Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hiking in Val Biandino: the miracle of San Carlo

Introbio (province of Lecco) - "...while passing through the Troggia valley, the saint became thirsty, and like Moses, split a rock with a blow from his walking stick, causing fresh water to miraculously flow through the crevices."

Even if it's the sort of thing that spawns legend, it wasn't like I was dead set on finding the spot where San Carlo performed a miracle with a mere ka-thunk! to stone. Rather instead, it was an opportunity to experience the first part of a trail which promised a pleasant hike even in winter. This initial trek took us from Introbio to the midway point of Ponte dei Ladri (bridge of thieves) which crosses the Troggia river. The bridge is much more recognizable as the last parking area for those wanting to get a headstart on the trail to higher altitude mountain huts which are further along the way (Tavecchia, Bocca di Biandino, and Madonna della Neve). Only authorized vehicles are allowed to continue from then on.

See google maps.

The beginning of the trail is set behind a residential area. To get there, keep an eye out on the left side for the local bar Umberto I as you enter town (on the corner of via Umberto and via Fucinetta just after the bridge). To the right of the bridge will be via Partigiana Mina which then curves left into via all'Acqua and finally via per Biandino. This is not a terribly difficult path but it needs to be said that the smoothstone donkey lane climbs rapidly and steep. Soon after appears a shrine dedicated to St. Uberto (the protector of hunters!), and from there the going gets easier.

Red and white signs with the letters VB, Val Biandino, or the number 40 clearly point the way. When in doubt, follow directions to Fontana San Carlo which in regards to the right image, leads through a chestnut grove before crossing a bridge. After the bridge, a switchback up the mountainside intersects with a paved road. From here on up it's a breeze until San Carlo's fountain.

A few more minutes brings you to the Ponte dei Ladri. I feel as if this entry is only half finished with not having tucked into a bowl of steaming hot polenta at a refuge! But then that would've taken the fun out of packing the pocket knife, bread rolls, a hunk of cheese, a salame bought from the market at the Festa di San Bassiano and a few banana-chocolate energy bars, now wouldn't it? This itinerary is about 3½ hours total (2 up and 1½ down).

My new waterproof Merrell's are kick butt! Come snow, rain, or mud...bring it!