« PreviousContinue »
and herds during the summer, numerous châlets form the cluster known as the Châlets of Chavanes. Here the scene is rich in the pastoral groups and beauty of the herbage, and sublime in the magnificence of the amphitheatre of mountains and glaciers.
Immediately in front is the great glacier of Cogne, by which an active mountaineer can cross and reach Ponte, in the Val d'Orca, in a day. A less dangerous road, however, is found by leaving the glacier, and turning to the left up a steep and difficult ascent to a narrow col, called the Fenêtre de Cogne, a mere notch in the crest of the mountain. From this place the view of the Alps, which bound the Val de Cogne on the west, is magnificent from the grandeur of their forms and the vast extent of their glaciers.
In the opposite direction, the glaciers which crest the northern side of the Val d'Orca are not less striking and are perhaps more impressive from their greater proximity. They form a vast barrier to the right of the Val Champorcher, which opens into the Val d'Aosta (Route 108.), at Fort Bard.
The descent is extremely difficult, from the steepness of the path and looseness of the soil. This difficulty ends before reaching a little chapel or oratory, built probably as an ex voto by some grateful Catholic for a merciful preservation here. This oratory is placed on the brink of one of several little lakes, formed by the melting of the glaciers. No spot can be more savage than this, or give a more impressive idea of dreary solitude.
The path now skirts, as it leaves it on the right, a dark and enormous mountain mass, and descends rapidly down the valley, but nothing habitable appears. The valley deepens considerably on the left below the path; the eye can trace its course down towards Bard, and a path across the valley is also seen which leads from the Val Champorcher by the Chalets of Dodoney into the valley of Fenis.
After crossing a buttress of the mountains which the path skirts, and which is called the Col de Ponton, it leads to the bank of a torrent just where it issues from a great glacier; then crossing another ridge over a beautiful pasturage, it descends to the borders of a little lake at the foot of the Col de Reale.
From this spot to Fort Bard down the valley of Champorcher, is about 6 hours.
Turning abruptly to the right, the path leads to the Col de Reale in less than an hour, and from this crest one of the finest alpine panoramas is presented. Not only, upon reaching the crest, is the plain of Italy and the far stretch of the maritime Alps, to the southward, spread out like a vast map, but in an opposite direction the entire mass of Monte Rosa is
better seen than from any other point of view. Every peak, and glacier, and valley, and pass, from the sharp pinnacle of the Cervin (Route 106.), to the Col de Val Dobbia (Route 104.) are seen, whilst the intermediate range of mountains above Dodoney, and the deep valley of Champorcher below, serve as a foreground to this sublime scene. The black and scathed rocks which bound the crest of the pass complete this extraordinary panorama.
Nothing can be imagined more beautiful than the view towards the plains where the deep valley of the Soanna sinks into darkness, whilst about the mountains which bound it, and far over and beyond, the plains of Italy stretch away into indistinctness, and are lost in the distance.
From the crest the descent is rapid. Passing to the left under a beetling mountain, the path skirts a deep ravine, leaves on the right some old adits of a mine worked unprofitably for silver, and, after a tortuous descent of two hours, passes by some châlets. The level of the pine forests is soon reached, and deep in a little plain is seen the church and village of Val Pra, which, instead of being the highest church and village in the Val Soanna, is usually placed, in the authorised maps, nearly as far down as Ronco. If the traveller arrive late at Val Pra, the worthy old peasant Giuseppe Danna will give his best welcome.
At the opposite extremity of this little plain, the path descends by a stunted pine forest, and through the depths of the valley, to the village of Peney, and by one or two little hamlets to the village of Cardonera. There is nothing peculiar in this part of the valley, until just before reaching the hamlet of Bosco del Ronco: there are the remains of a slip from the mountain, which took place in 1833, and strewed the little plain with rocks and stones.
At Ronco there is an inn, which hunger and fatigue may make endurable; below it, a bridge, in a wild and striking situation, leads across a ravine to the village of Ingria. Before reaching it, however, the opening of the valley of Campea is passed, which leads directly to the glaciers of Cogne, shorter by seven hours than the route by the Col de Reale. The only village in the Val Campea, above Ingria, is Campiglia.
The inhabitants of this valley wear a singular sort of shoe or boot; it is made of coarse woollen, tied tight round the ankle, but half as broad again as the foot; it gives an awkwardness to their gait.
Below Ingria, the valley becomes a ravine of singularly wild and grand character. Vast precipices, gorges and forests, offer alternately, sometimes together, their magnificent materials for alpine scenery. Soon the old towers of Ponte
are seen in the valley of Orca, beyond the depths of the ravine. Enormous overhanging masses close the proximate part of the valley, whilst above and beyond Ponte the plains of Piedmont appear.
A path down through a forest, and near some quarries, leads to the Villa Nuova of Ponte, the cotton works established by the Baron Du Port, and about half a mile beyond is the town of Ponte, six hours from Val Pra in the mountains.
Nothing can exceed the picturesque situation of this place, at the confluence of the Soanna and the Orca, rich in vineyards, inclosed by mountains, offering in combination with the surrounding scenery, the towers and ruins of two feudal castles in the most striking situations, and the head of the valley closed by the snowy peaks of the lofty range which divides the Val d'Orca from the Tarentaise
There are many spots about Ponte which offer views of singular beauty. Few places are so rich in the picturesque : these, too, offer a remarkable variety, for besides the views of Ponte and the valley, from the villages on the surrounding mountains' sides, both the Orca and the Soanna present retreats in their deep and retired courses, which are no were exceeded for picturesqueness. A walk down two or three meadows between Ponte and the Orca, leads to one of these, well worth the traveller's visit, where the bright deep waters of the Orca seems hemmed in by lofty and forest-crowned precipices. Of its tranquillity and beauty, no idea can be formed.
Ponte is a singular old town, with long arcades, beneath which there are shops, and the markets are held. It has a tolerably good inn.
The establishment of the Fabrica, the first cotton works known in Piedmont, has given employment to several thousands of men, women, and children, as printers, spinners, weavers, and dyers; the goods being prepared within the walls of the Fabrica, from the raw material as imported from Genoa, to the completion of every article for the market. The prohibition to the exportation of machinery from England, leads to their obtaining it, at a great cost, from Mulhausen, in Alsace.
Ponte is distant six hours from Turin, to which city, a diligence goes three times a week. There is an excellent carriage road to the capital, which passes through Courgne, a large town on the western side of the Orca; Valperga, celebrated for having one of the noblest campaniles in Piedmont; Rivarolo; Lombardore, where the river Mallone is crossed; and Lemie besides numerous villages. All those places named, are towns, and some are large. They are situated in the richest part of Piedmont, amidst Indian corn, vines, mul
berry and fig trees. Those which are placed on the subsidences of the Alps, a little above the plains, are in the most beautiful situations, surrounded by vine-covered hills, and backed by lofty ranges of mountains. Little idea can be formed of the richness and beauty of Piedmont, except by those who have skirted the mountains on the borders of its rich plains. The traveller who enters it abruptly, by the usual routes, at right angles, across the chain of the Alps, sees too little of its actual and picturesque richness to estimate justly this fine country.
PONTE TO VILLENEUVE, BY THE VAL D'ORCA (DÉTOUR TO THE COL DE GALESE), THE COL DE CROIX DE NIVOLET, AND THE VAL SAVARANCHE.
On leaving Ponte to ascend the Val d'Orca, the road continues on the left bank of the river throughout its course. The scenery is very fine; the forms of the mountains vast and grand, rugged and broken, clothed with magnificent chestnuttrees, and frequently exhibiting the effects of disintegration in the enormous blocks which have fallen from the heights, in many places in such quantity, that the road is carried over or around the débris with such sinuosity and undulation, that the variety of view they aid to present gives a peculiar character to this valley.
About three miles from Ponte is the village of Sparone. Many little hamlets lie on the road, and many usines are worked for small iron wares, with tilts, and no stream is allowed to remain idle, where, at a small cost, and with simple machinery, it can be made to tilt a hammer, or move a
Beyond Sparone the same character of scenery prevails to Locana, a little town about four or five miles above Sparone, In these villages, many of the weavers for the Fabrica are em. ployed. The streets of Locana are narrow and dirty, and its inn worthy of such a place. The "Three Pigeons" is not likely to be forgotten by any traveller who has had the misfortune to enter there.
Above Locana the valley soon becomes dreary, and the road more rugged. About half way, near some smelting houses and forges belonging to M. Binna, the road, which he keeps in order below, ceases to be practicable for a charette. Above, there is only a mule path, which winds up amidst the enormous masses of fallen granite and serpentine, some of which have blocked up the course of the torrent, and com→
pelled it to find another channel-these and the savage mountains which now domineer in the valley, give it great wildness. Yet the tortuous road rising over these éboulemens, often leads to beautiful little plains between them.
There are several hamlets above Locana, as St. Marco, Arsone, and La Frera, but each is more and more miserable, until 6 or 7 miles from Locana. The climax of wretchedness is found at Novasca, which has pointed a proverb
Poco pane, lungo tasca.
Yet this spot offers to the traveller some of the most sublime horrors encountered in the Alps. Here a grand cataract bursts out from a rift in a mountain mass of granite, where all is denuded to absolute sterility. Below it, a thousand enormous masses of granite are bouldered by the materials brought down and thrown upon them by the fall. The passage across the river, among these rocks, is unmatched in alpine bridgebuilding: poles and planks are placed from rock to rock, and almost under the spray of the cataract. Beyond the passage of this torrent the road still ascends on the left bank of the Orca.
About a mile above Novasca is a terrific gorge, called the Scalare de Ceresol, where enormous precipices overhang the course of the Orca, which tumbles through a succession of cataracts between these herbless precipices. The path which leads to the summit is cut out of the rocks, and a flight of steps (Scalare), practicable for mules, is carried up through the gorge; sometimes on the actual brink of the precipice which overhangs the foaming torrent; in others, cut so deep into its side, that the rocky canopy overhangs the precipice. In some places there is not room enough for the mounted traveller, and there is the danger of his head striking the rocks above him. This extraordinary path extends half a mile. In its course, crosses are observed, fixed against the rock to mark the spots of fatal accidents: but as three such accidents happened in company with an old miscreant who lived at the foot of the Scalare, suspicions were entertained of these having been murders which he had committed there. He underwent severe examinations; yet, though no doubt existed of his guilt, there was not evidence enough to convict him. It is believed that, at the spots where the crosses are placed, he pushed his victims over in an unguarded moment, where a child, unheeded, might have destroyed a giant.
The termination of this wild road is like a winding staircase, in which it is difficult for a mule to turn: near here the peep into the ravine is perfectly appalling.
On emerging from this singular path and fearful defile, the