In the north, it follows the Italian/Swiss border in the footsteps of the Walser, a people who came from the upper Rhine valley in what is now the Valais, and colonised the high-altitude lands from the Vorarlberg in Austria to the southern slopes of Monte Rosa in Italy in the 13th century. Even today, minority German-speaking communities can still be found as far as Gressoney in the Val d’Aosta.
While the Walser areas are characterised by cattle farming and cheese making, you will find sheep in the mountain meadows further south, which are still used every year as a summer pasture for thousands of animals brought from Provence and the Po plain. The Via Alpina crosses the wilder southern slopes of the Gran Paradiso National Park, once the final sanctuary for the ibex, and from whence the species was then reintroduced throughout the Alps.
Between Val de Susa and the Maritime Alps, the trail comes close to the French border, crossing it several times. There are many opportunities to link up with the Red Trail and other local routes along the way.
Around Monte Viso, with its profile that symbolises the Southern Alps and a mountaineering Mecca, on whose slopes the River Po originates, the Piedmont valleys were hit hard by the rural exodus in the 20th century. Nowadays, local initiatives based on green tourism and pluriactivity try to revive the abandoned villages.
The Via Alpina Blue Trail continues along the French slopes, going down through the quietest part of the Mercantour National Park to the village of Sospel, where it meets the Red Trail.
Massifs crossed: Valaisian Alps - Pennine Alps - Cottian Alps (Queyras/Viso) - Maritime Alps.