This walk is pleasant but relatively long, therefore you had better leave early in the morning or choose a shorter variant (eg: start from “Piazzale Belvedere” reachable by public transport)
The trail starts in Santa Maria del Monte. Walk up to the top of the village to Piazzale Pogliaghi, also a stop of the Varese public transport system. The Piazzale is a scenic point with a beautiful view over the Valle della Rasa, on Monte Martica, and on the Lombard Prealps (Alpine foothills). North of the Piazzale follow the Via Monte Tre Croci, one of the most popular walks for Sacro Monte visitors. After a few dozen metres take the track to the right towards the Pizzelle (Trails 1 and 8). Walk up to the Campo dei Fiori Nature Reserve with the dry meadows typical to this area on your right. As you reach the Pizzelle gap (926 m) take the diversion to Trail 1 towards Forte Orino and walk to the end station of the old cable-car. The station, together with the old Ristorante Panoramico, the residential area and the Grande Albergo (“Grand Hotel”) Campo dei Fiori, is an imposing tribute to the Art Nouveau style of the early 20th century All buildings are now abandoned. In front of the Grande Albergo is the grotta Marelli, one of the most important karstic caves in the park. Take the mule track north from the old station and in 15 minutes you will face the limestone cliffs of the Palestra di Roccia (rock gym). Take the steps to the fir-wood above the Grand Hotel and reach the yard before a small church. Just above it stands the Monte Tre Croci (“Hill of the Three Crosses”) that you can reach through the memorial walk dedicated to the soldiers of the Italian Army fallen in the first world war. The three huge crosses are a symbolic reconstruction of the Calvary. Beyond the crosses the trail reaches the summit of the hill. There it branches to take you up to the wonderfully scenic point of the Piazzale della Batteria (Battery Yard), a post of the old Linea Cadorna defence line. Follow the paved Via al Forte leaving the Bar Ristorante Irma behind you on your left. This place, reachable by public transport, can be an alternative access to the trail. Shortly after that you will get to Piazzale Belvedere, another beautiful scenic point with benches. The Piazzale is also the entrance to the ’’Cittadella di Scienze della Natura’’ (“Nature Sciences Citadel”), with the G.V. Schiaparelli Astronomical Observatory, at the top of Cima Paradiso. Several information panels will introduce you to the region’s nature. After visiting the Citadel’s park get back to the Piazzale Belvedere and head to Forte Orino, on a stretch of the jogging and training track that starts there. The high altitude trail winds its way under the peaks of the Campo dei Fiori reserve, through copse, fir and larch wood. The trail branches several times: you will follow the direction of Forte Orino. Once you get there, on clear weather days, you will enjoy an amazing view of the Alpine foothills, the Piedmont and Central Alps, Lake Maggiore, the Po River Plain and the Varese lakes. From there walk down to Gavirate on Lake Varese on Trail 13. The descent is rough, so be careful and pay attention to the signs, especially when you are in the vicinity of Gavirate on Trail 13. Gavirate is a little town on Lake Varese and the starting point of the cycling and walking track described in the next stage.
Source: Parco Campo dei Fiori.
Landscape, NATURA2000, protected area
Landscape and nature
The Campo dei Fiori Park, established in 1984, includes the Campo dei Fiori and the Monte Martica massifs. The Park is in a scenic position over the hill district of Varese Province, the Po River plain and the small hill-locked Alpine lakes. The Park lies between the Valcuvia Valley to the north and north-west; the Valganna valley to the east, while the southern portion of the Park borders the city of Varese and the main road to Laveno. The two main massifs are separated by the Valle Rasa, connecting the Valcuvia Valley to the Olona River Valley. Inside the Park six nature reserves protect the most important habitats. The Lago di Ganna Nature Reserve, The Lago di Brinzio Nature Reserve, The Pau Majur Bog, and the Carecc Bog are the Park’s main wet areas. The Monte Campo dei Fiori Nature Reserve presents a complex underground karstic system, rugged limestone cliffs, and vast beech and spruce forests; the Martica-Chiusarella Nature Reservecontains the last patches of dry acidic meadows, extremely rich in plant and invertebrate life. The eight Nature Landmarks, real nature gemstones of the Park are definitely worth a visit. Sixteen clearly sign-posted trails make visiting the park an easy and pleasurable experience. Long-distance trails also run through the Park, such as the E1 European Trail, the Jubilee Trail, the Via Verde Varesina Trail, and the Valcuvia Ring Trail. (Fonte: parcocampodeifiori.it)
Protected areas, proposed Emerald sites, Natura 2000 sites
• Campo dei Fiori Regional Park
• Monte Legnone e Chiusarella Natura 2000 site
• Versante Nord del Campo dei Fiori Natura 2000 site
• Grotte del Campo dei Fiori Natura 2000 site
• Monte Campo dei Fiori Nature Reserve
• This is one priority conservation area of the WWF European Alpine Programme
Wildlife, Natura 2000 species
Insects and crustaceans: Austropotamobius pallipes, Cerambyx cerdo, Lucanus cervus, Euplagia quadripunctaria
Fishes: Cottus gobio
Amphibians: Triturus carnifex, Rana latastei
Birds: Pernis apivorus, Milvus migrans, Circaetus gallicus, Falco peregrinus, Alcedo atthis, Caprimulgus europaeus, Dryocopus martius, Circus cyaneus, Circus pygargus, Lanius collurio
Bats: Myotis bechsteinii, Myotis capaccinii, Myotis emarginatus
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 culture
• Old cable-car
• Grande Albergo Campo dei Fiori
• WWI fallen soldiers memorial walk
• The three crosses
• Cittadella di Scienze della Natura – Nature sciences citadel
• G.V. Schiaparelli astronomical observatory
Next stage: Emerald Trail Ticino-Varese Province: Stage 19
Stage before: Emerald Trail Ticino-Varese Province: Stage 17