Fresh air is the best medicine
Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you all had a break of some kind over the holiday period and that the whole food/drink excess phenomenon that often happens at this time of the year didn’t make you feel too bad. Just incase, this week there’s going to be no mention of food or recipes; just a good-for-you, lung-filling hike in the mountains just above Sauze d’Oulx, in the Susa Valley, Italy. We went to ski, but if you have a look at the photos, you may get an idea of why that didn’t happen and also figure out why we ended up going hiking instead. I should be entirely honest with you and admit that I didn’t go to ski, but went to eat pizza, so I less of an issue with the lack of snow that my kids did.
On the road to Hell
One of the bright and sunny days we spent in the small mountain town of Sauze d’Oulx, we decided to go on a hike to Hell (Enfer). Obviously, the town is way too quaint and beautiful, so we were trying to stir things up a little. If you know a little French, you may know that “enfer” does mean “Hell” and if you’re wondering why it’s a french word when we’re in Italy, it’s because the french border is only 15 minutes from Sauze d”Oulx, so there’s a real place-name mixture of Italian, French and even some Occitan thrown in around the area. In fact, the “Sauze” part of Sauze d’Oulx means “above” in Occitan: the town of Oulx lies in the floor of the valley. So, enough about language mish-mashes; so, as I was saying, we decided to hike to Hell. None of us had ever been there, and we were very curious to know what Enfer was really like.
Dappled light and Dr Who
Turns out that after a beautiful walk through the dappled light that shone through the bare trees, Hell ended up to be made up of a secluded stone house with a large garden surrounding it, and this picnic area in the photo below. OK, so we didn’t go and knock on the door of the secluded house, so maybe it was like some kind of Doctor Who Tardis and Hell was actually hidden inside it. We will never know now.
Italian picnics are the bee’s knees!
The picnic area gave us a wonderful view over the brown ski field, adorned with the one piste of artificial snow zigzagging down it, so we decided to eat our Parma ham and locally made Tomini and Castelmagno cheeses with fresh bread called Cioppini that we bought in Sauze d’Oulx before starting the hike. All we were missing was a bottle of good red wine, but it was probably better not to have one anyway, otherwise we may have ended up dozing in the warm sun while the kids wreaked havoc on the trees around us. Instead we contented ourselves with gazing out over the landscape towards France, which lies just on the other side of the mountain (Chaberton) you can see in the photo below.
The forest we walked through is on the edge of a large Natural Park called Parco Gran Bosco Salbertrand . I love the name “Salbertrand”. For me it conjures up visions of an exotic place full of magical things. We didn’t find any Maharajahs riding on jewel-bedecked elephants, or even one solitary flying carpet. Maybe they were just on holiday the day we went hiking.
Views of sad skiers
On the way down from Hell we had a fabulous view of the village of Sauze d’Oulx. What we couldn’t see were all the disconsolate skiers sitting in the pubs and cafés in the village, drowning their no-snow sorrows in vats of wine and beer. Maybe we should have taken them all the Hell with us. They would’ve been much happier! As we discovered, L’Enfer really isn’t such a bad place to be after all!
If you want to find out what it’s like here when it snows, you can click here.
By Lisa Watson