The Val Chisone (Chisone Valley)

The Val Chisone (Chisone Valley) and the Germanasca Valley are perhaps the least known regions of Piedmont, and everything about this territory of gorges, valleys, and soaring mountains is rather special and unique, from the locals being Waldesian and not Catholic to the fact that the European equivalent of the Great Wall of China is to be found here. Get ready to be amazed.

A Bit of History

Waldenesians in Piedmont

Well actually there is a lot of history, but I will only cover it briefly. The area has always been of strategic importance, being located on the border between Piedmont and France - the nearby Fenestrelle Fortress is testament to this.

Here, in these scenic valleys, a unique chapter of religious history unfolds—the story of the Waldensians.

The Waldensians originated in the late 12th century in the area of Lyon, France. The movement was led by Peter Waldo, a wealthy merchant who, inspired by his Christian faith, chose to divest himself of his wealth and dedicate his life to preaching the Gospel. The Waldensians, also known as the Vaudois, followed in his footsteps and embraced a simple, evangelical lifestyle.

Their history, however, is one marked by persecution and resilience. It wasn't until 1848 that the Waldensians were finally granted full religious freedom, a testament to their unwavering commitment to their beliefs despite the challenges they faced. The valleys became a haven for a community that had weathered storms of adversity, and their unique identity began to flourish.

What sets the Waldensian community apart is not just their religious affiliation but their resilient spirit, a spirit that has withstood the test of time and historical turbulence. In these valleys, you'll encounter a people proud of their heritage, holding onto a sense of identity that has transcended centuries.

As you stroll through the quaint villages nestled against the backdrop of lush greenery, you'll witness not just the beauty of the landscape but also the echoes of a determined past. The valleys have become a living testament to the endurance of the Waldensian spirit, a spirit that thrives amidst the breathtaking scenery.

What to See

The Val Chisone (Chisone Valley) and the Germanasca Valley are sparsely populated, and there is very little public transport or organized tour availability. Therefore, get yourself a car rental to be able to thoroughly discover this territory in its full magnificence.

cars in Italy

The Great Wall of Piedmont (Fortress of Fenestrelle)

Fortress of Fenestrelle

I find the Fenestrelle Fortress amazing, yet it is so little known, with only a few Italian and French tourists visiting.

The lack of tourists is amazing when you consider that this is the greatest defensive structure ever built in Europe and is second only to the Great Wall of China in terms of length. In fact, in Italy, it is often called the Great Wall of Europe. Yet, despite that, I have yet to meet a foreigner who has ever heard of it.

The engineering that went into its construction nearly 300 years ago leaves you feeling in awe of those who risked life and limb to build it up on these soaring mountain tops.

The castle and wall were originally built by the French but were renamed, rebuilt, and extended by Ignazio Bertola, who worked for the Savoy King Vittorio Amedeo. In total, it took over 120 years to build and now covers well over a million square meters.

It truly is an unforgettable place. The walk along the walls takes seven hours and involves a climb of nearly 4,000 steps.

Sestriere and Usseaux


These towns are the main ski resorts in the area but even during summer Usseaux is well worth visiting.

Usseaux is delightful, with narrow winding streets lined with attractive slate roofed houses in the traditional style of the area. It is considered one of Italy's loveliest villages. For our guide to the skiing in this area and elsewhere in Piedmont, visit our Piedmont Ski Guide.

Usseaux Cottages with flower boxes

Tredici Laghi

The name "Tredici Laghi," translating to "Thirteen Lakes," encourages adventurers to wander off the beaten path and uncover the hidden gems nestled in this bucolic setting.

A leisurely walk through this idyllic terrain not only offers breathtaking vistas but also reveals the delicate balance of nature. The air is perfumed with the fragrance of wildflowers, and the gentle rustle of leaves accompanies the rhythmic footsteps, creating a symphony of nature that resonates with tranquility. Each lake, with its reflective surface mirroring the surrounding beauty, becomes a tranquil oasis amidst the rolling hills.


It's one of the biggest towns in the area, with around 20,000 inhabitants and the market is one of the biggest in all of Piedmont outside of Turin. It is filled with food, clothes, shoes, and other bargains that my wife can't tear herself away from. If you love markets, then you'll love this one. It is held each Wednesday and Saturday.

What else to see? Well, the cathedral, originally built in the 11th century and reconstructed in the 15th is certainly worth a visit. Also, spend a little time in Piazza Duomo, a lively square surrounded by cafes and historic buildings. The piazza is at the centre of the old town and the narrow streets around the piazza are fascinating to explore.

Pinerolo is not only a feast for the eyes but also a haven for culinary enthusiasts. The local gastronomy reflects the region's agricultural abundance, with an array of farm-fresh produce and delectable dishes. Indulge in Piedmontese specialties like agnolotti and bagna cauda, and let the flavors of the region dance on your palate.

The cultural calendar is dotted with events that celebrate its heritage. The Palio di Pinerolo, one of the most important horse races in Italy, is held in July, draws locals and tourists alike, infusing the town with a festive spirit.

San Germano Chisone

Make a point of visiting this little town to better understand the history and character of the Waldensian people. There is also a temple and museum that open only on request. Try asking in the temple, or if desperate, call the pastor, Luciano Deodato, at 0121/58614.

The nearby hamlet of Combina will give you a good idea of the traditional houses in the area; just ask any local in San Germano Chisone for directions.

The hill town of Turina is also a pleasant little place, and the center of the town has a very decent restaurant serving traditional food from this region. To get here, take the SS 23 road; a little after Fossat, you will find Turina.

Where to Stay

No doubt about it the Hotel Barrage in Pinerolo is the best option. This is a top-quality Relais hotel located in a beautifully restored 19th-century mill.

Otherwise, try the excellent Bella Baita, run by a marvelous couple, Fabrizio and Marla, both of whom are chefs. The whole place is very special, and Fabrizio and Marla will ensure that you experience the authentic lifestyle of these valleys. Their love for this area is very evident and infectious.

Where are the Chisone and Germanesca Valleys

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