- At a glance
- Location and setting
- Getting there and away
- Getting there:
- Getting Away
- Alternative ways you might consider
- Save money and time by staying at the same hotel in Turin
- Take a bus up the Gressoney Valley rather than a taxi
- Walk up to Gabiet instead of taking the cable car from Staffal
- Get dropped off or picked up by taxi in Pont St Martin town center rather than the station
- Consider your starting point being Aosta rather than Turin
- For more information
- Best Time to Visit
- The Common Areas
- Facilities and events
- Overall verdict
- Photos of Orestes Hutte
At a glance
- A 100% vegan mountain refuge in a remote corner of Italy
- Can only get there by hiking in summer and snowshoes or ski-touring in winter
- Not far from the TMR (Tour of Monte Rosa – 10-day trek) – could be worth a bit of a detour especially if you were needing a rest for a couple of days (and creative vegan meals!)
- Similar in set up to a youth hostel but much nicer – dorm rooms and some private double rooms
- The refuge offers half-board – the price includes a vegan breakfast and hearty dinner, and delicious lunch is also available a-la-carte
- A great jumping-off point for some wonderful hikes and (if you have more skills) mountaineering and ski touring.
- An interesting destination for skiing – although you need advanced skiing skills to reach the hut
- Fully staffed by kind passionate people.. and a BIG cat!
- Very clean, warm, comfortable, beautiful, well-designed, and includes bedding
- Spotty and slow internet
Location and setting
Orestes Hütte is a very typical example of a mountain refuge in Western Europe. If you have never hiked in Europe, you might be comparing refuges in North America that are typically unmanned and remote and essentially only provide shelter from the elements. This is not typically what most refuges are like in the mountains of Europe. Most of them contain comfortable accommodation which will be dormitories (some containing many beds) and perhaps some smaller more private rooms. The bathrooms will often be shared. There is usually plenty of electricity and it is heated.
They usually have staff depending on the size of the refuge. There is usually a dining room and sometimes a common area to relax. Linen might or might not be included and if that is the case, you will be expected to bring a sleeping sheet and/or a towel.
The price per night usually includes dinner and breakfast. Dinner usually is a set menu of several courses and breakfast will be a basic breakfast. Sometimes other food, drinks and snacks are available at an extra cost. Generally, mountain refuges are pretty limited when it comes to vegan offerings. Non-dairy milks are seldom available and the set menu is rarely vegan friendly. In our experience, even requesting vegan meals in advance does not usually guarantee anything resembling a full balanced meal and in Italy, you might be lucky to find Spaghetti al Pomodoro, vegetable soup or someone prepared to make something up on the spot.
The price is usually per person and private rooms might be more expensive and need to be reserved ahead of time. We usually pay about 80 Euros per person per night for bed and half board in a private double room with our own en-suite. At altitude, this is luxury!
Refuges fulfill many roles –
- It’s a place to stop off and have a drink or a snack as you pass by (or wait out the rain if the weather turns)
- Accommodation – refuges are places to stay so that hikers, climbers, and mountaineers can spend a night (or more) and they can access more remote areas.
Refuges will vary. Some are more comfortable, some will be relatively easy to access, others with a road next to them, and some might require a walk over a glacier – so a lot of skills to reach them. They are usually found in very scenic areas, on trails, or in the mountains. Some are in the most incredible locations which makes you wonder how they were even built there in the first place. These places really are designed to help people access these incredible areas and they are used by a huge amount of people each year of all ages to enjoy these stunning areas.
These days it is common to be able to book in advance via mobile phone reception and the internet.
We absolutely love the mountain refuges of Europe. We love multi-day hiking in the mountains yet we lack the skills, the motivation, the gear, and the preparation to do multi-day hikes in North America. These hikes usually require tents, sleeping bags, bringing all your own food (so a very large heavy bag), and no hot shower for however long your hike is. Yes, camping is fun, but sometimes sleeping on the ground and pitching a tent after a long day or hiking in the rain is not especially enjoyable. How wonderful to have a warm place to dry your boots and a hot meal at the end of the day that you don’t need to prepare over a tiny gas stove!
Orestes Hütte is located on several trails just an hour from the Tour De Monte Rosa (a famous multi-day trail). It is above the treeline (although there is still grass with Alpine Ibex and marmots around).
Even though there are gondolas around, there are no ski runs close to Orestes Hütte although the Gressoney Valley is very well known for skiing.
The hut is at least an hour’s walk from the closest other building (refuges and gondola) and was built out of wood between 2006 and 2010. It was beautifully built by Marta (the owner’s) father, a carpenter, and the craftsmanship and the design make it clear that this was a labor of love. The refuge is fully heated and has a lovely log fire.
Getting there and away
It’s really important to know that no matter how you get to Orestes Hütte, you cannot set foot in the front door of the place without at least an hour’s walk on uneven uphill terrain carrying all your own belongings. While there are a few different ways to arrive at Orestes Hütte, I will explain how we did it, then share a few alternative ways and what we would do next time.
Important note: We went in mid-September just a few days before the cable cars stopped working for the season and Orestes Hütte was also closing. We also took the quickest and most convenient way to get there which was also the most expensive. Please also note that coming in winter in the snow requires snowshoes or ski-touring skis with good skiing ability. Consult the Orestes Hütte website for the ways to do this.
We started off our journey in Turin (Torino) at the hotel that morning. As our stay at Orestes Hütte was part of a much longer trip, there were many belongings that we could not bring with us, so we decided to leave them in Turin. We left them in the left luggage area at Torino Porta Nuova for two nights. This was very easy to do, albeit expensive. Two bags ended up costing 68 euros for about 48 hours.
After dropping our big bags off, we took a direct train to Pont St Martin from Torino Porta Nuova, which is about a 70-minute train ride on a small regional train.
We had arranged a taxi ahead of time to take us from the Pont St Martin train station to the Staffal – Gabiet gondola in Staffal and the car was waiting for us when we arrived.
The 55-minute and winding drive from Pont St Martin was especially scenic all the way up the Gressoney Valley to Staffal. Staffal is the last small town at the highest point of the valley and where we took the cable car from to go up part of the mountain. The cost of the taxi was 70 euros one way.
After being dropped off at Staffal – Gabiet gondola station (1,834m) we purchased one-way tickets for the Staffal-Gabiet gondola (10 euros for an adult ticket) and bought a hiking map of the area for one euro, went to the bathroom (underneath the cable car station), and got on the cable car to Gabiet. After arriving in Gabiet we followed the 6B trail and the signposts to Orestes Hütte. You really do not need to worry about getting lost. There are markers every few meters or so. As long as you are paying attention to the markers you will be fine. In case of reduced visibility, you should REALLY pay much more attention because it might be hard to see the markers, and you are on the side of a mountain after all.
People with reduced mobility should consider if they have the resources, support, and fitness needed to get to the hut. The whole walk from Gabiet (~ 2,400m) to Orestes Hütte (2,600 m) is about one hour and is consistently uphill with an elevation gain of 200m.
On arriving at Orestes Hütte, enter and check in. You finally made it!
Essentially, we did the whole thing in reverse. Seb successfully booked a cab at Staffal from the hut by sending an email and worked out when we needed to leave the hut by on the morning of departure to meet the taxi in Staffal. We left the hut at 8 am, walked one hour down to Gabiet, bought a one-way gondola ticket back down to Staffal (8 euros for an adult down), jumped on the gondola (15 minutes), and waited in a cafe (and had a cappuccino with soy milk). We met our driver at the arranged time (10 am), and then had a 55-minute drive back to the Pont St Martin train station and waited for the train back to Turin (we had purchased tickets ahead of time and departed at 11:22 am (70 minutes). This time, however, we got off at Torino Porta Susa as this was where the hotel we were staying in that night was located.
We had chosen the Star Residence Hotel as this was close to the train station that we were departing from for Paris very early the next morning – more on this hotel choice later. After checking in, we had to go and pick up our bags from Torino Porta Nuova train station and bring them to our hotel. This part could have been more efficient – see our tips below.
Alternative ways you might consider
There’s always more than one way to get somewhere and while we can’t possibly cover every single way, these were some thoughts we had are:
Save money and time by staying at the same hotel in Turin
We were staying in Turin the night before and the night after our stay at Orestes Hütte but we chose two different hotels for each night’s stay. The first was more centrally and the second was close to Porta Susa train station as we were taking a train from this station early the next morning (the high-speed trains depart from here). We would recommend that you choose the same hotel BOTH times. This way you can probably store your luggage at the hotel for free rather than paying the rather steep 68 Euros for two bags for two nights. The reason we chose two different hotels was that we wanted to be in the middle of everything on that first night and we were mistakenly under the impression that Porta Susa train station was really far away from downtown. It is only a 30-minute walk and a quick train/bus or taxi ride downtown. We loved Star Residence (our hotel next to Porta Susa) as it is an aparthotel and the rooms are really large (perfect when you are packing, reorganizing and unpacking bags).
The biggest bonus, it had a washing machine and dryer you could use for only 4 euros for a good-sized load. This is always a huge bonus when you are coming back from a trek. Not important but nice to know: there’s a 100% vegan gelato shop just 5 minutes away.
Take a bus up the Gressoney Valley rather than a taxi
There are several buses that go from Staffal to Pont St Martin however, for us we found that the times do not line up well with the trains to Turin which meant we would have had a long wait. The buses are of course longer than a private car as it stops at every single village down the valley. One extra bonus of taking the bus is that if you did find yourself with time to kill in Pont St Martin, this would give you lots of time to check out the Roman bridge (1st Century BC) and the museum.
Walk up to Gabiet instead of taking the cable car from Staffal
If you wanted to save more money and get more exercise then you could skip the Monterosa Ski – Staffal Gabiety cable car and walk up from Staffal to Gabiet and then continue your walk to the hut. This is a very steep walk up (or down) and will take about 2h30. The elevation gain is 600 meters.
Get dropped off or picked up by taxi in Pont St Martin town center rather than the station
A thought we had after we were dropped off at the Pont St Martin train station was how we would have preferred to get dropped off downtown so we could have checked out the Roman bridge and the museum before our train back to Turin. As it was, we didn’t have time to walk into town, look at the bridge and walk back to the train station. I guess what we are really saying is that it is worth the time to check out the Roman bridge in Pont St Martin and the museum because it looks really interesting and we have some tips on how you can make that happen.
Consider your starting point being Aosta rather than Turin
Even though Aosta is in the other direction and just as far from Pont St Martin, it is a very interesting town and much smaller than Turin. Hotels are cheaper as is the left luggage and getting about is quicker and easier.
For more information
Best Time to Visit
Like many mountain huts, Orestes Hütte is not open all year and opening times align with the gondola being open ie. Summer and Winter. Our stay was just a few days before the gondola closed for the summer season (mid-September). We experienced super weather, but it was very cold in the mornings. No matter what time of the year you come, you must prepare for the cold and rain and changeable conditions which can be quite different from what is forecast. If you do happen to come and the weather is not as you’d like, hunker down and catch up on a book.
Orestes Hütte has a couple of different types of accommodations. There are two rooms with dormitory beds. One has 10 wooden bunk beds and the other with 8 wooden bunk beds with linen included. There are plenty of outlets and the bathroom is shared in the corridor.
Double/twin rooms (they come as a twin by default, but can be pushed together): There is a small wardrobe (with a hairdryer) and our room had a pulldown wooden platform to fit a third bed if necessary.
The immaculate bathroom has a sink, a shower, and a toilet with some soap. We loved the touch of a small jar of chocolate almonds.
The Common Areas
There is a very large wooden outside terrace which is the perfect place to eat in the summer with wonderful views. There are deckchairs to sit in and enjoy the sun.
There is a very large dining room (with an extra one that’s open during peak seasons) with tables of various sizes.
Next to the bar, is a small lounge area (with sofas) next to the fire.
On the lower ground floor, there is a ‘boot room’. Outside shoes and boots are not allowed in the rooms and the guests change into crocs to access the rooms and move around.
As expected the food is 100% vegan but it wasn’t always. Until 2016 it served meat, then it became vegetarian and in 2019 it became fully vegan.
Breakfast is a small continental buffet with bread, cereal, fruit, and juice with espresso-based coffees and tea.
Lunch is a choice between three main dishes and two or three desserts. I ordered the polenta with cabbage and cheese sauce with raspberry tart both days as it was so delicious. The next day there was a pasta with pomodoro/vegetable sauce that was so good.
Dinner is served at 7 pm and the three-course set menu changes every night. On the two nights we were there we had – Vegetable soup, stuffed sweet potatoes, and chocolate peanut butter squares and the second night we had lasagna, followed by a seitan cutlet with grilled zucchini and then a frozen cheesecake with blueberries for dessert.
Orestes Hütte doesn’t exactly have a full bar, but it isn’t too far off! There are many different types of beers, wines, and soft drinks. They have an espresso machine (of course it is Italy after all) and the most delicious and the thickest Italian hot chocolate we’ve ever tasted with your choice of oat, soy, rice, or almond milk.
There are potato chips, homemade cookies, and granola bars available.
Facilities and events
In addition to that stated above, there is a yoga room that is available on request and Marta sometimes runs classes.
Also, (in what was a surprise and a first in a mountain refuge for us) there are actually massage services and a sauna. The sauna is open from 6-7 pm. There are also hot showers and cold buckets for when you come out of the sauna and a relaxation room for a full sauna experience.
Pros | Things we like
- A vegan mountain hut – a rare and unique thing. We can eat full meals in mountain refuges!
- The refuge is so beautifully made, nearly everything has been made from wood and it is one of the coziest refuges we have had the pleasure of staying
- Extremely friendly, kind, and passionate staff
Cons | Things you need to know
- It is quite hard to get to – you need to have more than basic fitness to stay here
- Unsurprisingly, the internet is sketchy. Our phones didn’t have any data coverage at the hut. We had to walk away from the hut to get some coverage) and although there is wifi it is extremely spotty and slow.
- Even if you have good fitness it requires several different modes of transportation to get there from a nearby city
- There are only a couple of hikes that are available from the hut – the only reason to make the effort to come here is if you love mountains and want to explore them.
- The food is very good, but it is not fine dining. Coming all this way just for the joy of staying in a vegan hotel might not be a compelling enough reason to come here.
- Coming here in winter means snowshoeing or skiing to the hut
- There’s nothing much to do if the weather doesn’t allow you to enjoy the outside. Bring a book – just in case the weather stops you from walking. The hut also has a lot of books, although not that many in English.
We absolutely love this hut. To stay here was something rather special and we were so keen to check it out. Not having to battle to find something vegan to eat early made us cry with joy! 🙂 It was so interesting to see other guests who did not actually know that the place was vegan and then proceed to really enjoy the restaurant. Despite the fact that refuges are meant to be fairly basic affairs, this one really has a lot of touches that we have never seen in mountain refuges at all. It’s clear that this refuge is a labor of love and we are here and so grateful for it.
Photos of Orestes Hutte
For more photos click here