From the border checkpoint bridge of Ponte Tresa you can walk on the lake side for approximately 2 km to the enchanting Stretto di Lavena.
Walk towards Lavena’s centre, keeping the Aquatic Park to your left, down the via Zanzi to the Church of Madonna della Porta. With the church in front of you, turn left, cross the main road and walk uphill until you find the cycling track, an old railway decommissioned in the early 1950’s and recently restored to new use. Walk for 2 km on the slightly uphill track, on a sequence of flyovers and tunnels, until you get to Cadegliano Viconago, in the Argentera Nature Park. Over its 5 hectares the Park will welcome you with old abandoned mills with frescoed walls, century-old trees, an artificial pond, and an amazing old railway bridge, restored by the Comunità Montana della Valganna e Valmarchirolo.
Leave the Park and walk through the hamlet of Gaggio to get back to the old railway. After the railroad flyover, an early 20th century masterpiece of engineering, turn right and follow the steep trail, through the hornbeam wood, to Marchirolo. Follow the via Dante to the village centre then walk uphill on the porphyry-paved alleys of the Trentino, Marchirolo’s most ancient neighborhood. You will walk past the imposing steps of St. Martin’s church and follow the main road through Cugliate and Fabiasco. 50 metres down from Marchirolo’s Town Hall make a detour so as not to miss the beautiful Cugliate’s wash place and, a little further on, the Purificazione della Beata Vergine Maria Chapel, in Fabiasco, with a spectacular view on the Valganna valley.
Walk down from Fabiasco’s centre through slightly downhill meadows to the Castelvecchio pastures. Take the forest road up to the Pianeggi beech wood. Then descend to Cunardo and take the Via S. Abbondio past the 18th-century S. Abbondio church, where you will enjoy the scenic view of the Valcuvia, Monte San Martino, Campo dei Fiori, and Piedmont beyond Lake Maggiore. You can then start the steep descent on the cobblestone streets of Cunardo’s historical centre. Then take the Via Leopardi to get back to the old railroad cycling track. Zig zag through the residential area in Ponte Nativo and watch the Margorabbia river enter the ground in what is know as the Cunardo Gorge (Orrido di Cunardo), one of the most spectacular karstic landscapes features in Lombardy and an attraction for spelunkers and tourists. Get back on the cycling track along the Tenda pastures (in winter the pastures are used for cross-country skiing), cross the river once more on the Ponte delle Lische bridge, 800 metres from the Gorge. Walk on the cycling track, then along the main road and over the bridge twice more. Now you are back on the old railroad track and you will pass the still operational 18th century Rigamonti. You will then get to Ghirla after crossing the Margorabbia River for the fifth time. We suggest you take your time in visiting the Old Forge, the already mentioned mill where you can buy traditionally made flour, and the Ghetto district. It all requires only a short detour (no more than 100 metres) from the Emerald Trail.
Trail description: Paolo Sartorio, Forest Officer, Comunità Montana della Valganna e Valmarchirolo.
Protected areas, proposed Emerald sites, Natura 2000 sites
Wildlife, Emerald species
Fish: Landlocked shad (Alosa fallax lacustris), Danube roach (Rutilus pigus), savetta (Chondrostoma soetta)
Amphibians: Lataste frog (Rana latastei), Italian crested newt (Triturus carnifex)
Birds: Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea), Common redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus), Rock partridge (Alectoris graeca), Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), Black grouse (Tetrao tetrix), Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), Firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus), Common krestel (Falco tinnunculus), Eagle owl (Bubo bubo), Common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), Dipper (Cinclus cinclus), Black kite (Milvus migrans), Green woodpecker (Picus viridis), Black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius), Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), Common whitethroat (Sylvia communis), Great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus), Wryneck (Jynx torquilla)
Other species of interest
Mammals: fox, badger, chamois, red deer, wild boar
Landscape and nature
• The Cunardo Gorge (Orrido in Italian) is one of the most important karstic phenomena in Lombardy.
Protected areas, proposed Emerald sites, Natura 2000 sites
• Argentera Nature Park
• Priority conservation area of the WWF European Alpine Programme
WWF’s tips for hikers
Plan each stage carefully, purchase a 1:25000 map, use light but sturdy equipment (hiking boots, rain cape, binoculars…). Be sure to carry a small supply of water and food. We suggest you taste local food (possibly organic) at resting places and restaurants.
Do not litter, do not pick up flowers or rocks and in no way disturb the local fauna. It is unsafe for inexperienced hikers to leave the marked trails and it may cause disturbance to wildlife.
History and ethnography
• The Chiesa del Crocifisso church dates back to the 1950’s. Works of modern art can be seen here, among them ceramic high-reliefs by A. Bianchini and one ceramic Last Supper by M. Moscardini. Lavena Ponte Tresa.
• The Church of San Pietro e Paolo, first reported in 1200, was demolished in 1950; the original bell tower is still standing. Lavena Ponte Tresa.
• The Madonna della Porta Church, is a baroque church built between 1550 e il 1570; a fresco featuring the Baptism of Jesus, a 16th century wooden statue of the Holy Virgin Vergine, and a 18th century altar. Lavena Ponte Tresa.
• Church of San Martino
• Church of S. Abbondio, Cunardo
• Benedictine Abbey and cloister of S. Gemolo, Ganna
Source : Interreg Charta Itinerum and Paolo Sartorio.
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