Val di Mello nature reserve: little Yosemite of Italy

  • Elena Lukashova elena -
  • January 10, 2021 -
  • -
  • Last Update: March 14, 2021 5 minute read
Elena Lukashova

elena - January 10, 2021 - Hiking Trails

Last Update: March 14, 2021

5 minute read

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Val di Mello (Mello Valley) is, with no doubt, one of Italy’s must-see destinations.

Also known as the Italian Yosemite for its smooth and shiny rocky walls that surround beautiful streams and waterfalls, this valley is especially famous among climbers and bouldering practitioners.

Water streams, green fields and smooth mountain rocks of Val di Mello
Val di Mello | © Bielo into the Wild

Besides this, the valley is also a nice hiking destination for both trained hikers and nature lovers of all ages and without any special mountain experience.

In other words, it’s a perfect getaway idea for sports, nature and relaxation! 

A few words about Val di Mello

Situated about 130 km from Milan, Val di Mello is the largest natural reserve in the Lombardy region in northern Italy. It is part of Valtellina, a valley bordering Switzerland.

The most famous spot of Val di Mello is the lake called the “Countess Bidet” (Bidet della Contessa), a beautiful emerald green lake with crystal clear water that mirrors the surrounding mountains.

emerald green lake in Val di Mello surrounded by mountains
The ‘Countess Bidet’ lake | @ribo_86

Due to its campsites, restaurants and accessible hiking trails, Val di Mello can be quite crowded during the summer season, especially during weekends. However, thanks to numerous open spaces, people are usually evenly distributed all over the valley 🙂

In any case, in order to avoid the crowd, my suggestion would be to go there during the week or, if not possible, early in the morning. Coming early is also important to get a parking spot.

How to get to Val di Mello

Since Val di Mello was recognized as a nature reserve, access by vehicles to the valley is forbidden. However, you can reach the nearest village, San Martino, in two ways: by car and by public transport.

From San Martino, you can take a shuttle to the entrance of the valley: there is one every 15 minutes. In 2019, the prices were € 2 each way for adults and € 1 for children. In 2020, the shuttle service was unavailable due to the Covid-19, but the entrance to the valley is easily reachable on foot as well (about 20 minutes).

If you travel by car

You can park your car in San Martino. There are two parking areas available in the village:

  1. A parking area at the beginning of the village: 20 euro/day* on weekends and holidays (summer season price).
  2. A parking area at the sports field: 7 euro/day* on weekends and holidays (summer season price).

Otherwise, there is a parking area along the road to the entrance of the valley, but the access is allowed to max. 40 vehicles/day. To park there, you will need to purchase a €10* pass at the parking meter located in front of the infopoint in San Martino. On crowded days, you have to come really early in the morning (by 7 a.m. or even earlier) to get a spot there.

*The prices above were valid during the summer season of 2020. For the updated information regarding the summer season, as well as mid and winter seasons, please contact me or write at

important to know:
As mentioned above, it’s better to come earlier to get a parking spot, especially on weekends and holidays. Once all parking areas are full, the road to San Martino will be closed.

If you travel by public transport

1. Reach Morbegno by train: e.g. from Milan it will take you around 1h:40m.

2. At the train station, take a bus to S. Martino: travel time is about 50 minutes. You can check the updated timetable and prices on this website (Italian language only). To get the information you need, insert the following data:

Screenshot of the website with the timetable of the buses to Val di Mello
3. If available, take a shuttle to reach the entrance of the valley or go there on foot.

Trail options

There are two main trails that lead to Val di Mello from San Martino:

  • from the left side of the stream, following the cobblestone road. This variant is plain and gentle, accessible to everyone.
  • from the right side of the stream, following the trail that crosses the forest and pastures. This one’s also an easy trail with some “ups and downs”, a bit more fun than the first one, but bear in mind that it may not be very easy for untrained or elderly people.

hiking tip:
You can always change the side of the stream whenever you want. Otherwise, you can do a circular route, by doing the second trail first and then the easier one on your way back to the car.

The highest point of both trails is the Alpe Pioda hut (1,569 m / 5,148 ft). It takes around 2 hours of walking (one way) and 460 m (1,509 ft) of elevation gain to reach it. For the last 30 minutes of the trail, you will walk along a zig-zag trail through the woods. It is the part where you gain the most elevation, so it is quite steep.

Ten minutes before the hut, there is a panoramic viewpoint that gives a wonderful view over Val di Mello.

Panoramic view on the green mountain valley in Val di Mello
View from the panoramic point | © Bielo into the Wild

interesting to know:
In general, the area offers a wide range of hiking trails of different difficulty levels. The most famous one is the Rome Trail (Sentiero Roma), one of the classic routes in the central Alps that is 54 km long.

Best time to visit Val di Mello

Even though the most popular season is from mid-April to mid-October, you can visit Val di Mello at any time of the year. Every season in the valley has its own beauty and magic.

Autumn woods with mountains in the background
Val di Mello in the autumn | @fabio_supo

To avoid crowds, it is better to visit the valley outside the peak season. Colder weather will discourage families, untrained and elderly people from outdoor activities.

important to know:
During the winter season, the valley remains in the shade for most of the day. Therefore, you will need to wear hiking clothes and boots appropriate for the winter season to stay warm.

Winter mountain valley under the blu sky
Val di Mello in the winter | @ribo_86

Where to eat in Val di Mello

Val di Mello is full of open spaces and green fields where you can bring your blanket, picnic basket and board games 🙂

Otherwise, there are places where you can taste traditional Valtellina cuisine:

Moreover, the huts offer the possibility for overnight stays in the unique atmosphere in Val di Mello.


Enjoy your trip to Val di Mello!

I hope this article inspires you to visit this enchanting Italian valley as soon as possible.

Whatever period you choose, the landscape of Val di Mello will surely leave you speechless.

See you on the trail!


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