Our recent trip to Italy was an extraordinary adventure, full of thrilling paddling, stunning scenery, and warm hospitality. A group of us went paddling in Val Sesia during the first week of June and miraculously returned with all our gear, though the condition of the gear can’t be spoken for! The paddlers included Anna, Ben, Calum, Elliot, Keats, Kristian, Lewis, and Tom, with a special shout-out to Steve from the club and Tasmanian Dan, whom we adopted for a day. 

Friday – Mastallone and Sermenza 

Elliot started the trip a day earlier, meeting up with Steve and his group who had already been in the area for a week, taking on a low and scrapey Mastallone. The gorge revealed some big fluffy bits, although it needed more water overall. This did not bode well for the rest of the valley. After a messy ice-cream break, the Lower Sermenza;  a challenging river rated –5 in the book. Plenty of big and bouncy grade 4 with several Big Nasties, two of which stood out. The first is a 3m drop with a big tow-back and a tricky boof (this feature will come back later), the other had some small drama involving a beatdown but nothing a quick roll couldn’t solve. After navigating this difficult run, a well-deserved rest at Steve’s chalet followed, involving a tough climb with all the gear. 

Saturday – Sesia (Campsite to Scopella), Sorba 

The rest of us arrived after an all-night drive, ready to paddle, finding an injured Elliot who took the day off due to a wrist injury from the previous day’s beatdown. Steve’s group led the rest of us down the Sesia, which included some portages and an almost river-wide hole that gave Kristian a swim. Later, some of the group tackled the Sorba and Gronda slides without drama. Our centrally located campsite at Campertogno boasted an excellent pizza restaurant, making for a good first dinner. 

Sunday – Sesia (Balmucia to Varallo) 

The remoteness of Valsesia meant a trip to a supermarket involved an hour drive. Due to this, shuttle faff and fangirling over a famous kayaker, we didn’t get on the water until 3 pm. The Sesia provided big and bouncy Grade 3/4 rapids. Calum faced a tough choice between running a potential weir blind or inspecting river side via a nudist beach. He opted for the former, running it blind. 

Monday – Gronda, Sorba, Sesia (Mollia to Campsite) 

We did the waterfalls on the Gronda and Sorba, led by Lewis, Kristian, and Calum. Here we got many photos in the awesome landscape. Keats did his first waterfall, and Tom had a funny landing on the last drop of the Gronda, resulting in a rockslide upside-down. We finished the day with a Grade 4 section to the campsite, followed by pizza. 

Tuesday – Sesia (Upper and Alpin Sprint)  

The Upper Sesia warmed us up with some Grade 3/4 rapids. Kristian ended up hand paddling the hardest bit by accident, and had to fight his way out of a hole. Next, the Alpin Sprint brought significant drama: a scary gorge escape (which turned out to be unnecessary), swims from Keats and Elliot, a head whack for Ben, a lot of beatering, boat chasing, and paddle losses. We concluded with drinks at a raft centre to recover. Here was where we met our tasmanian friend and a few famous kayakers who Keats convinced to sign his helmet. We finished the day with more pizza and prosecco booties. 

Wednesday – Sesia (Campsite to Scopella), Sermenza  

Seeking confidence, we repeated a section from the campsite to Scopella, avoiding portages. The hole that caught out Kristian earlier in the week caused trouble for the group again on the section. Post-lunch, some tackled the Lower Sermenza, with some small drama on the first Big Nasty resulting in a booty for Lewis, while others relaxed at a bar. Ben and Calum heroically rescued Elliot’s paddles from a cliff above a Grade 5+. 

Thursday – Rest Day 

Some of us did a via ferrata, enjoying breathtaking views across the Sesia valley. Others relaxed eating ice cream and pizza, dealing with minor issues like swollen feet. A crack team took on a quick blast of a section on the Sesia finishing at the campsite. 

Friday – Sermenza and Lower Sesia  

A wider group tackled the Sermenza again, with Ben having an interesting swim at Big Nasty number 1. The full group met up below Little Canada to continue along the Sesia, with Anna and Tom tested the team’s skills with a synchronized wet exit on the Lower Sesia. We concluded with a final pizza dinner before heading our separate ways. Half the group off to Switzerland, whilst the rest headed home. Those of us driving back managed a Swiss river on the Saturday too. The Rhone was big bouncy grade three with the rocks making noises as they tumbled through the riverbed. 

Final Thoughts 

Kit-wise, we fared well: one broken boat from Lewis, and Elliot’s paddle needing a replacement blade. We all had swims except Calum, often blaming the low volume boats. Despite some challenges, Italy treated us well, offering excellent water levels and plenty left for future trips. Drysuits were essential due to exposure risk and portages, and local bars provided generous free food with drinks. A minor tick issue aside, the trip was a success, with Ben fortunately recovering from a bullseye rash during the Swiss leg of our adventure. 

Overall, our Val Sesia trip blended adventure, stunning scenery, and local hospitality. We highly recommend it for future kayaking excursions.