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Dace's guide to going hut-to-hut in the Italian Alps

This year Dace from the KE office was offered the chance to travel on our Gran Paradiso Summits adventure, trekking in the Itali... Read more
Dace's guide to going hut-to-hut in the Italian Alps

This year Dace from the KE office was offered the chance to travel on our Gran Paradiso Summits adventure, trekking in the Italian Alps. One of her highlights was the hut-to-hut experience. You'll find hut-to-hut trekking all over Europe, but they're never quite the same, and each country offers its own take on this fantastic way to trek. Here's Dace's insider's guide and top tips to going hut-to-hut in the Italian Alps. 

Situated high above everything, mountain huts in Italy offer spectacular views and an amazing atmosphere. During the Gran Paradiso Summits holiday we stayed at 5 mountain huts or 'rifugios', which is the Italian term: rifugio Mario Bezzi, the rifugio Benevolo, the rifugio Chivasso, the rifugio Vittorio Emanuele and the rifugio Federico Chabod.

Each of the huts had its own character and left its own mark on your memory. Some pride themselves on their cooking, others are known for their spectacular views. But wherever you go you’ll find the same easy, friendly hospitality, and the shared excitement from trekkers that comes from spending a night in a remote spot. It was my first time staying in mountain huts and I as well as the rest of the group really enjoyed it. I think it's something everyone should experience, so here's an insight into what it's actually like to trek hut-to-hut in the Italian Alps.

There are a few things to remember

There are some mountain hut rules to follow but it is a part of the experience. For example, when you stay at the mountain hut, you are not allowed to wear your walking boots inside the hut. You will have to leave your boots with your equipment (such as an ice axe and trekking poles) in a porch or boot room and take advantage of slippers supplied by the hut. All five huts provided different size crocs. You can take a lightweight pair of flip-flops with you for indoor use if you wish, for example, to use while in a shower but don’t forget that you will have to carry these in your rucksack during the day.

You'll get your own space...

Most of the mountain huts are small and in big demand in the high season. Don’t expect to have a private room on this trip. We were quite lucky with our rooms during the trek. Most of the time we stayed in a two dorm beds room, 4 people in each. One night we even had two triple deck bunk beds in a room (it took some time to get to the top bunk bed) and some of our group members also had to stay in a dorm for 20 people. There is always a silver lining – even if you stay in a big dorm room, you will have your own bed. It will be a bunk bed but at least yours for a night.

A dorm includes bunks with a pillow and a blanket on your bed. You have to bring only your own sleeping bag liner because the bedding in huts isn’t changed every day. Don’t forget to bring your earplugs, too. Even if you stay in a smaller room, there is always at least one person who snores or needs a toilet in the middle of the night. If you are a heavy sleeper, then that’s fine, good for you. But if you are not, then I would definitely recommend bringing your earplugs to have a good night sleep.

...and even the chance to shower 

The huts where we stayed had mixed-sex communal washrooms and toilets. You can have a shower in all 5 huts on this trip. To have a shower, you will have to pay EUR2 or EUR3 and in some places showers are for a limited time – 2 or 3 minutes only. Only at the rifugio Mario Bezzi I didn’t have to pay for a shower and it was the only place where it was cold.

The food is perfect adventure fuel

Snacks, soft drinks and alcohol are usually sold in the huts - you won’t go thirsty or hungry on this holiday. Huts accept cash only. Dinner usually was at 7pm and all huts provided a set dinner menu which was usually pasta with tomato sauce or soup as a starter, some meat and vegetables as a main course and a pudding. We didn’t have vegetarians in our group but all huts also provided an option for vegetarians. Portions were big and the food was very tasty.

Breakfast was basic but voluminous, and always had bread, butter, jam, Nutella, tea, coffee and milk. Two huts also offered cereal for breakfast. You can also buy a lunch pack for next day if required which usually has two sandwiches, a fruit (most likely it will be an apple) and a chocolate bar. You will need to order it the day before and will get it in the morning.

You don’t have to worry about drinking water as spring water is available at each of these five huts. It is for free to fill your bottles and safe to drink.

It's the perfect chance have a few days off-grid

‘And what about WiFi or phone signal during the trip?’ I can hear you asking. There isn’t such thing in the mountains and at the huts. No phone reception, no WiFi. Everyone was in the same boat, and we all survived! In fact, it was beautiful to put my phone away for a period. As one of my travel mates said after 6 days of trekking in the Alps and finally being able to check his e-mails, Facebook and news, nothing actually happened that couldn't wait a few days. 

Good thing about all these five huts is that you can charge your devices there. There is usually one multi-tap extension lead in a communal area for the whole hut and it works on ‘first come first served’ basis. If you are lucky to be able to charge your device at the hut, then it is for free. Another option is to bring a portable charger with you and you will know that you can charge your phone or camera any time when you need it. A little thing that will give you a peace of mind.

The mountain hut moments can make your adventure

Sometimes these are the moments you treasure most when you look back on your adventure. It's afternoon - it's been a long day of walking, but very rewarding. You’re at the rifugio with people who love the mountains, just like you. You are sitting outside with a perfect cuppa or refreshing cold beer, and looking at the mountains around you. There is smile on your face.

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