November 16

Idro to Ponte Caffaro via the Smugglers’ Way

The River Caffaro rushing to the lake on Sunday 11th November
A circular walk starting at Brione

This week has been devoted to IKEA. We have a FIAT Punto for transport. The Punto is very economical and sure footed on narrow bendy roads. The Punto is not very good at carrying large flat packs of furniture. The driver and passenger of the Punto endured acute discomfort in order to get home the IKEA wonders of cupboardly ingenuity. As one casually drifts around the waymarked floor of the IKEA store and lists all of the items needed it is always a surprise when one gets the stuff home to find that the cupboards do not miraculously make themselves. Not only do the cupboards not make themselves they become heavier by the second and they don’t hang themselves up on the wall. Much sweating in the pantry and much swearing as well.

After all of this unaccustomed domestic effort we had a day off today and caught the early bus to Pieve Vecchia to have a stroll. The weather forecast predicted clear skies for today so we didn’t wear warm clothes as the sun has been quite hot. Lightly clad we set off at 7:10 to stroll to the bus. Yes, it was a trifle chilly but not too bad. We had a chat at the bus stop with a friend who was on her way to school. We set off from Ponte Caffaro on the bus leaving behind a blue sky and drove towards low clouds and mist and Pieve Vecchia (Idro)
After a hearty Pieve Vecchia breakfast of brioches filled with cream and a coffee/chocolate we set off into the low cloud.

Walking into the mist and Idro
00 Welcome to Idro

As we strolled over the bridge and could see the lake for the first time the feelings of icy tentacles gripping my poorly protected parts gave way to the wonder of the morning.

Boats on an Autumn morning
05 Boats in Autumn

The lake was filled with water fowl all warning each other of our approach. The ducks sounded as though they were having a good old laugh at us.

As we walked we could see the sun starting to make its way down the opposite side of the valley.

09 Sun arriving on the hills

It was at this point that we both realised that we had made a classic error in choice of clothing. Ponte Caffaro is, more or less, on the western side of the lake. We were strolling up the eastern side of the lake. The sun was not going to get to us until quite late in the proceedings.

The eastern side of Lago D’Idro is quite touristy with camp sites and holiday villages. This means that strolls along this part of the lake are delightful outside the holiday periods.

We had been going for about 4 miles and getting colder and colder. The last village before climbing up to the actual smugglers’ path is Vesta, a real holiday village, so no chance of a coffee and a warm fire to be found there. Janet speculated as to whether we, or the sun, would arrive first at Vesta. We won by a about 10 minutes. There was a small patch of beach which had sun on it. With stiffening legs we shuffled towards salvation and the blessed sun on our frozen backs. Janet took an age to open the map with cold clumsy hands.

Sun at last
22 Lago D'Idro and sun at last

We hung about soaking up the rays and wolfing down more brioches for a good 20 minutes.

The smugglers’ path or Sentiero dei Contrabbandieri starts at Vesta and finishes just under the rock on which Bondone Castle sits. The path crosses the old border with Austria and was used to smuggle sugar and tobacco. The path fell into disuse and was reopened in 1994 after repair and the installation of wires for the tricky bits.

Janet on a tricky bit
28 Janet on a wire

This is where the tricky goes
29 The path slips away

When we first strolled along the path, some years ago, it was in quite good condition with only one awkward bit. Today we noticed that the effects of heavy rain and so on has made the stroll more of a challenge. We didn’t take poles as we ‘knew’ that it was fairly easy. In places trees had been uprooted and the already very narrow path reduced to nothing by loose scree coming down with the tree. If you don’t have a head for heights or are bothered by scrambling above fairly hefty drops then i would avoid this walk until it has had a bit of TLC. I would not fancy taking a mule train of contraband along this path at the moment. In fact I trod on a loose rock and had a wobbly moment teetering towards the edge. Odd how one always teeters towards the edge never towards the place of safety.

The old Austrian border
31 The old border with Austria

The views over the lake are fabulous from the footpath and the view of the old fortifications at Anfo are terrific. The up up up and scramble scramble scramble warmed us up and we felt almost comfortable when we got to Baitoni and the end of the footpath.

A fabulous walk marred only by our poor selection of clothes, setting off too early and lack of poles.

[map style=”width:450px; height:500px” gpx=”/wp-content/uploads/gpx/2012-11-16_0807 102mi Raw.gpx”]

The River Caffaro rushing to the lake on Sunday 11th November
A circular walk starting at Brione

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Posted November 16, 2012 by mike in category "Strolling in Italy


  1. By imogenmay on


    Immy here, this blog is undeniably fabulous, inspirational and entertaining. So it deserves a Liebster nomination! This is what you need to do: – blog about some facts about you, answer my 10 set questions and nominate another 5 blogs (with under 200 followers) Well done! Ix

    1. By mike (Post author) on

      HI Immy, thanks very much. We’ll have a go at this on the weekend.


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