Travel /
Lombardia

HIKING VARESE

“Sometimes I would like to describe the smell of the forest. It is damp wood, stone, moss, something loose in the ground, a principle of fruit and berries and leaves, […] the wild hair of some animal.”

(Fabrizio Caramagna)

 

The days begin to shorten; the hot summer sun, so bold in the months of July and August, fades day by day; the air becomes more and more pungent on the skin, carrying the penetrating smell of ripe figs and grapes and the first mushroom risotto. Thus the golden yellow of summer slowly fades into calm autumnal orange.

 

The arrival of autumn in the Varese area is the ideal time to go trekking and better appreciate its mountains and wooded paths in all their splendor. Starting from the first weeks of October, as the earth prepares for winter hibernation, the province begins to become an explosion of colors – a true paradise for foliage lovers.

 

On warm sunny days, when the mountains stand out against a blue jeans sky, it almost seems to see in HD, everything is more vivid and life lighter. But even on the dullest days, the woods certainly do not lose their charm.

 

Viewed from above, the surface of the province is striking for the clear predominance of lakes and mountains over urban areas. This wildest and most uncontaminated nature is a determining part of its charm. Impenetrable at first sight, the dense vegetation actually hides an anthill of paths and mule tracks that wind through forage fields and deciduous woods, before climbing up the maternal flanks of the Pre-Alps.

 

So arm yourself with boots and a camera and follow us to discover the gold of Varese.

 

Forte di Orino

 

The Forte di Orino is perhaps the most classic of the Varese excursions, but no less fascinating than other more demanding routes.

 

We are inside the Campo dei Fiori Regional Park. The Fort can be reached from various points, more or less demanding. We recommend, especially if it is the first time, to take path 1 of the Park at the height of the square of the astronomical observatory. From here, the walk – which winds first on a mule track, then on a slightly narrower but well-marked and easily walkable path – develops on a slight slope (the difference in height is very minimal) for about 4 km. Along the way, you cross a beautiful forest of beech and conifers, which opens up into suggestive views of the surrounding lakes and the Alps. The fort that you would expect to find at the end of the walk, is actually no more, if not for stretches of stone wall that emerge between tall grass and ivy. What awaits you, however, is much better: a panorama that ranges from the lakes – Lake Varese, Lake Comabbio, Lake Monate and Lake Maggiore – up to embrace the entire western Alpine arc and, closer as the crow flies, the sweetest slopes of the pre-alpine chain of Monte Nudo. We are located just over 1,100 meters high, and the gaze finds no obstacles that prevent the vision of a complete circular panorama.

 

Tip: go there in autumn, for the foliage, or on a clear winter day to enjoy the snow-capped peaks that stand out against the clear sky.

 

Passo del Cuvignone

 

Although it is “only” just over 1,000 meters above sea level and is easily reachable by car, the Cuvignone Pass remains one of the wildest and most unspoiled areas of the Varese Pre-Alps. Here you immediately feel in another world: the pungent air is already that of the high mountains, the smell of the forest is persistent, meadows and rocks alternate as if we were already at higher altitudes. Human settlements are almost non-existent: only the Adamoli Refuge, the heart of the area, and a few scattered chalets (here they are called toll booths). Nothing else, if not nature in all its splendor.

 

As we said, you can drive to the Adamoli Refuge. Here it is possible to enjoy the sun in the surrounding meadows, enjoy a slice of cake at the refuge or reach the Poggiolo, an inspiring balcony that opens onto the entire upper part of Lake Maggiore and the Alpine chain, in a few minutes. Or, take one of the many excursions: the Pizzoni di Laveno, where one of the most breathtaking views of Lake Maggiore opens up; or Monte Nudo, the highest mountain of this chain, also called La Biòta in the local dialect, due to its top once bare of trees and used for grazing; the fire-break road that begins a few hairpin bends under the Refuge and runs along a slight slope around Monte Nudo, passing through the Pozzopiano meadow (a nap here is a must) and climbing up to the same height as Monte Crocetta, another easy but interesting for the panorama and for observing the departure of the paragliders that are launched from up here especially during the weekend.

 

Or, for those who want to try their hand at more challenging excursions, the advice is to start from one of the “access” countries to the pass and walk the entire difference in altitude, observing the passages of vegetation as you get up, from chestnut trees to beech , to birches, to larches. It goes without saying that here, in autumn, there is a riot of colors: a real paradise of foliage, which can be enjoyed to the fullest along these paths but also from the edges of the paved road. The Cittiglio-Vararo side is very open and sunny (the excursion from Vararo that crosses the Valbuseggia up to the pass is beautiful), but the side that climbs from Castelveccana, located right on the shore of Lake Maggiore, is more unknown, fascinating and uncontaminated. up through woods and streams, passing through steep and little-used paths. It is going up from here that you experience, in my opinion, the real charm of this place.

 

Val Veddasca

(Forcora, Monte Covreto, Paglione)

 

When you think of autumn in the mountains, the imagination immediately evokes the classic foliage of deciduous trees. But this season can be just as impressive – indeed, perhaps even more so because it is unexpected – where the vegetation thins out and gives way to expanses of grass and bushes. On the border of the province of Varese, nestled between the north of Lake Maggiore and Switzerland, is one of the wildest and most unspoiled corners of the area: Val Veddasca. Starting from the artificial basin of Lake Delio or the Forcora pass, both reachable by car, there are all kinds of routes: from gentle mule tracks that reach small jewels such as the village of Monterecchio, to steeper paths that climb up to 1,500 meters above sea level. At this point, the paths – initially narrow – open into grassy expanses reminiscent of Ireland, Scotland, or New Zealand, with a breathtaking view of the pre-Alpine and Alpine ranges and of all of Lake Maggiore, which meanders sinuous and reverential. at the foot of his beloved mountains. The buds are sweet, rounded, welcoming. Here, autumn is a riot of colors: from the straw yellow of the grass combed by the wind to the red-orange of the mountain steppe; from the burnt green of the bushes of rhododendrons and blueberries to the purplish that the patches of vegetation take on the slopes of the more distant mountains; from the gold of the larch trees clinging to the slopes just below, to the brilliant green of the stoic evergreens. Everything plunges into the sparkling bluish green of the lake in the distance, scrutinised by the snow-capped peaks – Monte Rosa stands out imperiously above all – which on clear days stands out against a sky brushed with cyan blue.

 

The highest part of the valley borders on Switzerland, where from the village of Indemini you go up to Alpe Neggia and you can reach other peaks with spectacular views, such as Monte Gambarogno, or the wilder Monte Tamaro (almost 2,000 meters above sea level) which his gaze towards the long ridge that connects it to Monte Lema after almost 13 km. The latter overlooks the wildest side of the valley, the one that hosts the village of Monteviasco and the other small villages and mountain pastures – most of them abandoned or almost – which in this season are dressed in the charm of chestnut, beech, birch and mixed woods in a thousand shades of yellow. Monteviasco, Viasco, Sarona, Alpone are just some of the names of the many small villages with characteristic stone houses, scattered here and there in the woods, often isolated because the only viable road was represented by the ancient mule tracks.
In short, needless to say that Val Veddasca with its variety of scenarios, occupies a special place in our heart: among deciduous forests, corridors of ferns and more exposed ridges, you easily forget that you are a few steps from home and come transported to another world, reminiscent of Tolkien’s tales. The advice is to reach one of the strategic points of the valley – Lake Delio, Forcora, Alpe Neggia or Curiglia on the “forgotten” side – already enjoying the foliage along the arrival path and then choose between a quiet walk (with, why not, a stop in the refuges or agriturismi in the area) or a wilder excursion between the mountains and the lake, to stop at the end of the day to admire the sunset.

 

Lake Comabbio cycle path

 

 A cycle-pedestrian path winds around Lake Comabbio whose basin is a naturalistic oasis hosting a wide variety of animal and plant species. About 12.5 km long, the track is a succession of reeds, colonies of water lilies and lotus flowers, and enchanting views of the landscape, particularly suggestive at sunset.

Tip: We recommend starting from the Park Berrini in Ternate (built in the 1980s from a former military area), perfect for a picnic or to relax with a good book lying on the lawn.

 

Lake Varese cycle and pedestrian path

 

At Varano Borghi, the Comabbio track joins up with that of Lake Varese. The ‘ring’ route runs along the humid shores of Lake Varese for a total of about 27km to take your breath away, not so much for the effort, but above all for the splendid panorama, between dream villas overlooking the water and a rich vegetation , where swans and coots hide their precious nests.

Advice: Gavirate is a strategic point: not only is it possible to rent a bicycle, but there are also various places where you can enjoy a nice aperitif with a lake view.

 

Luino / Germignaga-Mesenzana-Cuveglio slope.

 

From the green Valcuvia to the lakeside Luino, the 13.7 km route runs for most of its course along the bed of the Margorabbia stream, crossing fields and wooded corridors animated by noisy frogs. The ideal is to follow it starting from Cuveglio, in such a way as to stop in one of the many bars in Luino, admire the splendid tree-lined avenue of the lakefront or lie down on the soft grass of the Germignaga park and finally leave just in time to enjoy the show of the golden hour light that spreads through the meadows of Valcuvia, while the first roe deer look out cautiously from the bush to go grazing.

 

Valcuvia

 

Between Lake Maggiore and Varese, surrounded by peaks and massifs, lies the placid Valcuvia. A place of passage for cross-border commuters, this small patch of land has a lot to offer for those who know where to look. Small villages close to the woods alternate with cultivated fields. Among them Casalzuigno stands out, already mentioned for Villa della Porta Bozzolo. The villa is not the only reason why a stop in this small rural village is worthwhile. Its southern side is a wide expanse of fields called Careggio, which unwind as far as the eye can see and then fade into wooded patches towards the Campo dei Fiori massif. The north side hosts the historic centers of the town, Zuigno and Casale. starting from here, taking a small road near the church of San Vittore Nuovo, you can immerse yourself in the woods, where secret paths wind through beech, chestnut and hazelnut trees. Walking along the mossy dry stone walls, in the docile light of the morning or the warmest of the afternoon, time loses its usual meaning and rediscovers the pleasure of a simple life, made up of little things.

Tip: for an even more suggestive experience, it is possible to walk along the country and wood paths even on horseback.

Photos by Silvia Elena Sette