Stage 1 – From the church of St. Nicholas in Casnedo to Rovenna
The route begins in the Church of St. Nicholas in Casnedo’s churchyard. The sacred building stands on the site of an old eighteenth-century oratory under the patronage of the Perti family – the aristocrats who owned the villa next door, at the time – and named after St. Charles Borromeo; its dedication to St. Nicholas derives from the fact that the small village community used to attend religious services in the chapel dedicated to the saint in the church of the Benedictine monastery of Cernobbio, which was suppressed in 1784, and where Villa Gastel now stands.
From the courtyard one has to walk down the 10 step ramp, then turn left into via Casnedo, that is flat and paved in its first section, but, after turning left again (where there’s a small fountain) becomes cobbled and terraced with a flight of 24 steps, ending in Via Angelo Noseda. You then have to cross via Noseda at the pedestrian crossing, turn right, and then immediately left, entering Via Monte Grappa, which is paved and goes uphill, and follow the indications on the red-white-red CAI 1 trail sign (the number refers to the first part of the famous “Via dei Monti Lariani”), and on the yellow sign directing to Mount Bisbino. After approx. 150 metres, about ten metres before crossing the single span stone bridge over the Garrovo stream, with its two 85cm concrete parapets, you can see a fine example of a large yew-tree (Taxus baccata) to your right (please note that verge on the right hand-side is unprotected). On the left you can see a four-storey building, the first of which is a basement, still carrying the now faded inscription “Crotto Rosa della Casa Rosa” (“The Pink House’s Pink Grotto”) on its façade. Immediately after the bridge, by following another yellow sign to Mount Bisbino, take via Vecchia on the left, a cobbled street with intermittent cement sections. Please mind the verge on the left of the road, towards the stream; it is surrounded by a metal railing (approx. 1m high) that has a gap in one point (it is therefore advisable to move to the right of the road).
Via Vecchia bends sharply to the right about 15m from the bridge, and significantly increases its gradient, while its width decreases to approx. 2m, squeezed between the (mostly dry) enclosure walls of private properties. In this section the ground becomes uneven, with a small depression on the left that enables sewage water to flow. After about 80 metres, a series of 14 cobblestone steps (approx. 1m long and 5 cm high, except the last two, which are about 20 cm high), connect via Vecchia with via XXIV Maggio. At the junction, via XXIV Maggio’s verge remains unprotected for about 3 metres, the gap being only partially covered by a plant container. By turning back and looking at the mountain above, you can enjoy an interesting view of the Garrovo stream’s valley edge, its upper section being carved into a thick layer of Quaternary glacial deposits, which are made by clusters of rocky debris of various grain sizes (boulders, gravel, sand and even finer materials) and of diverse nature (with subalpine calcareous elements mixed with others of alpine origin, such as gneiss and serpentinite), transported and then abandoned, when they retired, by glaciers which on several occasions invaded our area during the Quaternary era.
You then come to via XXIV Maggio, which is paved; continue uphill, keeping to the left, and follow the bend, then continue along the path, ignoring, after approx. 20m, the detour from via Scalini to the “Prea de Buc”, an interesting large erratic rock left by Quaternary glaciers at their withdrawal. This rock takes its name from the natural notch on its top, which collects rain water that quenches the thirst of birds and small animals. The carriage road is now about 3.5 metres wide and rises gently for about 150 metres between the boundary walls of villas and farmhouses to a cast iron fountain, where you turn left into via Stomaino. Here one enters the hamlet of Stomaino, which has kept the typical atmosphere of the “past”. In front of the house at number 2 there is an old vine plant, with a long wrinkled trunk, which elegantly climbs up to the two balconies on the upper floors. This plant – by sheer force of nature – springs out of a hole in a long concrete seat located before the façade of the house. Throughout the area, vines were once grown to obtain grapes which made a fresh and tangy local wine. On the wall of this same house hangs a simple wooden cross which bears the date 1892.
After about 30m you turn right uphill into via Michelangelo Colonna, a seventeenth-century painter native of Rovenna (1604-1687). The ground, originally cobbled, is now made of concrete, and uneven. Here, too, care must be taken, because the right hand-side after 20m along this road is unprotected for approx.10m, in correspondence of a secondary road that rises from via Stomaino; after another 40m, on the left of the road, next to the wall, there is a hole for open drainage.
After another 40 metres you cross the bridge over the small stream that flows from the (Fox Hole), a karst cave of Mount Bisbino under the hamlet of Madrona, with approx. 80cm concrete stone parapets. In correspondence of the bridge the ground becomes cobbled, and, after approx. 10m and for about 10m, there is no protection on the right hand-side of the road, as a passage opens onto a number of underlying terraced gardens, bordered by dry stone walls, evidence of old local wisdom, a harmonious balance between man and nature. A little grove of bamboo canes, hardly a local botanic feature, is located on the right edge, immediately after the passage, and is worthy of note. Continuing the climb, the cobbled ground becomes more uneven and after the bend it turns back into concrete. After 30 metres from the bend the ground becomes cobbled, and the left edge of the road is bordered at first by a metal railing, approx. 1m high, then, after 25m, by a wall of the same height, and then, after another 25m, again by a railing. Looking to your left, across the river, you can see a building in undressed local stone, recently renovated, formerly a mill, surrounded by terraces bordered by stone walls. After another bend, the right edge of the road is protected by a metal railing, and after another 30 metres the ground becomes paved with asphalt. Looking to the right, you can enjoy a beautiful view of Cernobbio, with the outline of Villa Erba “emerging” from the trees of the park and, more to the right, the Citadel of silk, which is the area where, at the turn of the 20th century, stood all silk factories owned by Milan born engineer Davide Bernasconi, with the characteristic “caminun,” the tall brick chimney of Bernasconi’s textile industry which was located in this area.
After the crossroads, keep to the left, still in via Colonna, after passing a grid; the ground, initially paved with asphalt and a little uneven concrete, leaves room for stretches of cobblestone, which gradually become larger, giving an idea of the old mule track, that is the theme of our journey. After about 40 metres, keep right on the section of the road that is preceded by a notice of no access to motor vehicles, except those authorized; after about another 20m, at the first turn, placed against the wall, you can see a rhomboidal slab of shale, engraved with a high-relief cross, the date 1813 and a few letters, in memory of the death of a youth on 19 November 1813. The mule-track proceeds uphill with a cobblestone, asphalt, and concrete ground, and, after about 80 metres, it enters the historic core of the hamlet of Rovenna.
Point of departure Cernobbio, Casnedo, church of St. Nicholas
Point of arrival Cernobbio, Rovenna, former Belvedere Restaurant
Route type a mix of urban and excursion
Total length approx. 1000m
Time on foot 50min
Difficulty Tourist-Excursionist, uphill, with sections showing a mix of cobbled-concrete-asphalt paving and steps
Rise approx. 150m
Maximum altitude 450m asl
Paving material asphalt, cobbles, concrete
Parking at the departure point limited parking spaces available nearby
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