typical dishes of the Piedmontese tradition and some proposals a little out of the box, such as poke, raw fish dish of Hawaiian origin, which has recently entered the menu . From next April 23 it will also be possible to consume food on the spot, with some covers inside the shop and an outdoor area on the street. These are just some of the stories I have come across in recent years, but the apparently gruff Val Germanasca, with its winding path and the numerous villages clinging to its slopes it continues to amaze us every day, confirming more and more the goodness of our choice.
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