The Grand Tour
A spectacular ring road of 374 kilometers going through ten valleys of the Southern Alps, touching or reaching some missed points: it is the Grand Tour. Along the way, they meet high mountain environments and impressive military fortifications, hills that made cycling history and passes that have witnessed the passage of kings and armies, alpine lakes and perched villages, works of nature and human artefacts. Just a little taste of what the cross-border territory offers to those who pass through it. But, la grande boucle, the large asphalted ring is not a pretext: to truly discover the heart of the Parks, you must forget cars and move slowly, relying on the bicycle or your feet in order to understand the streets of these towns, the military roads and the trails at high altitude that have combined the Marittime and Mercantour for centuries.
The Grand Tour is an invitation, a business card, a message in a bottle destined to those who are passionate about the mountains at 360°, able to enthuse over a landscape of beautiful alpine villages. The route of the Grand Tour is not a thread of Ariadne, useful for orientation, but is made to be abandoned.
Why the Grand Tour? Because the Grand Tour is the journey of discovery and experience through the Alps. In the eighteenth century, only the young British men of good standing could enjoy this long holiday of education and entertainment in Southern European, the ancient heart of the West.
To reach the cities of art and the capitals, wealthy travellers, however, were forced to cross the Alps: in principle, this could have been considered an annoying obstacle laying in a path, inhospitable places inhabited by strange people... but the touristi soon learn to appreciate the alpine valleys and the mountains, therefore making it a popular destination!
More numerous discoveries of a world start and are finally made more accessible by the progressive improvement of the road network and the emergence of post stations and inns. The area now occupied by the Parco delle Alpi Marittime and the Mercantour, halfway between Nice and Turin, with the connection of the Route royale through the Roya Valley and the Colle di Tenda, becomes a land of passage for those who move to Europe to discover the historical and artistic roots of the continent.
The spirit of the eighteenth century Grand Tour is still alive, and the mountains for the Maritime and Mercantour Alps still represent an attraction for those seeking new horizons. Today, as then, those doing the Grand Tour will return transformed: enchanted by the beauty and enriched by encounters along the way, read for new beginnings.