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Where the Alps and the Mediterranean meet and mix

The Maritime Alps

Hiking in Alpi Marittime: view from Lagarot di Fenestrelle (N. Villani/PNAM).

It is here
that the Alps and the Mediterranean
meet and mix;
and they merge
creating a single thing,
where the feet of the mountains
are surrounded by warm foam
and the peaks by permanent snow.

Mario Rigoni Stern

Between the Colle di Tenda and the Colle della Maddalena the last great castle of crystalline rocks of the Alps rises: these are the Maritime Alps, torn between glaciers and sea, a "picturesque and wild area, that has the reigning beauty of the Alps and the mild charm of the Apennines, that tempts the mountaineer with the seduction of its rugged rocks and offers the student and the artist a broad field for observation, with its unexpected contrasts. A strange region where the harsh rocky peaks reflect in lonely lakes, amid permanent snows while down in the flowery valleys grow roses and the olive trees of the Riviera" as the mountaineers of the late nineteenth century wrote.

On the northern side of the Alps, the Piedmontese valleys meet in the Po plain in an ordered pattern like the fingers of an open hand. They join not far from Cuneo, a small city, a child of the mountains that surround it. These are the valleys of the Alpi Marittime Nature Park: Valle Vermenagna, Valle Gesso and Valle Stura.
On the opposite side of the mountains, there is a smell of the sea and French is spoken, from the peaks of the dividing ridges down to the Cote d'Azur chaos reigns: massifs heaped on top of each other, a web of inconclusive valleys that run down where water has dug through the banks of sedimentary and volcanic rocks leaving deep, narrow gorges. This is the twin world of Mercantour.

Canyons and open pastures, thick forests and flowing scree, dozens of lakes of every size and dry, rocky high plains, granite spires and limestone crags, perennial snowfields and terraces of olives and vineyards: it is not easy to find another part of the Alps where the diversity is so noticeable and immediately obvious. From the coast, with its breeze smelling of lemons and rosemary, with Provençale colours, in a moment you are in the harsh beauty of the glacial cirques of Clapier and Gelas, and the quiet majesty of the pyramids of Argentera, Matto and Bego...

Here, between a snow field and the pastures, between the rocks and a lake, the careful eye of a naturalist will note an impressive variety of plant species peeking out of the richest natural botanic gardens in the Europe. You can easily see ibex and chamois grazing, busy marmots, eagles and lammergeiers patrolling the sky. These are the Maritime Alps. This is where the heart of the Park beats.

Where are the Maritime Alps?

Alps by the Sea

The Maritime Alps are at the South-West extremity of the main watershed of the Alpine chain. This sector lies between two important international passes the Colle di Tenda (1871 m) and the Colle della ...

A world in five pictures

Moving Alpi Marittime

What makes the Alpi Marittime stand out? We'll try to answer this question with five emblematic pictures of this part of the Alps.

Valleys and Municipalities

From the Colle di Tenda to the Colle della Maddalena

The Maritime Alps territory embraces the part of the Alps between the Colle di Tenda and the Colle della Maddalena, taking in the Vermenagna, Gesso, and Stura valleys.


The Alps by the Sea

The Maritime Alps, the first and southernmost sector of the chain, have 24 peaks over 3000 metres.

Lakes in the Maritime Alps

Mirrors of the sky among the rocks

From our peaks you can sometimes see the sea on the horizon, it is set off beautifully by the wealth of lakes found in these mountains.

Unmissable corners

Maritime Alps, mountains to dream of

The Maritime Alps and in particular the Park territory is a mosaic of variegated pieces: breathtaking views, harsh walls, relaxing meadows, lights, colours, atmosphere.

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