• Descrizione
  • Più
Plants and flowers
Getting there
Local transport
When to go
Food and drink
What to take
Dos and don’ts
Using this guide
Lago Maggiore
Walk 1 Stresa to Belgirate
Walk 2 From the Mottarone to Baveno
Walk 3 Monte Orfano and Lago di Mergozzo
Walk 4 Cavandone on Monterosso
Walk 5 Ghiffa Sanctuary Loop
Walk 6 Villages above Cannero
Walk 7 The Cannero–Cannobio Traverse
Walk 8 Monte Carza
Walk 9 Val Cannobina
Walk 10 Cannobio–San Bartolomeo in Montibus Circuit
Walk 11 Monteviasco
Walk 12 Sasso del Ferro
Lago di Como
Walk 13 Moltrasio to Laglio
Walk 14 Pigra to Colonno
Walk 15 Colonno to Cadenabbia on the Greenway
Walk 16 San Martino Circuit
Walk 17 The Bocchetta di Nava Traverse
Walk 18 Crocetta
Walk 19 Val Sanagra
Walk 20 Rifugio Menaggio and Monte Grona
Walk 21 San Domenico and the Santuario di Breglia
Walk 22 Gravedona to Domaso
Walk 23 Domaso to Gera Lario
Walk 24 Sentiero del Viandante 1: Varenna to Bellano
Walk 25 Sentiero del Viandante 2: Bellano to Dervio
Walk 26 Around Bellagio
Walk 27 Belvedere del Monte Nuvolone
Walk 28 Monte San Primo
Walk 29 The Strada Regia from Pognana Lario to Torno
Walk 30 Brunate to Torno Path
Walk 31 Monte Boletto
Lago d’Iseo
Walk 32 Punta Alta
Walk 33 Santuario di San Giovanni
Walk 34 Corna Trentapassi
Walk 35 Monteisola and the Santuario della Ceriola
Lago di Garda
Walk 36 Eremo di San Valentino
Walk 37 Campione to Pregasio Loop
Walk 38 Limone sul Garda and the Valle del Singol
Walk 39 Sentiero del Sole
Walk 40 Monte Nodice and Pregasina
Walk 41 Strada del Ponale to Pregasina
Walk 42 The Venetian Bastione
Walk 43 Monte Brione
Walk 44 Torbole to Tempesta
Walk 45 Monte Baldo: Ventrar to San Michele
Walk 46 Monte Baldo: Cima delle Pozzette
Walk 47 Monte Baldo: Eremo SS Benigno e Caro
Walk 48 Monte Baldo: Rifugio Telegrafo Circuit
Walk 49 Monte Baldo: Costabella to Prada Alta
Walk 50 Torri del Benaco and Graffiti

This guidebook describes 50 day walks in the picturesque Lakes region of Northern Italy. Routes around Lakes Como, Iseo, Garda and Maggiore are included on little-known but well-waymarked paths. The routes range from 2 to 13 miles in length, so there is something for everyone, from easy leisurely strolls for first-time walkers to strenuous climbs for those with experience up panoramic peaks. The routes can easily be fitted into the space of a day, and every one of them can be accessed by the excellent local public transport network - ferry, train, bus, cable car, chair lift or funicular. All routes are illustrated with clear maps and inspirational photographs with full information provided about accommodation and public transport options around each of the four lakes for easy planning. This guidebook is an ideal companion to exploring the exceptional scenery, views and culture of the Italian Lakes.

  • Activities
    Walking, hiking
  • Seasons
    Spring, early summer and autumn are the ideal seasons, as the majority of the walks are low to medium altitude. However, midsummer is perfect for the higher alpine-type routes.
  • Centres
    On Lago Maggiore: Stresa and Cannobio; on Lago di Como: Menaggio, Bellagio and Como; on Lago d'Iseo: Iseo; on Lago di Garda: Malcesine, Torri del Benaco, Riva and Limone.
  • Difficulty
    The 50 walks are graded from easy strolls along lakesides and in woodland, through to moderate and fairly strenuous treks on alpine terrain. All can be fitted into a single, leisurely day. No special equipment is required.
  • Must See
    Marvellous historic paved pathways such as Strada Regia on Lago di Como and the Strada Borromeo on Lago Maggiore. Memorable trips on ferries and rides on cable-cars (Mottarone on Lago Maggiore, Monte Baldo on Lago di Garda), gorgeous alpine and Mediterranean wildflowers. Breathtaking panoramic mountains: Monte Baldo (Lago di Garda), Mottarone (Lago Maggiore) and Monte San Primo (Lago di Como) stand out.

thing in the world could compare to the charms of these days spent on the Milanese lakes.

Stendhal (1783–1842)

Beyond Bellano is the Dervio peninsula in upper Lago di Como (Walk 24)

A clutch of magnificent lakes spreads over the north of Italy at the foot of the gigantic Alpine chain on the border with Switzerland. Hemmed in by awesome cliffs, the glittering expanses of Maggiore, Como, Iseo and Garda have been visited by English-speaking holidaymakers since the days of the Grand Tour for their exquisite villas and lush gardens where camellias and rhododendrons spill over terraces.

Nowadays the great Italian lakes are well-known destinations for holidaymakers from the four corners of the globe, attracted by relaxing ferry cruises, romantic waterfront restaurants, picturesque villages, verdant alpine landscapes and dramatic views. A small percentage of visitors is drawn to the area for its outdoor activities, mainly the excitement of windsurfing and sailing. Yet just a few steps beyond the popular lakefronts a wonderful world of footpaths waits to be discovered by enthusiasts of all levels of experience and ability, from a leisurely waterfront stroll to a demanding 5-hour hike to the heights of alpine mountans. Well-marked straightforward routes can be enjoyed on short or longer walks, easily fitted into the space of a day. And every one of them can be accessed by the excellent local public transport network, be that ferry, train, bus, cable car, chair lift or funicular. The walking around these beautiful lakes makes use of a system of age-old paved mule tracks once used to link remote hamlets and cross the Alps in the interests of trade, pilgrimage and travel. There are also lakeside promenades as well as clear paths through woods and mountain valleys.

The four lakes are quite distinct in flavour and atmosphere – and all strikingly beautiful – how do you decide which one to start with? To caricature each one briefly, laid-back Maggiore boasts a bevy of picturesque islands-cum-villages that vie with quintessentially romantic Como for elegance in terms of villas and gardens. Garda is somewhat more dramatic and alpine in flavour with awesome cliffs around the upper lake, while little brother Iseo is petite and more remote than the other three. Rest assured that once your enthusiasm is fired you’ll want to see them all!

The beautiful grounds of Villa Melzi, Lago di Como (Walk 26)

The four lakes owe their formation to the huge glaciers that slowly spread down from the Alps towards the plains hundreds of thousands of years ago, scooping out giant channels. The glaciers carried with them rock debris which they bulldozed into long uniform ridges, known as moraines. When temperatures rose – around 12,000 years ago – the ice began to melt and retreat, leaving elongated troughs which filled with water to form spectacular lakes. Lying on a north–south axis, they resemble deep fjords, wedged between line after breathtaking line of rugged mountain ridges rising well over 2000m. Fed by rivers and streams running straight off the Alps, it takes until midsummer for their crystal-clear waters to reach a around 24°C – a bearable temperature for swimming.

For information on the culture of the lakes see the individual lake Introductions.

The Linea Cadorna

In the period preceding World War I, the fledgling Republic of Italy feared an invasion from Germany and Austria by way of neutral Switzerland, and set on the idea of protecting its frontiers. The Linea Cadorna, named after its principal creator General Luigi Cadorna, became reality between 1912 and 1916. An incredible 40,000 men were put to work constructing a man-made barrier stretching across the mountain tops and valleys of the alpine foothills up to the 2000m mark from Passo del Sempione northwest of Lago Maggiore all the way to Chiavenna well north of Lago di Como, and touching on the shores of the great lakes themselves. They constructed 296km of roads, 398km of mule tracks and 72km of trenches, as well as lookout posts, command structures and barracks (never thankfully put to the test), still in remarkably good condition. Sections of the Linea Cadorna are visited on Walks 3, 7 and 8 on Lago Maggiore, as well as Walk 16 on Lago di Como.

Sample Route

Val Cannobina
Start Orasso car park
Finish Cannobio bus stop
Distance 20km (12.4 miles)
Ascent/Descent 700m/1150m
Difficulty Grade 2
Walking time 5hr
Access Orasso is served by sporadic VCO buses; you may need a taxi (Tel. 0323 71410, Mob. 348 7821699). Note Spoccia, 1hr along the way, has a morning bus so may be used as an alternative access (check which days it runs on). Cannobio is on the VCO bus line between Verbania and Brissago on the Swiss border. Many ferries call in here. The bus stop is outside the principal church on the main road; the ferry wharf is 5min away.

This absolutely wonderful full-day walk begins high up in Val Cannobina, 15km from Cannobio and Lago Maggiore. With the exception of a short stretch of tarmac between Gurrone and Cavaglio, it follows clear marked paths and paved lanes, crossing countless mountain torrents on elegant stone bridges and dropping in and out of the villages. The route is known as the Via Borromea for the pastoral visit of San Carlo Borromeo, archbishop of Milan in the 1500s, who travelled along it to visit his subjects.

The charming village of Orasso, set on lower Monte Torriggia, has the only grocery shop encountered today, alongside a café-restaurant. Cavaglio, a good three quarters of the way down, has the only other café. Note Every village on this walk has a tap or fountain with drinking water. There is accommodation at Orasso and Cavaglio (see Lago Maggiore Introduction).

Spoccia and Orasso nestle in the woods in upper Val Cannobina


Val Cannobina is a rugged and densely wooded V-shaped valley, carved out by the eponymous torrent. Soaring above, the mountain fringes touch the 2000m mark. Their upper slopes are dotted with ancient alps, once summer pasture for livestock from traditional scattered villages, photogenic settlements of stone houses sporting tiny wooden balconies. In the face of limited opportunities for employment, and the downturn of the chestnut market due to competition from potatoes and cereals during the 19th and 20th centuries, the local population has dwindled from many thousands to just a handful today; for instance, Orasso shares a mere 120 residents with neighbouring Cursolo. Numbers do increase marginally in summer due to holidaymakers.

Orasso was named from the Latin oratio for ‘prayer’, and is the valley’s oldest settlement, dating from the 1300s. From the car park at the entrance to Orasso (700m) follow the red/white signs for Cannobio through the web of alleys past the ancient yet remarkably intact house Ca’ du Vécc’, with frescoes and a timber overhang. From the pretty church, its bell tower adorned with a sundial, is a superb view south to Monte Riga, dotted with stone shepherds’ huts. Heading NE the path narrows and enters wood on its way down to the first lovely bridge and stream crossing. A gentle climb leads S to a shrine and a road where you go uphill to a path junction, and L again up to Spoccia (798m, 1hr). All but deserted, this picturesque hamlet is brilliantly located. From the war memorial look south towards Falmenta and Monte Riga; from the church gaze up to Monte Zuccaro.

Return the same way to the road and turn L uphill past the ‘H’ helicopter pad to the junction R for Gurrone. It soon passes terraces with a row of stone huts and crosses Rio Ponte Secco. The ensuing lengthy stretch, due S and level, has sections cut into the rock face. A shrine doubles as a brilliant belvedere to Monte Zeda to the southwest, back to Orasso and Spoccia, Monte Zuccaro and the knobbly Gridoni outcrops, as well as Monte Riga and scattered hamlets. The next watercourse boasts a lovely waterfall and especially elegant stone bridge, and soon an orientation table puts names to all the mountains and villages far and wide.

En route to Gurrone

Moving SE after a rocky point you pass two houses, then a water trough and a pasture clearing. Further on is a cemetery and path junction – keep L uphill to join the road into Gurrone (700m, 1hr 15min). It’s worth taking time to explore this village, with its atmospheric covered passageways and wooden loggias.

The tarmac takes you through to the church and a car park, where a handkerchief corner of glittering Lago Maggiore is now visible. Now follow the unappealing steep road downhill ESE to Cavaglio (501m, 20min). Walk through the village, detouring to the bar/café if needed, as far as the church where drinking water is found at the foot of the bell tower. Soon you fork L where the old way resumes, an admirable piece of civil engineering as the mule track plunges in a succession of tight curves in easy descent to a majestic bridge high over Rio di Cavaglio.

The old way continues through shady woodland, soon forking L uphill to a stone column commemorating the fall of the mule bearing San Carlo in 1569. The path levels out en route to the Cappella dell’Erta Calda, fitted out with benches where wayfarers could rest. Val Cannobina has narrowed considerably now, and the descent soon begins in earnest, with plunging views to the riverbed below. At frescoed Cappella la Torre, now derelict, a toll would be exacted for the use of the road. You finally emerge on the road at Traffiume, and branch R to the dramatic ravine, the Orrido di Sant’Anna (250m, 1hr 30min) and its whitewashed church. The bridge here is said to date back to Roman times.

Take the stepped ramp down to the riverbed and pool, then follow the track for walkers and cyclists (pista ciclopedonale) E through the trees along the watercourse. After a road bridge keep on through fields to Ponte Ballarino.

This bridge, whose name means ‘wobbly bridge’, is a suspension bridge with a story to tell. In order to replace a precarious plank across the tumultuous stream (where people had been swept away), in 1933 villagers raised the money themselves to finance a bridge. Flood damage later put paid to that one, and the current version was built in the 1980s.

Ponte Ballarino

Once on the opposite bank (café), walk straight ahead along the minor road to an intersection and branch R to pass the concrete wall of the cemetery. At the car park, keep R as per the sign ‘Centro Storico’. An alley leads through to Piazza Casnago then Via A Giovanola where you turn L. Ahead stands the elegant bell tower not far from the main road and bus stop of Cannobio (220m, 1hr).

If you have any energy left, wander on down to the lakefront for a well-deserved drink.