The Colle dell'Arpione
From the ancient terraced fields, now partly reclaimed by the woods, the route continues through broad meadows on calcareous ground, in which numerous sinkholes have appeared. The return leg passes through a lovely tract of beech forest.
The marble quarry
On the orographic left of the valley, the scrap and detritus dumped from the quarry can still be seen. Walking along the trail, if one observes carefully, there are blocks of marble that have fallen from the quarry above, although time and the elements have combined to coat them with a grayish film that conceals their bright white interior.
The crater, situated on calcareous soil, has collapsed due to erosion from rainfall and presents some characteristic depressions
The crater, situated on calcareous soil, has collapsed due to erosion from rainfall and presents some characteristic depressions, some of them quite large. These typical carsic features, formed by a collapse of the underlying soil, funnel water underground and are known locally as doline or inghiottitoi [swallowers, literally].
From the village of San Bernardo di Desertetto (1085 m), follow the paved road that crosses the village and becomes unpaved. Keep going straight past several turnoffs until, in Borghignon, the road forks: to the right, a quarry road, closed off, and to the left the path that leads to the Colle dell'Arpione.
The dirt path turns sharply uphill and ends, at the edge of the beechwood, in a small grassy clearing. Ignore the dirt trail opposite leading to the Gias del Colle dell'Arpione and follow the trail to the right to Colle dell'Arpione.
Heading north in steep switchbacks, sometimes shaded by the trees, the trail reaches an ample pasture valley, dotted with some evident sinkholes.
Veering to the left, a well-traveled path through the meadows winds along the bottom of the little valley all the way to the base of the steep incline at the foot of the Colle. The path continues uphill to a fork: take the trail on the right and after reaching the top of the ridge, continue on past the turnoff on the left for the Gias del Colle dell'Arpione. After passing through a small stand of firs, you will emerge on the Colle dell'Arpione (2 hours and 10 minutes from Desertetto).
For the return leg, backtrack from the pass to the next to last fork and follow the path which, flanked by rhododendrons, heads towards the nearby beechwood. As soon as you enter the woods you will make out a clear trail, which further on becomes an easy mule track and then a farm road. Descending gently at first and then more steeply, you will come to the dirt road you followed at the outset, just at the point where it ends. Follow it to the village of Desertetto (1 hour and 30 minutes from the Colle dell'Arpione).
Access and parking
From Borgo San Dalmazzo, drive up the Valle Gesso. After passing through Valdieri, continue on towards Terme, turning right for Desertetto. Continue on to the hamlet of San Bernardo.
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