The mountains in this northerly part of Italy have always provided many resources, but this has had a high cost. It is impossible to forget, for example, the toll in human lives during the construction of one of the most important infrastructures of the past centuries, the Simplon Railway Tunnel, which still connects the Ossola Valley with the Canton of Valais.
Today, the bowels of the Ossola mountains provide unexpected experiences: beginning with the gold mines that over the centuries have been a major production sector for the Ossola Valley. Shut down in the last century, some of them are now tourist attractions that tell dramatic and fascinating stories, helping adults and children to get to know a special world. The Toppa Valley mines, in the territory of Pieve Vergonte, in the Lower Ossola area, were exploited from the early 1800s. After worthwhile preservation and promotion work, they are now one of the most frequently visited deposits together with the Guia Gold Mine in the Anzasca Valley. The latter is the first gold mine museum in the Alps, opened again as a tourist and cultural attraction when mining ended there.
A special water, one of the richest in metals in the world, flows from other mines, those known as the “Cani” mines near Vanzone, also in the Anzasca Valley. This is a treasure that is still put to the best possible use today, due to an avant-garde medical-scientific project.
The Ornavasso and Mergozzo areas, in Lower Ossola, are historically linked to the quarrying of Candoglia pink marble, used to build Milan’s Duomo, as well as Montorfano white and Mergozzo green granites. In reality, however, all the Ossola valleys have been shaped by decades of work of men, who still quarry stones such as Serizzo, Beola, marble and granite…
Obviously, these truly spectacular openings between the valleys cannot be visited, with one notable exception: each year, in fact, the Val Grande National Park organises guided tours of the Candoglia Marble Quarry for Milan Cathedral, an opportunity not to be missed.
While less noticeable and deep, the “cracks” formed by the military trenches seem to remind us of the wounds that World War I left in the Ossola Valley too: the Cadorna Line is now an extraordinary military architecture complex, worth visiting at any season of the year.
The erosive action first of ice, and then of water, has created authentic natural wonders in the Antigorio Valley, like the Uriezzo Gorges, the Giants’ Potholes (Marmitte Dei Giganti) in Maiesso and in Croveo: signposted and safe routes will take you to extraordinary and absolutely fascinating places.
The Ossola Valley’s heart beats hard, even and above all in the bowels of its mountain chains, revealing veritable treasures of priceless value to the eyes of the most discerning visitors.