Occitan itineraries

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The province of Cuneo is  the extreme eastern tip of Occitania, the linguistic region that covers most of the south of France and extends as far as the little valley of Aran in Catalunya (Spain). Here in Italy, Occitania extends over thirteen valleys in Piedmont, with a harsh, mountainous landscape that differs from the rest of Occitania. Arriving from the Po plain, the valleys open fanlike towards the west: the crown of peaks closes the horizon, glowing pale pink in the morning sunlight and silhouetted darkly against the evening sky.

Accessible only with great difficulty for much of human history, the valleys developed their own peculiarities, in both language and traditions. But thinking of these places as isolated worlds would be a mistake: their pathways and roads were incessantly travelled, from Medieval times, from one end to the other, across what is now Italian territory and into the French territory. Proof of this is in the langue d'oc common to these people, the artistic heritage left by the painters who worked there, the itinerant traders that brought people from the Mediterranean sea up into the mountains, from one valley to another, and down from the mountains to the Po plain and beyond. 

In the mountains, slow, steady steps are necessary to reach the top. In the same way, time and patience are essential if we want to discover the splendours of this territory in the villages, hamlets, and tiny offshoot valleys. Progress is slow and the eye must be watchful, the steps silent to catch glimpses of the nature of the place and the marks of man who has tried to live there.

The thirteen valleys preserve natural treasures: the geological marvels of the karsts, the flora and fauna, as well as the architectural culture, the music, literature and culinary traditions. Sadly, the area has lost many of its inhabitants since the end of World War II, and far too few people are left to bear the responsibility for maintaining this legacy. Often the meadows are eaten up by the woods, and the deer and boars take back plots that once were vegetable gardens.

A new awareness of the respect and safeguard of the environment and its traditions has led to the creation of nature parks and museums in the area, to preserve the memory of how it used to be, and confirm that the mountain is a treasure that we must not let slip away. 

 

Discover these valleys one by one: download the Guide to the Occitan Valleys in the Province of Cuneo.