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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Walks: The Stresa -- Belgirate Path

Descending into Belgirate along the Stresa -- Belgirate Path


Now that the days are turning a little bit cooler, and the leaves are turning as well, it's time to turn away from the lake, just temporarily!, and head into the hills. While there is much serious hiking to be done in the nearby mountains and in the Parco Nazionale delle Val Grande, there are some trails right here in Stresa very well suited to the casual walker.

For example, there is the Stresa - Belgirate Path.

The place to start your trek is at the Tourist Office at the Stresa imbarcadero. Here, pick up the brochure entitled Trekking on the Slopes of Mt. Mottarone -- Discover Our Countryside. Acquaint yourself with the map within, which marks the local trails with different colored lines. Stresa - Belgirate, officially Path L2, is indicated with the orange/black line. The actual trail will be marked in this same way.

The trekking brochure, and the Stresa - Belgirate path as it is shown.

Do you have some water with you? A few euro in your pocket? Comfortable walking shoes? Then you're ready to begin. The official brochure, unfortunately, does not well indicate where to pick up the trail in town. So let's do that here together. From the tourist office look at Stresa and cross the main road, heading back into town on the left side of the piazza where you are looking at Caffe Bolongaro and the Municipal Building. Once in town, take your first left, onto Via Bolongaro, and walk straight a couple of short streets until you reach the small church of S. Michele. Here, go to the right, on to Via San Michele. This is a narrow road, cobblestones. It quickly becomes quiet, and soon, the road disappears and you will clearly see the signs to begin the trail.

One place to begin the trail in Stresa is to the right of S. Michele, near the lake.

There is another location in Stresa from which to pick up the trail. If you are starting from Piazza Cadorna in the center of town you will need to find Via de Vit to the right of Cafe Torino, and walk along it, continuing straight when the road becomes Via Alessandro Manzoni. Walk uphill, towards the large Collegio Rosmini property on your right. You will see the entrance to the cobblestone trail on your left.

A hiking club enters the trail near Collegio Rosmini.

From here follow the path and the orange/black marks along the way. The brochure tells some landmarks... several villages and churches... Passera, the medieval church and cemetery of S. Albino, a small group of houses in Falchetti, as well as Pianezza and Calogna.

To reach Belgirate should take about two hours. More if you stop to admire and explore churches and towns. The path rises an altitude of 260 meters during the walk, enough to afford you spectacular views of the lake from many spots. As you approach Belgirate, by walking down a steep mule path, you'll encounter the old 12th-Century church, famous for its 15th-century frescoes and its Romanic bell tower.

The first views as you descend into Belgirate; the old church awaits below.


Frescoes on the ceiling of the old church.

If you have decided to walk this far, and don't want to walk back to Stresa on the trail again, this is when those euro will come in handy. From the lakefront in Belgirate you can take a train or a ferry back to Stresa (Please check the schedules in advance if you do plan to do this,) or, walk back to Stresa along the main road (but here please note there are stretches with not much of a shoulder to walk on, and heavy traffic. Please do be especially careful if you choose this option.)


Churches, chestnuts, villages and views. That's what you can expect to see. While the trail is clearly marked, and you are never very far from houses and roads, I would perhaps acquaint yourself in advance with the terrain a bit on Google Earth, just to have a better sense of where you are while you are walking.




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