by Judy Churchill
The Libre Circuit
If you haven’t visited the Roya Valley, you haven’t lived! This is the valley of streams, waterfalls and majestic mountain scenery. Those of you who go skiing in Limone-Piemonte will have driven along the Roya valley road, which connects France to the popular ski resort. The history of this valley is as varied as its scenery. Over the course of history it has changed hands several times between France and Italy and this is reflected in the way you wind in and out of the two countries as you drive along the Roya valley road. Make sure you have your passport on you and be prepared for police border checks, which have been reintroduced. Don’t forget your shopping list !One of the great advantages of passing through Italy is being able to stop and stock up on cold pressed olive oil and other such culinary local specialities.
For this hike I’m taking you to the charming village of Libre located at 43 km from Monaco. If you want to make a weekend of it, I recommend staying in the nearby, very picturesque hamlet of Casterino (1555m) at the Chamois d’Or hotel http://www.hotelchamoisdor.net/index.php/en/ , where Angelo and his family will make you feel very welcome, not to mention serving you wonderful food and wine. If you do decide to stay overnight, take the opportunity to visit Tende and the Musée des Merveilles (museum of the valley of marvels). This museum which is open all day non stop, is not only fascinating but will help you prepare for your future hikes to valley of marvels (see article http://realriviera.com/wellbeing/happy-hiker-series-by-judy-churchill-casterino-and-the-valley-of-marvels/) and you will discover the history and features of the whole area. It has many special attractions designed just for children too, so the whole family will enjoy it. Entry is free. http://www.museedesmerveilles.com
To access Libre take the A8 motorway to Ventimiglia and then follow signs to Colle di Tenda
Limone Piemonte,Cuneo, Breil sur Roya, Airole. When you’ve crossed the border opposite the Italian vllage of Fanghetto, you continue on the N.204 until you reach Piène Basse (France) and then take a right turn up the windy road to Libre and park in the square by the church. It should take you around 55 minutes from Monaco.
This hike climbs a total of 500m and you start out at 480m altitude. Begin the hike from the square by taking the steps (East) between the houses and vegetable gardens at way marker 417. Carry on up through the pine forest and you will reach way marker 418 with a good view over the valley. Carry on upwards following the yellow rectangles called balises in French, past way markers 419 (take Mairise direction) and up to way marker 420. Come down via way markers 421,422,423 and 415 and finally take the road on the left to arrive back in the square. Always remember that if you haven’t seen a yellow ‘balise’ for a while then you’ve probably taken a wrong turn.
This is not a long hike and can be done easily in 2 hours 50 minutes including a short stop for a picnic. It’s a medium level walk and suitable for all the family.
The views are spectacular on this circuit and will give you a taste of what the Roya valley has to offer.
The hike can be done all year round but as always check the weather conditions before setting off. There is a special mountain weather forecast for the region MÉTÉO MONTAGNE : 08.99.71.02.06
Should you ever have an accident you should call the European emergency number 112 which is available 24/7 even in areas where your mobile network isn’t strong enough to reach local services. When doing a mountain hike such as this one, do not hike alone. You may not come across other hikers for the whole of the trail so it is important that you have someone with you in case of emergency. Do not stray off the trail. This is particularly important in the hunting season (September – December) as you may be mistaken for game. There are a number of fatal accidents every year where hunters have mistaken people for wild animals. If everyone respects their own territory (hunters must stay well clear of official trails) there should be no problems.
You will certainly want to take hiking sticks with this gradient, as they will help you both on the ascents and the way down. They also guarantee you get a full body work out. You’ll need a cap and sunglasses to keep the sun off your face (the sun is a lot stronger in the mountains so don’t forget the sunscreen) and several layers of clothing that you can shed or put on as your temperature changes. Remember to take more water than you think you’ll need (at least a litre and a half per person) and enough protein bars for during and after the hike. I always have a high fibre, high protein breakfast before I set off which means that I don’t need to carry a large picnic with me as good protein bars are sufficient (always take a couple of extra ones). Purpose-made hiking gear, boots and a rucksack are a must and you will need lighter wear for the Spring/Summer season and heavier/warmer for the Autumn/Winter period. Last but not least you will need the IGN n° 3841 OT map called “Vallée de la Roya” to map out your trail before you set off (all way markers are indicated on the IGN maps which are available for purchase online or at good book and sports shops). If you are a French speaker you can also find the hike on this link: https://randoxygene.departement06.fr/roya/circuit-de-libre-9393.html but you will still need your IGN map as these on-line guide maps are only approximate. There are also hike specific apps such as Visorando, which have both free and purchasable versions and can be very useful guides and even have GPS options. https://www.visorando.comhttps://www.visorando.comwhic
Enjoy your hike and don’t forget your camera!