Hiking (mountain trail, in places narrow and exposed)
Alpine route (equipped or very exposed section, snow field, blocks)
Col de Turini » Sospel
This last, low-altitude, stage on the Blue Trail, takes the GR® 52A. It enters the core zone of the Mercantour national park just after the village of Moulinet and leaves it at the “Bandita de Barrins” area on the southernmost edge of the Mercantour national park. Next, a descent brings you to the stage destination, Sospel, a medieval village at the heart of the Bévéra valley.
At the heart of the Maritime Alps, the stage brings you to the famous town of Sospel after the Turini pass, a symbol of the incessant Franco-Italian wars throughout history.
The pass, a former border between the county of Savoie and XVIIth century France, is a passageway under the direct surveillance of the Authion fortresses in the North, forming a strategic vantage point.
In the middle of the alpine pastureland and rather low peaks, the trail advances towards Moulinet. As of the XIIIth century, its location in the centre of a lush and humid mountain cirque, the quality of the soil and the sun exposure led to the establishment of an annex of Sospel there, used by farmers to provide access to other fields. In order to avoid incessant comings and goings between abode and farmland, a flour mill was built on-site, thus giving its name, molinetto, to the village.
Overhanging the Piaon gorges, the trail heads out again to the beech and chestnut forests to reach Sospel, a medieval village dating back to the Vth century. During the rapid construction of the royal route from Nice to Turin commissioned by King Victor-Emmanuel I at the end of the XVIth century, Sospel became a stopover location and thus benefited from the ongoing commercial transit. The Pont Vieux bridge was used at the time as a toll point for caravans and the St Roch and Suchet forts served as lookout towers. The architecture of the town is therefore a reflection of this prosperity: beautiful Gothic dwellings in stone with archways, slightly theatrical décor of Italian influence, and numerous trompe-l’œil facades.
Sospel has for a long time represented a strategic crossroads: a town in the heart of the defensive system from the time of the Franco-Italian conflicts, a stopover town for commercial routes and today a popular tourist destination. Furthermore, the town also boasts several oil mills. In all of the Mediterranean Basin in fact, the olive tree proved from a very early stage to be a reliable source of income and a symbol of power, owing to local sales and, above all, exports (as a barter good). And this region enjoys all of the conditions required for olive cultivation: heat, sunshine and low altitude.
As of Sospel, the blue trail joins the red trail of Via Alpina, uniting the Mediterranean in two stages via Monaco (stages 160 and 161).
(Sara Zeidler, Gilles Chappaz, Grande Traversée des Alpes)