The Maritime Alps
The Maritime Alps are located at the south-west tip of the range. This section of the Alps is bounded by two important international passes: the Colle di Tenda (1871 m) and the Colle della Maddalena (1996 m). North of the latter are the southern Alpi Cozie, their highest peak is Monviso; from Colle di Tenda the section that descends towards the Tyrrhenian Sea is called Alpi Liguri: its heart is the Limestone Marguareis massif, in the Nature Park of the same name.
The Italian side of the Maritime Alps all falls within the Vermenagna, Gesso and Stura valleys. The first two run perpendicular to the main axis of the range and are relatively short, it is less than twenty-five kilometres from Borgo San Dalmazzo, a small plain town at the mouth of the valleys, to Terme di Valdieri, the heart of the Maritimes and the starting point for climbing Argentera, at 3297 metres the highest peak in this sector of the Alps. The Valle Stura, however runs almost parallel to the watershed and the distance between Borgo and the Colle della Maddalena is 60 kilometres. In contrast to the Italian side, which has an almost non-existent prealpine band, on the French side we see the Maritime Alps occupy a vast territory, pushing with grandiose gorges (Daluis, Cians, etc.) and deeply eroded valleys right down to the coast of Nice. Administratively, the Maritime Alps on the Italian side belong to the Province of Cuneo , in the southernmost portion of Piedmont Region.
The Maritime Alps are the first sector with a typically Alpine aspect, with small glaciers and 24 peaks over 3000 metres. The highest, with its 3297 metres of the Cima Sud, is the Serra dell'Argentera, located less than 50 kilometres from the beaches of the French Riviera.
The shadier slopes of these mountains host the remains of the great glaciers that covered the Alps during the glacial periods. Born at that time are the 300-odd lakes in the high valleys, of an intense blue colour, and some plant and animal species typical of cold climates.
Despite the proximity to the sea, the Maritime mountains have the flavour of "true mountains" for their often harsh and wild character** and will win over anyone who approaches them, whether to climb a hard route on Corno Stella or for a relaxing walk to the Piano del Valasco; for a ski trip, in the middle of winter, to the Rocca d'Orel, or for a day walking among the dozens of alpine pools that dot the Gesso valley.
The Serra dell'Argentera, whose south peak reaches 3297 metres, is the highest point in the Maritime Alps.
The south-east face of Matto drops away for almost 1700 metres, offering a breathtaking view of the valley floor.
Monte Gelas (3143 m) stands on the border between Italy and France, and is the highest in point in the French Maritime Alps