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Moving Alpi Marittime

A world in five pictures

What makes the Alpi Marittime stand out? We'll try to answer this question very briefly: five pictures that bring out some of the most outstanding features of this part of the Alps.

Photo I. The West face of Argentera.

An image that conveys the imposing nature of the Maritime Alps, "real" mountains in all respects. Never mind that the glaciers here are reduced almost nothing, these are still harsh, wild and lonely mountains. Never overpowering or repulsive: gneiss peaks and crags may provoke awe, but rarely instill fear. So, we treat them with respect, but without the apprehension that comes from an encounter with higher mountains.

Photo II. Panoramic view from the top of Argentera.

In the foreground the Valle Gesso, further away the rounded forms of the Ligurian Alps rising through a light blanket of cloud. On the horizon, the line that separates sea and sky: Coolidge's Maritime Alps, those of the big panoramas. They are special, not just because you can often catch a glimpse or even a proper view of the sea, but because on one side you have the giants of the Alps, from Monviso to Adamello passing Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa as you go, and on the other side the Apuan Alps. It is being a land of transition, between Alps and Mediterranean, between the Po plains and Provence, that makes the Maritime Alps so unique.

Photo III. Lago della Vacca.

This little lake - lago della Vacca - lies in the middle of a depression which is gradually filling with scree. One day, in the not too distant future there will be a grassy plain here. But before that plenty of you will be able to enjoy the tranquil atmosphere of one of the most secluded spots in the Alpi Marittime. There are about 80 lakes in the Park. Streams, waterfalls and torrents: in the silence of lonely valleys, the many voices of flowing water warm the heart, and delight the eye. Mountains, blue with lakes and clear skies.

Photo IV. Male chamois.

Even with a good zoom lens it is not easy to catch a chamois, symbol of Alpi Marittime, at close range. The same cannot be said of ibex, animals that are not particularly shy and will let you get within a few metres from them. In the Maritime Alps there are thousands of chamois, 4000 in the Park alone, more than in any other area of the Alps. Our fauna checklist also includes 500 or more ibex, all the major Alpine species, including Golden Eagles and Lammergeiers - a bone-eating vulture reintroduced in an operation that covered the whole of the Alps. Visitor surveys have shown that tourists come to Alpi Marittime principally to see the animals.

Photo V. Military road to Lago del Claus.

In the middle of the nineteenth century Vittorio Emanuele II made a chance visit to Valle Gesso and discovered a territory where his passion for hunting could be given free rein. His son Umberto I, and grandson Vittorio Emanuele III, inherited the kingdom but not the same passion for handling arms; however the royals of the House of Savoy did not abandon Valle Gesso and the memory of their presence is still tangible everywhere, thanks in particular to the hundreds of kilometres of roads and mule tracks built to reach the shooting hides. This network was refurbished and extended between the two World Wars and is now there for our visitors to use.

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