Rifugio

  • Location: Mountains
    Amazing mountain hikes: From your doorstep
    Closest town (only accessible by 4 wheels drive): 45 mins by 4 wheel drive
  • Milan Linate Airport (LIN): 145km (2.5hs by car)
    Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP): 160km (3hs by car)
    Free parking

This is THE place to get away from it all. And you’ll be taken care of with delicious meals and snacks throughout your stay.Instead of the all-inclusive option, you can also see-cater if you wish.

The Rifugio is the epitome of remote. It can only be reached by 4-wheel-drive but transport from the closest town or station is included.

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An introduction to Rifugio

What is the story behind Rifugio, what was your inspiration to create it?

A few years ago, my boyfriend and I did a road trip from Belgium to China, taking seven months to travel 30,000 kilometres and visiting 27 countries. On the way back, we were terrified to return to our 9 to 5 jobs.

Fortunately, my parents had been looking for a winter hut to rent as my father is a writer. They stumbled upon the Rifugio and thought we might be able to make something of it. When we were in Bulgaria, they called us and explained the project and asked if we wanted to move to the Italian Alps to run it. We jumped at the opportunity to have a new adventure.

We’d always lived in the city and were really surprised to discover a place like this still existed in Europe. You don’t see other signs of human life, there is no light except for the stars and there are no electricity poles.

The Rifugio was built in the early 1900s, between two streams where three ancient tracks converge. It was a strategic base for the Italian customs trying to stop smugglers carrying contraband from and to Switzerland. Abandoned in the sixties, it was turned into a rifugio in the eighties.

First, we emptied the Rifugio, which had been closed for 10 years, and got rid of the old beds, mattresses and documents that had been left. It took us three years to complete the restorations, partly because it is so hard to reach and a lot of things had to happen by helicopter. The roads are closed over the winter months and it’s hard to get workers, plus we had some issues with the Italian bureaucracy.

For the exterior restorations, we worked with an Italian architect. My mum did the interior design — she has previously worked on a couple of houses in Puglia that appeared in Vogue. The renovations were really hard, but on the other hand, the experience was so good. The locals became our friends, we learned which mushrooms you can forage and eat, and we know every story about every ruin in the valley.

It’s such a beautiful place and we’re very lucky that we had time to discover it. Now, we’re also really prepared for any questions that guests have and can reply to them with confidence. Living off-grid is not easy but neither is life in the city. Sometimes it has been just the two of us, so it’s nice to receive guests and have conversations. We’re also lucky to have a lot of animals.

How would you describe the atmosphere and interior design of Rifugio?

At first, we thought we would just break down a couple of walls and re-paint. But there was a lot of mold, so we had to really strip things back. We used a lot of wood for the exterior and the interior, and initially we thought it might be too much. But we’ve come to love it.

It’s nice and warm inside and in the lounge area is a large sofa where everyone can relax. A Belgian friend of ours made the kitchen island, which is so nice to cook on and invites everyone to enjoy an apperitivo together.

When we were doing the restorations, we found a bunch of postcards from the old building and asked several artists if they could transform them into works of art. So now we have 32 artworks inspired by the postcards throughout the Rifugio.

And you are almost completely off-grid?

Yes, the Rifugio is completely self-sufficient. And pretty dependent on water. The water you drink, shower with and even flush with, comes straight out of an ancient mountain source. The electricity is generated by a water turbine. Because of dryer summers and hotter winters, we do ask you to keep this in mind when taking a shower or using the dishwasher. We have free electricity but there's a limit to it.

To you personally, what is so special about Rifugio?

Everything! The view of the mountains — you can take a million photos every day and each will be different. It’s an amazing place for understanding nature — where the sun goes up and down, when the seasons are changing. We’ve become friends with 60-year-old hunters — I never thought that would happen — and we’re continually learning.

Dining and living area
Fireplace and dining area
Fireplace
Dining area
Dining area
Dining area
Dining area
Kitchen
Kitchen
South room
South room
East room
East room
East room
Hallway
Fire escape
Studio
Studio
Studio
Studio
Studio
Suite
Suite
Suite
West room
West room
West room
Entrance
Entrance
Entrance
Rifugio
Rifugio
Landscape

Rifugio rooms & rates

In front of the Rifugio is a large terrace and you enter into a big, open-plan living space with an eight-metre-wide window overlooking the valley. Here you have the dining space and a big sofa, plus the kitchen and island bench. We also have a bunch of records that people can play and a fireplace with a reading nook.

On the first floor are the two biggest rooms, both of which have private balconies and large windows overlooking the valley. There is another terrace on the side, which is the perfect place to escape to. On the top floor are the other three bedrooms - one with a round window overlooking the valley and another two that face east and west.

OVERVIEW OF ROOMS

Suite (20 sqm): The three-meter-wide French window connects the interior with the valley views. The suite has not one, but two terraces. One is for your private use. The second is communal but becomes your private terrace in the evening.

East Room (22 sqm): The East Room also goes by the name of Family Room or Friends Room. It has a semi-private area with a bunk bed, perfect for kids or friends, and a room with a double bed. It looks out upon the east side of our valley.

South Room (12 sqm): When the Rifugio was a customs post to stop smugglers, it was characterized by its round window under the roof. We kept this trademark so that this room, although the smallest, offers the most stunning view of the valley.

West Room (15 sqm): On the west side of the second floor, you can find this cozy room. The two nooks, one for chilling and the second suited with a sink, give the illusion of reaching out into the forest.

Studio room (25 sqm): The studio on the first floor is a little oasis with a private kitchenette, a balcony, a small eating and sitting area and a comfortable sofa bed. It offers you a 5m wide French window overlooking the valley.

All bedrooms have their own en-suite bathroom with a shower.

  • Rifugio for 5-12 people / 450 m²
    900 / night
    • 4 Double bedrooms
    • 1 Bunk room
    • 4 Shower rooms (ensuite)
    • 1 Living room
    • 1 Kitchenette
    • 1 Sofabed (on req.)
    • Terrace
    • Balcony
    • Fireplace
Included in the rates
Rates include a catering service, including breakfast, lunch, a two-course dinner, plus coffee in the afternoon, appertivos, kombucha and table wine at dinner. Also included is the transport to and from the Rifugio (which is 45 min from the station, and 30min from the closest town), guided hikes if wanted and housekeeping every other day,
Children & Extra beds
Children of all ages are welcome.
Minimum stay
4 nights
Check in time
after 14:00
Check out time
before 11:00
Closed January & February

Facilities & services

  • WiFi
  • Terrace
  • Concierge service
  • Children welcome
  • Fireplace
  • Garden
  • Washing machine
  • Central heating

We live in a traditional stone cabin next door and are always close by if guests need help. Stays are fully catered including breakfast, lunch, a two-course dinner, plus coffee in the afternoon, appertivos, kombucha and table wine at dinner. The menu is mostly vegetarian and features local fruit and vegetables, including produce grown in our garden. Transport to and from the Rifugio (which is 45 min from the station, and 30 min from the closest town) is also included.

On request, guests can also self-cater or we can supply breakfast on request. As it is such a difficult place to reach, we can also shop for groceries before guests arrive if they give us a list of what they need.

Things to do in Lombardy & Spriana

  • Wildlife / Animals
  • Hiking

Our motto is “We offer you nothing so you can get away from everything”. Rifugio is a place to read and look at the view, do a puzzle, go foraging and swim in the river (if it’s warm enough).

There are beautiful hikes in the immediate surroundings, from short, half-hour hikes to full-day trips. Some guests like to hike to where our friend Tito keeps his cows in the summer — it’s a beautiful alpine meadow surrounded by mountains. When there’s a lot of snow, you can make snowmen outside.

The closest ski resort is around 45 minutes’ drive away but our road is not accessible during the ski season, so this isn’t something we recommend. In fact, we don’t encourage people to leave at all! At a minimum, we would recommend a four-night stay.

The location of Rifugio

The valley is quite inaccessible, unless you have a 4WD. So we arrange to pick guests up and return them at the end of their stay.

The closest international hub to us is Milan, which has three airports. From the airport, you can take a shuttle to Milano Central railway station, from where it’s a two-hour train ride to Sondrio, which is the biggest city near us. The train ride is beautiful as it goes past Lake Como. We will arrange for you to be picked up in Sondrio, with the transfer to the Rifugio around 45 minutes.

If guests are coming by car, they can drive to the small town of Arquino and we will pick them up from there. It’s around 30 minutes drive along a long, bumpy road with 29 hairpin turns from Arquino to the Rifugio. Guests can also walk to the Rifugio along a relatively flat trail that takes around an hour.

When is the best time to visit Lombardy?

Winter is the most beautiful time here — it’s all white and gorgeous. But we are thinking of closing in January and February each year as our electricity is generated by a water turbine and the water freezes over. When that happens, we are dependent on a generator, which is not our philosophy.

Spring is also beautiful because you can start foraging — we like to make jam and beer from dandelion flowers. Summer is also amazing because you can do great hikes. Autumn is perhaps the most beautiful season because the colours start to change and it’s not as hot.