From Monte Lema's naturally green terrace (1624 m) you overlook the valleys of northern Ticino and the lakes of Lugano and Locarno. The imposing scenario extends to the Graubünden and Bernese Alps, to the Valais peaks and over the Padan Plain as far as Milan. Accessible from Miglieglia (10 minute cable car-ride), it is also the departure/arrival point for the spectacular high altitude Tamaro-Lema crossing. Located at the summit are an astronomical observatory, a small playground and a restaurant. For those that wish to combine the ascent to the Lema with a walk, we suggest the itinerary called Tra Cielo e Terra (Between Earth and Sky).
If you have more time…
Itinerary: Between Earth and Sky (3h, see map)
With the theme trail Tra Cielo e Terra (Between Earth and Sky) you can discover the slopes of Monte Lema; a confined territory of Malcantone, extending from the communes of Miglieglia and Novaggio to the summit. There was a time when the residents of this district could let their livestock graze, gather chestnuts and firewood according to set times and precise rules. Today it's an interesting place from an environmental perspective, distinguished by woods of chestnut, beech, oak and holly trees.
The walk lasts about 3 hours. From Miglieglia you reach Monte Lema by cable car. The foot trail descends from the summit to the pasture of Piano Pulpito, continues to Forcola and then goes to Cima Pianca.
The first section of the trail, until Forcola, is the most spectacular. You walk between two lakes: Lago Maggiore on the right and Lago Ceresio on the left. The view reaches on one side until Cannero, with the ruins of the castles appearing from the water, and over Luino, on the other side until the Lugano Gulf and Ponte Tresa. Beautiful all along the way is also the view over the Malcantone villages that are surrounded by greenery.
Through a short deviation from the main track, shaded by century-old beech trees, you can reach a stone building (the "turbin"): an 1853 construction once used to preserve milk products from the pasture. Inside, a small stream would guarantee a steady temperature.
Continue down towards Miglieglia and you will arrive in a very special playground with wooden musical instruments awaiting visitor-musicians. In the Caroli area you will instead cross an educational arboretum gathering over sixty species of trees and shrubs found in Ticino's forests. Along the trail there's also a small museo del boscaiolo (Lumberjack Museum) with the tools and accounts about this profession.
For those that like to add an artistic touch to this nice walk, two suggestions are necessary: the visit of the church S. Stefano al Colle in Miglieglia (next to the cemetery), preserving spectacular frescoes; and a walk to the centre of Novaggio, an authentic open-air gallery with murals from different contemporary artists.