One thing I love about hiking in Italy that I had no clue about before visiting Italy often is Italian Rifugi. We have visited many Italian Rifugi in the past few years, but Rifugio Oberto Maroli is hard to beat in terms of views. From Rifugio Oberto Maroli, you have stunning views of Monte Rosa, the second tallest mountain in the Alps (second only to Mont Blanc!). The views and food here are unmatched, especially since it is so easy to access, even in the winter.
Rifugio Oberto Maroli and the surrounding area was my absolute favorite place we visited the last time we went to Italy. I am almost reluctant to tell the world about this place because of how beautiful and wonderful it is, but I hope to share this place with you so that you may be able to visit this amazing place and experience it for yourself.
**This post is not sponsored or anything! We just love this place so much!
***Note: Included in this post are links to some Amazon products. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases (at no extra cost to you), but don’t feel pressured to buy anything! I only include links to products that we have tried or would use ourselves.
What is an Italian rifugio?
An Italian rifugio is essentially a mountain hut that often has beds for staying overnight and a restaurant. They range from bare bones rustic accommodation to lavish almost-luxury rooms and gourmet food. Rifugi are all throughout the mountains in Italy, with many located in the Dolomites and the Apennine Mountains.
Rifugi often have delicious “mountain food” that is particular to their region. For example, a popular dish that most rifugi in the Valtellina area of Italy (northern Lombardy) have is called pizzoccheri, which is a heavy buckwheat pasta with cheese, potatoes, and cabbage. At each rifugio you can find delicious food, so good its hard to believe that you found food this good at the top of a mountain pass or after hiking for so long.
One of the most popular rifugi is the Rifugio Lagazuoi in the Dolomites, but there are hundreds of rifugi around Italy. Sometimes the best rifugi are the small, not-well-known ones. Many rifugi are only open in the summer, but some, like Rifugio Oberto Maroli, is open year-round.
Where is Rifugio Oberto Maroli located?
Rifugio Oberto Maroli is located in the region of Piedmont in Italy. The closest town in Macugnaga, Italy. Rifugio Oberto Maroli is at an elevation of 2796 meters and is a 10-minute walk from Monte Moro Pass (elevation 2853 meters) on the Italian-Switzerland Border.
How to get to Rifugio Oberto Maroli
First, you must drive to the small mountain town of Macugnaga, Italy. Macugnaga, Italy is located in the Region of Piedmont. The closest large city to Macugnaga is Milan, Italy. The best way to reach Macugnaga, Italy is by car. There is not any convenient public transportation for a tourist to visit Macugnaga (the closest to Macugnaga you can get by public transportation is by taking a train from Milan to Domodossola which is still 40 km away from Macugnaga). So essentially, you must drive to get there.
side note: it’s a good idea to rent a car if visiting Italy. While yes, you can see Italy by taking the train around, you can see places a billion times prettier (and less crowded or touristy) by renting a car. All of the best places in Italy must be accessed by car. So if you are on the fence about it… the car is 100% worth it.
Milan, Italy to Macugnaga, Italy: 145 km, 2 hours
Turin, Italy to Macugnaga, Italy: 195 km, 2.5 hours
When you arrive in Macugnaga, follow signs for the funivia. You will drive through the little town and will drive through the main square and continue on a little road that has houses on each side. If you look to your far right, you will see the cables going up the side of the mountain that are connected to a white building at the bottom that has FUNIVIE on it. This is where you are wanting to go. Feel free to use google maps to take you there, but when we went, google maps led us the wrong way down a non-driving street, so make sure you follow the signs and watch where you are going. Instead of following Google Maps to the funivia directly, put your destination as “Parcheggio Funivia Alpe Moro.” Pay to park for the day at the gray kiosks with the blue parking symbol on it and make sure to put the ticket on the dash of your car so that you don’t get a ticket while you are up on the mountain.
Now that you have arrived at Macugnaga, you have to get to the Monte Moro Pass area to reach the rifugio. There are 2 options of how to do this. You can walk to the top OR (the preferred and easier way) you can take the funivie.
Walking to the top is more of an option for the summer and it is quite a long walk with a lot of elevation gain. I don’t want to say that it is impossible in the winter as we saw a man ascending on foot on skis with specialized gear when we visited in the winter, but I can say that it is typically discouraged.
A funivia (funivia singular, funivie plural) is a lift that will take you in a little box on cables to the top of the mountain. The funivie can be taken in the summer and the winter as long as the weather is good.
If you have decided to take the funivie, to reach Monte Moro Pass where Rifugio Oberto Maroli is located, you will need to take 2 separate funivie to reach the top. Buy your tickets from the white building beside the parking lot that says “FUNIVIE” on it. Make sure that you buy tickets for both funivie and that it is round trip (unless you plan on walking down). You will be given one ticket that is valid for your round trip rides, so make sure that you don’t loose your ticket. When we visited in the winter of 2021, it was 18 euros roundtrip per person.
If you have never taken a funivia before, I’ll give you a little recap of what happens. You will scan your ticket and get in the little cable car. All of the funivie I have encountered are standing only. When the funivia is ready to leave, there will be a lot of beeping before it starts ascending. Be sure to hold on as it can sometimes sway a little. There are always beautiful views in all directions.
Since there are two funivie to reach the top of Monte Moro Pass, get off the first funivia and follow signs for the second funivia. You will need to again scan your ticket to get on. The second funivia is a little bigger and holds more people. When you get off the second funivia, look to your right and you will see the Rifugio Oberto Maroli (with bright yellow letters on the front). Even in the winter, you can walk to the funivia from here (you only need warm boots). Follow the short path from the funivia and you will have arrived!
Things to Know About Visiting Rifugio Oberto Maroli
Get a table with mountain views
Rifugio Oberto Maroli has tables both inside and outside. If it is warm enough, definitely try to sit outside if you can. The tables outside are on a balcony with a 270-degree view of the mountains. The view here feels like you have the mountains all to yourself. However, if you prefer to sit inside or its too cold to sit outside, the views from inside are just as good. Inside the rifugio is in the typical alps design with wood paneling and large windows with peaks of the mountain peaks.
Their menu includes a lot of traditional “Italian mountain food”
Their menu was a small menu hand-written on a piece of paper with many local favorites. If you are unsure what is in a dish, don’t be afraid to ask! I tried the Macunagese pasta which was DELICIOUS pasta with a sauce of local melted cheese, potatoes, and pancetta. Luca tried their polenta (a northern Italian corn dish that is almost like grits) covered in loads of butter and cheese. Some other dishes tried at our table include a local soup with cabbage and sausage and an appetizer that was similar to a grilled piadina (similar to a quesadilla but don’t tell an Italian that I said that!) with prosciutto cotto (like ham) and cheese inside. I tell you all of this to say, that everything at the Rifugio Oberto Maroli is completely delicious, which just complements the amazing view.
Visit on a day with good weather
Since we were visiting in the winter and the snow in the mountain passes can be quite substantial, we called the Rifugio Oberto Maroli to make sure that there wasn’t too much snow to reach it. They told us that they are always open, but it is more of whether or not it is safe for the funivia to run. If there is a bout of bad weather or high winds, the funivie may close for the day and it is possible that you may be unable to go up to the Rifugio (or be stuck up there for the day). So make sure you visit on a day with good weather (also so you can see the pretty views!).
Make a reservation if possible
If you plan on staying the night at the rifugio, definitely make a reservation to make sure your spot is secured. You can also make a reservation for a meal as well. It is not necessary to make a reservation, but isn’t a bad idea, especially if it is crowded when you are visiting. One way you could do this is to go directly to the rifugio in the morning to make a reservation for lunch before you hike to the top of Monte Moro Pass. This is what we did and there was a table ready for us when we arrived after visiting the top of the Monte Moro Pass and playing with some avalanche rescue dogs.
Prepare for it to be colder at Rifugio Oberto Maroli than it is in Macugnaga before you take the funivia
This applies whether you are visiting in the winter or the summer. In the winter when we visited, there was no snow at the bottom of the funivia in Macugnaga and it was almost too warm for a coat (although they said it was unusually warm for winter), but at the top, everything was covered in several feet of snow and it felt cold with heavy coats, scarves, and hats.
Same goes for the summer. At the bottom in Macugnaga it may feel hot, but often is windy and cooler at the top of the funivia. (At least this has been my experience visiting other high Alp rifugi in the summer). It isn’t a bad idea to wear pants instead of shorts or have a wind-breaker or rain jacket to prevent getting too cold in the summer.
Here’s amazon link to the windbreaker jacket that I love taking with me in the summer that is warm, but light and easy to carry.
If you want to see the sunrise and sunset on the mountains, stay the night!
In addition to having amazing food, the Rifugio Oberto Maroli would also be a great place to stay the night if you have the time. If you stay the night, you will have a unique view of the mountains with the color changes of sunset and sunrise if you stay the night. We weren’t able to stay the night, but really wish we could’ve! We hope to stay the night sometime next summer! Be sure to reserve your spot online before staying.
Things to do around Rifugio Oberto Maroli
Monte Moro Pass
Monte Moro Pass is the main pass that you can access from the Monte Moro Pass Funivia. It requires a small amount of hiking, but isn’t too long of a trail (in the winter with the snow, it took us only around 15 minutes to reach the top). As soon as you exit the funivia at the top, you can look straight up in between the mountain passes and will see a golden statue standing in between. This is the Monte Moro Pass and signifies the border between Italy and Switzerland.
(Technically you can enter Switzerland here and in the summer could continue hiking into Switzerland. We joked that we were illegally in Switzerland because we didn’t have the correct tests needed to go to Switzerland when we stood at the top.)
You can see the path weaving up the rocks (or through the snow if visiting in winter). There are metal grated stairs drilled into the side of the rock with rope hand rails to help you ascend. In the summer this is accessible pretty much all of the time, but in the winter, it is possible that it could be too dangerous to visit depending on the weather and how much snow they have. We were able to hike to the top in the winter in late December without problem, but I imagine that it would have been impossible if there was more snow. If there is any question of whether it is safe or not, definitely don’t be afraid to ask one of the kind folks at the rifugio or operating the funivia to see if it is safe or not. In the winter, no other trails are accessible and accessing the Monte Moro Pass in the winter is only an option from the Italian side of the pass.
If visiting in the summer, you can follow the trail signs to the top and if you want, continue on a longer hike along the ridge or into Switzerland. In the winter, the only option is to return down to where the rifugio is.
If visiting in winter:
One of the biggest things to do at Monte Moro Pass in the winter is skiing. We are not really skiiers and we had a blast doing other things not skiing! But if you are interested getting ski lift tickets, bring your own ski (or snowboard) gear and you can purchase the lift tickets when you purchase your funivia tickets.
If you are like us and are not into skiing, some options for you include hiking the Monte Moro Pass, walking around near the funivia (we watched avalanche dogs in training for an hour or so!), hang out at the Rifugio Oberto Maroli (if you are spending the day, I believe that there was even board games and cards available inside you could play), or take an apertivo at the bar at the funivia. There aren’t many other trails available besides the Monte Moro Pass due to the huge amounts of snow that the mountains here get in the winter. There are a lot of options and it is a great place to relax and enjoy the mountain views.
If visiting in the summer:
If you’re visiting Monte Moro Pass in the summer, there are so many different things available for you to do. There are a ton of hiking trails that are able to accessed in the summer. There are trails of all different lengths and for all different abilities. The trails crisscross over the mountains for miles. If you read many of my posts, you know that I am an avid user of AllTrails to find new trails, however, most trails in Italy are not on AllTrails. The best way to find trails in this area, or Italy anywhere, would be to contact the rifugio that you would like to stay at and contact them for the best hikes for your particular skill level or distance you would like to travel. A list of trails in the area, including other parts of Macugnaga, Italy can be found through the Macugnaga town website.
If you have read this far, thank you! I hope you are able to visit Rifugio Oberto Maroli or any Italian rifugio someday.
Do you have any questions about visiting an Italian rifugio? Let me know down in the comments below!
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