With a total length of 60km, Via del Sale is an old military road, between Monesi and Limone (Italy). Among many roads that connected the ancient Liguria and Piedmont to France, this is one of the most famous and popular. This road has humbled many egos. It’s not for the sissies and shouldn’t be attempted by novice drivers.
The Via del Sale, also known as Route du Marguareis, is a Ligurian track built in the Middle Ages to transport salt from Ventimiglia to Limone Piemonte and from there to Turin. As a result, the road has been enlarged and many sections were magnified and transformed into military roads to connect the numerous forts located along the border between Italy and France. Today, it is a wonderful dirt road, which runs along the ridges of the Maritime Alps on the border between Italy and France, in a wild landscape and stunning views of the sea and the mountains.
This route is closed to traffic during the winter months (October to March) because of the snow, but it can be closed anytime when the access is not cleared of snow. On summer, being one of the best known and most popular routes of the western Alps, it’s necessary to pay close attention to the transit of mountain biking and horseback riding. This scenario is particularly challenging at the hairpin turns along the climbs sharply slope, because the engine of cars are being really forced during all the path. Extended over a length of about 60 km, most of which (48.71km to 59.61) on dirt roads and mule tracks, the off-road route from Monesi Limone is a path that can be defined as first class in every aspect.The word ‘order’ is always needed. You’ll need to move with extreme caution to minimize the risk, and before many steps you will need to go down the car and walking to inspection the road. In fact, the difficulties in terms of off-road are significant and require (in addition to a consolidated experience) a good knowledge of driving skills and, above all, an extreme and constant attention because of the dizzying cliffs that open on either side of the track along the route.
The road climbs up several mountain passes, including:
Passo della Guardia 1.508m (4,947 ft)
Passo di Collardente/Pas de Colle Ardente 1.617m (5,305 ft)
Colle di Perla 2.215m (7,267 ft)
Colle de Carsene 2.221m (7,286 ft)
Colle Malaberghe/Col de Malabergue 2.225m (7,299 ft)
Passo di Tanarello/Pas du Tanarel 2.042m (6,699ft)
Col de la Boaire/Colle della Boaria 2.102m (6,896ft)
Col de Seigneurs/Colle del Lago dei Signori 2.130m (6,988ft)
Colle del Garezzo 1.795m (5,889ft)
2019 Update: For a long time this road was not maintained and so became very famous for adventure drivers. This has changed. The road is now partly maintained but still a rough gravel road you should not underestimate. Do not try to drive is if your vehicle is not offroad capable with enough ground clearance and if you are not really sure that you are able to handle all challenges. If you have a problem: No one will be able to help you. Now you have to book a fee in advance if you want to drive on this road. The fee is 15 EUR and the number of permits per day are limited. More information here: https://altaviadelsale.com/
Even if you are an experienced driver the whole distance takes at minimum 2 hours even if you try to rush through. Better calculate half a day or even more.
Road suggested by: Michael Spannlang
Pic: Matteo Quaglia