Ritom – Piora
The Alpine landscape of the Piora Valley, rich in green pastures in bloom with scattered little lakes, is one of the most idyllic in Ticino. The flora and fauna of these vast and silent spaces are of great interest. It is still possible to encounter eagles, chamois, roe deer, groundhogs, red frogs and admire the beautiful blossoming of gentians, buttercups, arnica and wild orchids. You can get there with one of Europe's steepest funiculars that leaves from Piotta. Extremely numerous are the signposted trails that cross the region and are of various difficulty and length. We recommend two of them.
The Ritom funicular operates from mid-May to mid-October and allows you to reach an altitude of 1,800 meters without hardship. It starts from Piotta and has a gradient of 87%. Its arrival station is close to the Ritom dam. What opens up to the visitor is the Alpine scenery of the Piora Valley, long approximately 8 km, with vast pastures and pretty lakes.
Itinerary 1: the trail of the three small lakes (5h, see map)
The first suggested path, the trail of the three small lakes, doesn't require getting up at the break of dawn and it starts from the Ritom, the biggest lake. The trail runs along the lake until the detour for lake Tom. An ascent of about 30 minutes leads to the enchanting basin with its small body of water and the pasture's stable. Walking along the Tom's shore you reach the opposite bank and continue along a small ascent towards the ridge. From here you can see the third lake, the Cadagno.
After that, go down to the group of houses. Shortly after you reach the Alpe Piora (Piora Pasture) where an excellent and very sought-after cheese is produced. Next to the dairy is the Alpine Biology Center, a university structure housed by a few rustic but well renovated buildings. Continue to the Cadagno cabin. At the dairy you may purchase cheese, butter and ricotta while the mountain cabin is inviting for a break (polenta, cheese, cured meats and cream cakes). Not to miss, the Piora cheese tasting, one of the best in Ticino. To go back to the Ritom dam follow the "educational trail" on the opposite bank of the lake, conceived in 2009.
Itinerary 2: from the Piora to the Lucomagno Pass (5h, see map)
A very special excursion in a wonderful region where the mountain and lake landscapes are majestic and where the Alpine flora and fauna always reserve interesting surprises. This is the segment of the crossing that unites the two spectacular regions of Ritom and Lucomagno, between the Leventina and Blenio Valleys: a course that is mostly leveled, fairly easy and does not require any particular skills. It is however demanding in terms of length as the walk amounts to approximately 5 hours, not including breaks. For this reason it is important to plan the day accordingly, in order to be able to make use of public transportation to and from the departure point. One possibility is to go to Biasca early in the morning with a private mode of transport (or public if you prefer), then go to Faido by train and then by bus to Piotta, where you find the funicular that goes up to the Ritom-Piora highland.
At the arrival station (1,793 meters) you should follow the road that leads to Lake Ritom, vast and rich with fish. On the gravel-road you reach then Cadagno and the Alpe Piora, known for its cheese, one of the most sought-after in Ticino.
The landscape is of great environmental importance. In fact, since a couple of years it has become home of the Alpine Biology Center, an academic centre that promotes scientific research in the region. The lake Cadagno is a subject of study of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) because it presents a rare natural phenomena: its waters are separated in two different overlapping layers that, thanks to the activity of some bacteria, do not mix.
Continuing towards the Lucomagno Pass, you will cross the Piora Valley through fields, streams, huts and herds whose cowbells can be heard from a distance. The walk takes place at an altitude of about 2,000 meters. Flowers with striking colors appear here and there, it is not infrequent to spot groundhogs and the sky is mirrored in the small lakes' blue waters.
Once you've reached the Alpe Carorescio start the ascent that, without too much effort, will bring you to the Passo del Sole (Sun Pass). Along this segment you can get glimpses of the Campanitt peaks. From the Pass, at an altitude of 2,376 meters, enjoy the spectacular view over the entire Lucomagno area. Finally, the long descent leads to Acquacalda. From here you can go to Olivone and Biasca (bus stop located next to the Pro Natura Centre).