The Via del Sale or Upper salt road is a trail that winds at an altitude of over 2000 meters (6561 ft) above sea level. It winds on a vertiginous ridge between France and Italy.
Once a connecting road between Provence and Piedmont, today it is a touristic circuit dedicated to the contemplation of nature.
Where is Via del Sale ?
One of the classic sections of this route is undoubtedly the one in Italy between Monesi at 1400 meters (4590 ft) above sea level, a hamlet of the small municipality of Mendatica (Liguria region), starting and finishing point of several hiking itineraries, and the tourist village of Limone Piemonte (Piedmont region).
The route, characterized by one of the most characteristic natural panoramas of the Maritime Alps and by an extraordinary variety of suggestive landscapes, develops almost entirely on dirt roads and mule tracks. It is located on the border area between the Province of Cuneo and Imperia and France.
You can locate the road on the map below:
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Facts about the salt road in Italy
It winds its way between 1800 (5900 ft) and 2100 (6890 ft) meters of altitude, following the ridges of the Italian-French border, crossing Alpine passes at mid-slope, taking spectacular twists and turns.
The route, completely made of gravel, is about 30 km long and connects Limone Piemonte, in the province of Cuneo, to Monesi di Triora, in the mountains of Liguria.
Traffic is allowed during the summer months after the snow melts and in autumn. The route passes through wonderful places such as the Carsene area, with its almost lunar-like landscapes, rich in geological phenomena; the preserved environments of the Mediterranean Alps, the Park of the Marguareis, and the Ligurian Alps with their rich biodiversity, the Bosco delle Navette.
The road also runs along military fortifications from the end of the 19th century.
History of the road:
The salt roads or vie del sale in Italy, were ancient routes and navigation routes used by salt merchants.
The section of road that starts from Monesi and reaches Limone Piemonte, passing through La Brigue, to reach the Col de Tende, was built and widened for military purposes during the years 1938-1939 as part of the fortifications of the Vallo Alpino Occidentale (Western Alpine Wall) wanted and realized by Mussolini to attack France more easily in June 1940.
This section of road was therefore used for several years as a connecting route between the various fortified sectors of the I and II Vallo Alpino defensive system.
Things to do nearby the Salt Road
The Upper salt road takes you to discover a vast territory, straddling Italy and France, between mountains and sea.
The selection of itineraries for family walks, for long sporty rides, for mountain bikers, and for those who practice 4×4 allows you to penetrate a territory that unfolds in three vast park areas. The road is punctuated by towns and villages that offer visitors a lot of breathtaking scenery.
Along this itinerary, you can find contact with the wild nature of the peaks. The pleasure of pedaling along the trails, museums, historical centers, excellent gastronomy, picnic areas, and much more.
How to get to the Salt Road ?
You can drive the pass road from both sides. From Limone Piemonte or from Monesi.
To reach the road from the Italian coast, from Ventimiglia to Arma di Taggia, reach the village of Triora then reach the drop of Sanson by Realdo then by the step of Tanarel the Stazione Ingresso Via Del Sale, 18025 Briga alta CN.
To reach the itinerary from Limone Piemonte, go to the pass of Tende and the Stazione Ingresso Via Del Sale, 12015 Limone Piemonte CN, Italy. From La Brigue by the Sainson pass, then Tanarel, then Stazione Ingresso Via Del Sale, 18025 Briga alta CN
You visualize how to get there on this map of the drive:
Is Via del Sale Open?
To access this route, you must purchase a passage permit. It costs about 15€ for motorized vehicles.
The route is usually open from mid-June to mid-October. Also, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the route is closed to motorized traffic. So if you are on a bike or on foot, you should avoid these days.
We also advise checking in advance if the road is open before going there.
A preview of this road:
You can also explore this road without going there. Indeed, you can easily find a video of this itinerary YouTube :
If you want to travel a unique route, the Via del Salte is for you. Indeed, the practices are multiple: you can discover this track in quads, motorcycle,s or 4×4. Also, for more immersion, some days are reserved for hikers and mountain bikers. The immensity of the landscapes stretches as far as the eye can see, you really have your head in the clouds. A splendid perched itinerary to discover an impressive experience. So, don’t forget your camera!
Pictures sources: @simone.mondino on instagram | Cafe du cycliste https://www.cafeducycliste.com/wp/en-fr/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2019/09/riviera-gravel-via-del-sale-4.jpg
Discover other roads around in Italy: click here or see our road map!