I wish someone had told me there were two towns called Bellavista before Google Map Voice started blurting out directions. I know this now after being led through what seemed like an endless array of twists and turns through an industrial area of Chiasso to a little hamlet inhabited by a cluster of houses, a post office and a parking area. I really should have been a little more careful before pressing “Start”. After all, bella vista translates from Italian to “beautiful view” in English and the area is resplendent with so many of these. The Bellavista in front of us was nowhere near the mid-station Bellavista of the cog train that marks the beginning of the path up to the peak of Monte Generoso. Try again.
Three quarters of an hour later, with Google Map Voice now correctly oriented, we found ourselves at the top of what I would term a paved goat track in the parking lot that was my original intended destination. There is something quite enthralling about driving in this part of the world with its tight hairpin bends, steep narrow blind curves where mirrors seem to be attracted to rocks that stick out from embankments, precipitous drops over the edge, and exceedingly narrow roads where one has to back the car into tiny side verges to allow oncoming speeders to pass through. It wasn’t my first time in such driving conditions in Europe, I had been here eighteen months ago, but it was my first time in a hulking Ford Transit Van.
I asked my family to do the walk to the top of the mountain because I wanted to explore the via ferrata that existed there. For those that don’t know, via ferrata is an Italian term that means “iron path”. This path is a protected climbing route, built with metal steps, ladders, suspension bridges and zip wires all supported by a steel cable rail fixed to the rock that you clip into for protection in case you fall. While this area is a climbing mecca, I haven’t been able to find anyone to climb with yet. Via ferrata is a sport that I can pursue solo, and so I decided to purchase the equipment I needed to take up this sport. I expect it to arrive from Germany late this week, and I wanted to be ready to head out next weekend on my first taste of this new adventure.
We started the walk in a magnificent rich beech forest showered by a warming afternoon sun. It wasn’t a difficult walk, but John and I decided to take it as more of a saunter than a determined trek so that we could gain a real sense of what we had found ourselves in.
The path took us to the mid-station proper where we were able to look at the cog-train track in detail and ponder the engineering behind this train, and it then proceeded to a lookout with magnificent views over the jade green Lake Lugano below to the Alps proper. There, through the afternoon haze, we could see Monta Rosa (the second highest mountain in Europe) far beyond, and eager eyes scanned for the tell tale shape of the Matterhorn (the iconic mountain that graces the Toblerone packaging) that I will visit again, soon.
Further up the trail, the beech thinned, and dense bracken fern blanketed the slope below us. This opened up into a glorious alpine meadow with wild chamois grazing in the distance. Here, a few purple flowers bloomed happily towards the end of the growing season. I couldn’t tell you what flowers they were, but I could tell you that I found out that purple and blue flowers are pollinated by bees, as these creatures only have sensitivity to this end of the light spectrum. To the south we could see past the last of the foothills of the Alps into the plains of northern Italy, with the outline of Milan shimmering in the distance and, to the east, the bare rock majesty of The Dolomites beckoned to be explored once travel in this part of the world was, once again, easy.
Unfortunately, the detour to Bellavista number one ate well into the time we had and we weren’t able to complete the two and a half hour round walk up to the summit and back in time to return the borrowed van by the required time. We did have time however, to find a little spot by the side of the trail, sit and share a snack and then immerse ourselves in the beauty that was there and just breathe, before commencing our free and easy journey back down.