Val di Mello

Val di Mello is a delightful little valley in the Rhaetian Alps branching off the main Valtelline valley along which the river Adda flows. Although it’s a secondary valley, its landscape is simply stunning, as towers of granite soar up in vertical heights that loom sternly over the bottom. The rock face is visible even at the lower elevations, but here its smooth surface is made gentler by the presence of  beautiful specimens of various conifer trees growing perched on the ledges. If you look higher, the vegetation gives way to the awe-inspiring realm of pure rock, a grand landscape that makes the paradise of climbers from all over the world.

The floor of the valley would be lovely even without this incredible backdrop because several hamlets of old houses huddled together have the remarkable cultural value of marking the unmemorable presence of man who used to devote himself to traditional occupations in harsh mountain conditions.

Among these, first and foremost came cattle breeding, which took advantage of the rich Alpine pastures in the summer. There the prized Alpine brown cow yielded the butter-rich milk, later to be transformed into wheels of delicious cheese. In winter the pastures turned into snow fields for several months and the herdsmen led their cattle down to the valley, selling their production at the fairs that were organised in the biggest centres towards the end of September. This heritage survives not only in the landscape, but also in the gastronomy that boasts several varieties of cheese and dishes making ample use of these ingredients.

Next to the beautifully renovated huts a stream finds its way down the valley, fed by numerous waterfalls cascading down from the rocks in white threads or surging flows of thaw water. Another incredible feature of this place are the gigantic glacial boulders scattered around the landscape. Huge masses of solid granite make you wonder how they could have possibly found their way here, by what forces they were pushed and what unimaginable natural upheavals might have brought about this phenomenon.

The underlying processes will remain always a matter of speculation or imagination even to the geologists who do research in the field because, however accurately their theories may explain the formation of mountains, they will never be able to turn back the clock and witness what took place over millions of years and at a pace that is just ridiculous compared to a man’s lifespan.

There are secrets that man’s curiosity would like to break, but it’s just as good to be caught in the meshes of their magic, be cradled by they might and tickled by their power of attraction.

Val di Mello is the place where we headed for our Easter Monday trip. We were a large group of about a dozen people, most of whom didn’t feel particularly prone to hiking, so they spread their rugs on the grass and spent hours lying in the warm sun. I was more inclined to taking exercise so I walked on the path that crosses a beautiful forest of pine and fur trees and gains height to reach the ruins of two stone huts. From there I could admire the valley below, and above the snow fields and the summits from a closer distance. I sat on the flat warm surface of a boulder and took out my lentil soup that I ate with bread.

On the way down I came across Andrea, who was also in a hiking mood, and we made our way down to join the rest, but we didn’t stay a long time together because they soon set off to reach the cars. I stayed on with Andrea and Giuliano, finished reading a book while they did a yoga practice until we were scared away by the first drops of rain and a chilly wind. The rain was not lasting, though, and we reached the cars without getting too wet.

We ended this beautiful day with a dinner in one of the village restaurants, savouring yummy local dishes of cheese and buckwheat. Although we got home quite tired at 11 pm I am sure this will remain a memorable full-day trip and a worthy epilogue to this year’s Easter festivities.