By updating the ancient salt road that had a junction at Sempione Pass, Stockalper launched a major trade network between Italy and France. Today, the route is a sustainable tourist attraction beckoning travellers to a land with a rich historical and naturalistic legacy.
The Via Stockalper that crosses the Divedro Valley follows the original path, but the construction of large infrastructures, including the railway and the Sempione tunnel, together with the significant consequences of landslides and floods, led to the destruction of certain sections of this historic road, condemning it to neglect. A major recovery and development process recently began, which has now made it possible to travel the original route almost in its entirety (the last recovery and development work, financed in the scope of the interregional project “Il Trenino Verde delle Alpi”, is slated for completion between late 2021 and early 2022).
The route – which has been divided into four sections, each taking a day to cover – starts in either Domodossola or Briga, but in both cases, the significant ascent makes it an option for expert hikers only.
The BLS railway and the Swiss mail bus may shorten the journey (and are currently mandatory for the section between Gondo and Iselle): travellers can enjoy the comfortable journey on board the Trenino Verde delle Alpi, starting in Domodossola and arriving in Briga in slightly over 30 minutes. This is where the itinerary from Switzerland to Italy begins, with an ascent of 1,610 metres from Briga to Sempione Pass.
The BLS Trenino Verde delle Alpi, starting in either Briga or Domodossola, has two stops in Italy: in Iselle (the start of the third section of the Via Stockalper) and Varzo (the start of the fourth), so it may also be used as a way of reducing the ascent from Domodossola. Another recommended option might therefore be to travel on board the panoramic BLS trains in the section from Domodossola to Varzo or to Iselle, then choosing one of these locales to complete the itinerary to Briga, in the Valais Canton. From here, travellers may return to Domodossola on board a BLS train.
Another important note concerning the section between Gondo (in Switzerland) and Iselle (Italy) is that this section of the trail is not 100% viable, and so the Swiss mail bus must be used to cover the distance between the two towns. The bus can also be useful if you’d like to shorten and facilitate the journey, e.g., by reaching Sempione Pass – the highest point on the entire Via Stockalper – from Briga or from Domodossola.