Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Passo San Lucio: on the border 'tween Italy and Switzerland

Buggiolo (Val Rezzo) - This easy hike was done in December, 2 days before the year ran out, and ended up being such a pleasant discovery that I'm marking it as a do-again. What drew me to the itinerary was the proximity to Lugano and the swiss border, and the fact that we'd be able to cross the imaginary divide between Italy and Switzerland without having to show passports. Also, the idea of being in two countries at the same (eh, one foot planted on the Swiss side and the other in Italy) made it even more cool-worthy. Kinda like the feeling I had when I shot this photo of the swiss flag and refuge with the italian hut to the right.

Swiss and italian refuges at Passo San Lucio

The trail is simple enough, with about a 500 meter (1640 feet) difference from starting point to the top and takes 2½-3 hours for a round trip. A 16th century church makes a stark contrast against snow-capped peaks and sits silently alone, just steps from the two refuges. To keep on track, two signs point the way to rifugi San Lucio and Garzirola along the trail.

16th century church at Passo San Lucio

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Rifugio San Lucio
What? No polenta?!? - Odd, but true, and I think it was only on this occasion that the yellow porridge went missing. We plowed through everything - locally made salame, bresaola, pancetta, assorted cheeses, a hefty portion of braised ham shank, tripe soup (slightly chewy strips with bits of vegetables), and a half loaf of simple country bread. It goes without saying that everything tastes twice as good after an invigorating walk up. If I might give a thumbs down on any one thing, it would be the coffee. It was lukewarm and weak (like swiss coffee perhaps?), not the usual dark stuff that Italy is proud of. Doesn't matter much, because from food to service, it was clear that this rifugio is popular with visitors. Diehards go even further to Rifugio Garzirola (elevation 1975 meters), another 1380 feet to go people!

L - R: salame, bresaola, pancetta.

Locally made cow's milk cheese. The middle is a black-pepper ricotta.

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On the way back we ran into a small herd of goats (check the horns on that animal!) before stopping at the bottom for a stroll on the lake. Lago di Piano is clearly visible and freezes over solid during this time of year. Ice skaters, sled riders, hockey players, doggies...they were out on the lake in numbers. Another first for me and also for Maddie who wasted no time trying to win the affections from anyone who caught her attention.

Directions for Buggiolo: See google maps. The Garzirola/San Lucio rifugio sign on the left marks the beginning of the path off of Via Provinciale and is hard to miss. As with many starting points located in remote or isolated areas, the road which eventually leads to Buggiolo can be quite harrowing. At a certain point after the hamlet of Corrido, the lane narrows considerably, but occasional wide spots allow for two-car and roving farm animal manuevers.