Discover Italy's breathtaking lakes with a Cicerone guidebook
Walking the Italian Lakes
This handy guidebook contains detailed route descriptions for 48 day walks around the stunning Italian lakes of Maggiore, Como, Iseo and Garda. The walks range from easy, leisurely strolls for beginners to more strenuous routes up panoramic peaks. Each walk varies in length from 2 to 13 miles and offers varying terrain to suit all walkers. More...
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Stresa to Belgirate
|Start||Stresa Tourist Office, Piazza Marconi|
|Finish||Belgirate railway station|
|Distance||9km (5.6 miles)|
|Walking time||2hr 30min|
|Access||Stresa can be reached by train and is well served by ferries which moor at Piazza Marconi alongside the Tourist Office. From Belgirate, trains back to Stresa are approximately hourly, more frequent than ferries.|
A string of old pathways, possibly of ancient Roman origin, link the lovely town of Stresa with quiet Belgirate, a little-visited lakeside village to the south. Waymarked as L2, most of the way it passes through divine chestnut woods, with clearings offering inspirational lake views. The chestnut fruit was once fundamental to this area’s economy and is referred to as arbul – in the local dialect: ‘the tree’ – par excellence. Harvesting the nuts and maintaining man-made terraces is a thing of the past now, but plenty of reminders can still be seen along the way. This is an easy and very enjoyable half-day walk, with a return to Stresa either by ferry or train.
Before setting out get a ferry or train timetable from the Tourist Office and arm yourself with drinking water and a snack as there is nothing in the way of cafés or restaurants until Belgirate.
From lakefront Piazza Marconi and the Tourist Office (200m) at Stresa, go L (SSE) away from the town along the water’s edge as far as the café Pasticceria Gigi. Here turn R on Via Rosmini (red/white waymarks) in gentle ascent past houses and a church, then go L on Via Castello. This becomes a grassy path alongside a stone wall and soon joins a paved old way in ascent to a cluster of houses.At an intersection with a shrine, fork L on Via Vecchia per Passera, a shady cobbled lane leading SSE into woodland along the boundary of the Villa Pallavicini gardens. It narrows to a good path accompanied by a stream, and climbs steadily, maintaining the same direction. Further along, a house or two is passed and a minor road crossed, then it’s up to a wonderful belvedere at the Oratorio di Passera (320m), a modest church erected in the 1700s by a local wine merchant to give thanks for deliverance after being shipwrecked on the lake. A quiet surfaced road then a lane lead ahead and there are beautiful views to the opposite shore and the Sasso del Ferro mountain above Laveno.
Ignore the fork L for ‘Sentiero dei Castagni’ and continue along to a short stretch of road up to the picturesque church and cemetery of Sant’Albino (370m, 1hr 15min). Don’t take the fork for Magognino but keep straight ahead for a beautiful section on a wide path through ancient chestnut trees, old terracing and huge fallen boulders. At a junction with a shrine, keep L as per the red/white signs and onto a lane through to a vineyard and the pretty hamlet of Falchetti in a scenic spot. There’s more gentle uphill before a worthwhile 5min detour to a clearing and the 12th-century chapel of San Paolo.
Back on the main path, in a little while you begin a gradual descent. After crossing the stream Rio San Paolo the path moves out to fields and views towards the lower lake, including the vast line-up of moraine ridges extending east around Varese. A minor road with a tongue-twisting name (Via Pore Musolischvili) leads you to a bridge crossing – then you fork sharp L to where the path resumes as a lovely stepped way. Down at a road turn R and almost straightaway L at a shrine. A flight of steps concludes at the cemetery and Romanesque frescoed church, which boasts an elegant bell tower.
Keep down the paved road, following it as it veers L under the railway line. Then either continue down to the lakeside and ferry wharf, or go L along the road a further 10min to the railway station of Belgirate (230m, 1hr 15min).