Friday, July 20, 2012

Stresa Travel's Afternoon off to Macugnaga

This week Luca and I managed an afternoon off and decided to head up to the fresh air of Macugnaga. It is a favourite spot of ours if we only have a half day and feel the need to clear our minds!

View From Monte Moro
We left Stresa at around midday on Wednesday and after a short run up the superstrada we were soon at Piedimulera. This is a small town at the start of the Anzasca Valley whose name literally means "at the foot of the mule track", referring to the old route which was once the only way up the valley.

We've driven up this valley so many times, but it never ceases to take my breath away! The twisting and turning road allows you to get wonderful views down into the ravine, of the slopes packed with pine trees and of the craggy villages which look like they are literally hanging on to the hillsides. With the air-con off and the windows turned down, cool, fresh air filled the car and wide grins crossed our faces.

Luca in the cable car
Arriving in Macugnaga you reach the main square surrounded by the town hall, hotels and bars and the tourist office. As it was time for lunch we parked up and headed to our usual place for a sandwich: Bar Flizzi. A seat in the shade afforded wonderful views of Monte Rosa Massif and the Belvedere Glacier, and after a restorative panino we moved the car up to the cable car, car park.

Madonna della Neve
The ascent!
We haven't taken the Monte Moro cable car in years, at least not in full summer so on went the walking boots, sun hats and camera bags! A return ticket costs €17.00 for adults, €15.00 for overs 60's, €11.00 for children 4-14 years and €1 for under 4's. The first stage to Alpe Bill is quite a small cabin and we were lucky enough to have the cabin to ourselves so we could enjoy the views in all directions. At Alpe Bill we changed into a larger cabin and continued our ascent. We soon arrived at Monte Moro (approx 2800m) and headed out to explore.

I have never seen the area around the cable car station without snow and there is still some around even in July! We had a wander around and discovered crystal clear pools, granita-like snow and beautiful rock formations. Above ours heads the golden statue of the Madonna della Neve was gleaming in the sunlight and the more agile (not us, I'll admit!) can climb up to reach her and look down into Switzerland. I find it difficult to describe the views from Monte Moro without sounding clichéed, so hopefully the photos are speaking for themselves!

View from Monte Moro
During our ascent in the cable car we had spotted two walkers heading up the path below us at quite a lick! As we arrived at the cable car to make our descent they were greeted with jokey comments from the cable car staff asking what had kept them ... we discovered they had run up the whole way in around 1.5 hours!!! If I tell you that on the walk takes 4 hours and the height difference is around 1400m ...... well, you get the idea.

The Chiesa Vecchia and Alpinist Cemetery
Once back down in the town we headed to one of our favourite spots, the Chiesa Vecchia  which dates back to the 12th century and is surrounded by the alpinist's cemetery. Within the cemetery there are plaques and tombstomes remembering climbers who have lost their lives in the mountains surrounding Macugnaga. Alpinist Ettore Zapparoli is one of those remembered in the cemetery. Over the years he explored the east face of Monte Rosa many times but sadly went missing in 1951 whilst attempting one of its most dangerous peaks. His remains were discovered by a climber in 2007 and he was finally buried in the cemetery in Macugnaga in 2008.

In memory of Ettore Zapparoli
Near the church you will also see a large lime tree with a trunk measuring 8.3m in circumference! The tree is estimated to be 500 years old and was where the local population, the Walser, used to hold important town meetings. In fact, it is said to have been planted from seed by a lady who was one of the first Walser shepherds who populated the area. You'll notice, as you walk around the town, that the street names are in both Italian and Walser.

The lime tree
We continued our walk through the town with a sweet smell of pine trees following us on our way back to the main square. A quick stop to send a postcard to my nephew and share an ice-cream before we walked back to the car via the old part of the village. Here you will see the traditional Walser houses made out of interlocking wooden logs which I think are just beautiful. Especially when there's great displays of geraniums tumbling over the balconies.

Traditional Walser Houses
All good things come to an end, however, and it was time to head back down the valley to Stresa. Hopefully we'll be back up in Macugnaga soon to see some of our other favourite spots like the Belvedere Glacier or Lago delle Fate. 

If you don't have a car you can still reach Macugnaga with us every Saturday afternoon during the summer on our excursion. If you visit at the beginning of July you can also catch the San Bernardo Festival when local crafts and traditions are celebrated.

Have you been to Macugnaga? What did you do and what was your favourite part of your trip?

Sarah, Viaggi Tomassucci

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