To celebrate its 21st birthday this year Hidden Italy, niche walking tour operator, will retrace the steps of Australian war heroes on a special hike in August 2015.
The extraordinary Trails to Freedom hike follows the same route taken by four young Australian soldiers during World War II, when they escaped a fascist prison camp in 1943. Based on several years’ research, their escape route followed a network of medieval paths that had been reopened by partisans, which the locals re-baptised the ‘sentieri della liberta’ or the ‘trails to freedom’.
Starting in Biella and finishing at the Mt Moro Pass, the trail passes through some of the most spectacular scenery in the European Alps over nine days. Staying in hotels as well as pilgrim monasteries and mountain huts, the hike covers 96km with an accumulated ascent of 5,000 metres. A large part of the trail follows ancient pack routes, variously narrow, wide, cobbled and paved, as well as some long stretches of scree and boulders.
“It has been an extremely rewarding journey putting this walk together. After years of research and connecting with some of the families of the Australian soldiers we are proud to offer this special walk to our travellers,” says Simon Tancred, founder and director of Hidden Italy.
“Technically the route is simple, however, it does include climbs of more than a thousand metres on several days and as it crosses high altitude country where weather conditions can change dramatically, it requires a high level of fitness. Although the walk goes through uncontaminated mountain landscapes, this is an ancient land: traders, pilgrims and graziers have been passing through here for millennia.”
The walk travels through the region of Piemonte (Piedmont), home of the Slow Food movement and one of Italy’s premier food and wine regions. The food on the tour will always be local, hearty and delicious: a first course which may consist of risotto, ravioli or polenta; mains such as veal or rabbit stew; and a desserts such as bonet (a thick chocolate pudding) or a slice of excellent mature local cheese, chased down with coffee or a shot of grappa.
Simon, who has 30 years’ experience hiking and walking in Italy, 20 escorting groups for Hidden Italy, will lead the tour. He will be supported by Matteo Negro, a certified local alpine guide, who is a passionate hiker and an expert conservationist with a Phd in the biodiversity of alpine vegetation.