This is a guest post by Italian Alps hiking guide Roberto Calcagno. Grazie Roberto!
For those of you who would like to go hiking in the Italian Alps and are seeking rare and amazing places with almost unbelievable stories, this hike is for you! The Grand Pertus of Colombano Romean, also known as the Thullie hole, is an incredible cave at a height of 2020m (6600 ft). It’s located above the small village of Chiomonte in the Susa Valley, the main valley that connects the city of Turin with France.
The Thullie hole has a unique history: built in the 16th century, it was completed over 8 years by just one man – using a pick axe. Colombano Romean, who is still a legend in the local population, dug through the rock making progress of just 20 cm (8 inches) per day, until after 8 years he had created a 600 m (2000 foot) long tunnel through the mountain! This tunnel connected the fertile Thullie with the townships of Ramats and Cels which had no access to water at that time. The new tunnel gave the towns access to water, which meant that it was now possible for many farmers to survive in harsh mountain environment.
Another funny part of the story is the remuneration that Romean asked and obtained: half a liter of wine and around 200g of rye per day and around 320 shields. Romean died soon after completing the tunnel, and according to the legend, the townspeople killed him in order to avoid payment. An alternate version of the story says that Romean died due to dropsy because of the strong wine of Chiomonte.
In order to reach the Thullie Hole you need to drive one hour west from Torino until you reach the small village of San Antonio di Ramats, (1400m / 4600 ft) and then follow the path uphill for about 2 hours on foot. Parking in the village is easy. The climb can be quite steep and wild in parts, with its hairpin bends and the roaring water along the way, although this trail is considered to be of easy to medium level.
Wildlife: As in the entire Susa valley, it is quite possible to meet local animals such as roe deer and chamois (a small animal that looks like a goat and lives only on mountains in Europe and western Asia). If you climb higher up the mountain, you may even see an ibex.
Once you arrive at the Gran Pertus tunnel you’ll realize with astonishment that the water that you saw along the climb came right from Thullie hole! Even after 500 years, Romean’s incredible handmade tunnel is still functioning and flushes the entire valley, making it possible for thousands of plants to thrive in the valley which continues to significantly impacts the livelihood of the entire community of local farmers.
Best time of year: This hike can be done year-round, though you may need snowshoes in the wintertime. If you want to walk through the Thullie tunnel, it’s possible in winter time, when there is very little water and the entire tunnel is accessible. Make sure you have waterproof boots and definitely a good flashlight, because in the middle of the tunnel – reached after a 15 minute walk, you’ll reach a gorgeous 4 meter high waterfall. In the summer you cannot walk through the tunnel as it’s flowing with water.
The path is not well-marked, so if you head out without a guide make sure you have a hiking map and follow Balcon Trail No. 6. The trail forks at an abandoned village at 2000 m (6500 ft); if you stay left you’ll continue to the tunnel. Taking the right fork will take you to Quattro Denti (see below).
For those who have the energy to go further, with an additional half an hour of hiking, you will reach the stunning Quattro Denti: four big rock formations that may remind you of the Dolomites mountains further to the east. This can be also one of the starting points for the fabulous 5 day trek around the Denti d’Ambin.
Author Roberto Calcagno is a licensed hiking guide with a true passion for the Italian Alps. Contact him about your trip at Trekking-alps.com.
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