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Monday, October 3, 2011

Walks: The L1 Trail From Mottarone To Stresa

Here's a great walk for any nice-weather day. The L1 walking trail is the most direct trail from Stresa to the summit of Mt. Mottarone. People walk it up from Stresa, or, as we chose to do, in the much less strenuous direction, from the top down. But to hike down one first must arrive up. From Stresa, take the cablecar from the Carciano boat station. The 20-minute ride, which includes switching cablecars at the intermediate Alpino station, carries you 1491 meters up the mountain. The Alpino station is where the Giardino Botanico Alpinia gardens are located, 300 meters from the cableway.


After arriving at the top cableway station, the last few meters to the summit are reached by the relatively new chairlift, which was added only a couple of years ago. As you see, you can also ride the chairlift back down to the cableway. On the left of the photo a small piece of the Alpyland track is visible. The toboggan run is the latest addition to Mottarone's attractions, having opened in the summer of 2010, and it's been hugely popular right from the start.



Ah, the summit! From here there are the famous 360 degree views of Italy, Switzerland, and the seven nearby lakes. There is a semicircle of simple wooden benches cut into the earth. It's a perfect spot to eat a picnic lunch or just sit for a bit. Notice the hazy effect of the air over the lake. Even on seemingly very clear days this is common; we are actually high enough to be in a bit of clouds and moisture. On windier days this blows away and the view can be clearer. The island you see in the lake far below is Isola Madre. Isola Bella and Isola dei Pescatori are a bit out of range in my photo, under the view of the mountain, but you'll see them when you're there. The promontory of land behind Isola Madre is Verbania, and to its right the lake continues up into Switzerland.


In this photo you can see how we are level with these small clouds. We began walking in this direction, towards the people in the distance. The rooftop at the left edge of the photo is Ristorante Casa della Neve, a place we've spoken about on the blog as the spot for drinking Fil da Fer and eating traditional mountain specialties. At that point you can pick up the L1 sentiero, the trail, and follow the signs. 


The path takes us into the woods, and they quickly become fairly deep. I should mention it is cooler up here, and even more so when you enter the woods. But it becomes warmer again as we descend. In other words, think layers. We don't see the lake at all as the path twists and turns down the mountain. It's never steep, and it's always wide enough; it's a nice descent. You'll pass people who have walked up, and you'll be sharing the path with mountain bikers heading down. It's quite popular to rent bicycles at the Bicico rental shop at the cableway base. Bicycles can be brought up with the cablecar and Andrea also leads tour groups down for those who prefer a guide. You may also encounter horseback riders here; the stables are located at the Alpine intermediate station.




This higher portion of the trail is heavily covered in gravel. Occasionally you will notice steel posts embedded in the ground, as in this photo. The tops have been painted red, to make them more visible to hikers and bikers. These are remnants of a chapter from Stresa's past: the Stresa - Mottarone tram, which opened in 1911 and closed in 1970. Those pegs at one time held the track rails, and indeed, for much of the walk the L1 we are walking on is the old tram route. 


There are other trails that branch off from the L1, longer walks leading to other peaks or down to other towns. We continue to follow the signs for the L1 and Stresa.


Eventually we leave the woods and encounter open fields. See the posts with the orange conical tops? Another interesting bit of trivia to know while you walk: These are markers for the metanodotto. This is the natural gas pipeline. This gas pipeline runs all the way from southern Italy, and if you followed it up through here it would lead you into Switzerland, then Germany, until reaching finally the Netherlands.

 



We've gone from dense trees to open fields. You can actually see the vegetation change along the way. We have walked slowly; it has taken us about two hours to reach the intermediate Alpino station, which you can see in the photo below. The horse stables are out of range to the left of the building. Here we have picked up the paved road again, and there is ample parking. The Giardino Botanico Alpinia is found around the bend to the right, 300 meters along.


Before returning to Stresa we stopped for a rest at the small Bar Villino Beniamino. It's warmer here, and they have a row of wooden picnic tables with umbrellas along the railing. From here we watched the cablecars come and go, while refreshing ourselves with two cold beers.




This quirky bar has some interesting 'art' and yummy simple fare. We decided to finish our walk at this point... maybe the beers had something to do with that... so we ordered a plate of melon and prosciuto, another of bresaola.  It was a perfect pick-us-up after the walks down. If you however, should decide to continue walking down the L1, the good news is that the remaining section of the trail to Stresa is shorter than what we have just done.





There are countless variations you can do, and many walks in the area, of all different lengths and abilities. Trail maps can be picked up at the Tourist Office and are posted in the cableway station. Have you taken a memorable walk around Lago Maggiore that you'd like to share with us? I'm always looking for a new one to try...

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