Intragna-Loco Mule path
A walk through lush green surroundings and along a beautiful old mule path that connects Centovalli and Onsernone valleys. Formerly the only transit route between the two valleys and the Locarno area, it was used by people going to market or taking herds to alpine pastures. Intragna and Loco, points of departure and arrival, are two interesting villages featuring well-preserved centres, churches boasting remarkable art works, and two ethnographic museums that bear witness to the past of the two valleys. The route not only offers beautiful views of the area and of the villages of Pila, Vosa and Niva, but also of river Isorno which flows between the gorges.
Itinerary: Intragna-Loco (3h, see map)
The walk stretches between two valleys, Centovalli and Onsernone, and runs along one of the finest mule paths in the Ticino area linking Intragna and Loco ("Via delle Vose"). Dating back to earlier times, prior to the 16th century, it was very important not only because it allowed the people of Onsernone to access the Locarno and Ascona markets, but was also used in summer to drive cattle to the Onsernone alpine pastures.
An easy, often shaded, extremely pleasant route that can be covered in half a day, roughly involving a 3-hour walk (just over 7 km) not counting the stops, which can be numerous as there are plenty of points of interest: well-preserved villages, churches, chapels and museums.
Intragna, the starting point, can be reached either by private means or by the Centovallina railway departing from Locarno. The village is worth visiting as it features a parish church dedicated to San Gottardo that still houses the19th century pictorial decorations of local artists Giacomo Antonio Pedrazzi, Giovanni Antonio Vanoni and Agostino Balestra, the tallest bell tower in the Ticino area (65 metres), and the 16th century "Casa Maggetti", home to a well preserved and interesting ethnographic museum.
From the parish church, follow a narrow alley leading to the 19th century oratory of the Sacro Cuore, where the mule path of this itinerary starts. After a thirty-minute climb you will reach Pila, an old settlement boasting a charming group of rustic cottages with stone roofs nestling amidst meadows and orchards. A now abandoned school, lying just near to the point where the trail passes, is a reminder that the hamlet once had many inhabitants. The view is stunning and stretches over the village below, to the entrance of Centovalli and Onsernone, over the village of Terre di Pedemonte, all the way to Lake Maggiore in the background. The mule path continues towards Vosa, another ward of Intragna, where an oratory is to be found. In the distance you can hear the Isorno river flowing. Hence the name of Intragna, "intra amnes", i.e., between two rivers: Isorno and Melezza. Once you reach Vosa di Dentro, follow the path down towards the suggestive Isorno gorges.
After crossing the iron bridge, which replaced the 16th century stone version that was swept away by the flood of 1978, the trail climbs towards Loco. On the way you will see some porticoed chapels that used to offer shelter to travellers. Niva, where Fra Bartolomeo Schmitz has lived for nearly two decades as a hermit, is located in an enchanting setting. The oratory, dedicated to St. John of Nepomuk, the protector of those who cross bridges and waterways, is framed by numerous and spectacular terraced vineyards that have been recovered from abandonment.
The trail then goes from the hamlet of Rossa, before reaching Loco, once a renowned centre of straw craftsmanship. The village hosts an ethnographic museum, which is worth visiting: in addition to the permanent exhibition that shows how people lived in the valley in the past, it also has interesting temporary exhibitions centred on artists and writers who chose Onsernone Valley as their dwelling. The parish church of San Remigio houses the works of an interesting local painter, Giovanni Samuele Meletta, and a '"Last Supper" painted in 1683 by Gottfried Maes of Antwerp, offered to the community by an emigrant who made his fortune abroad. The old mill, which has been restored for educational purposes, is also remarkable.
From Loco you can return to Locarno by PostBus.