Ronco sopra Ascona and Pizzo Leone
One of the most breathtaking views over Lake Maggiore can be enjoyed from the square of the nice church of San Martino in Ronco sopra Ascona, as well as from Pizzo Leone, which towers just above it. Starting from Porera, which is a 10-minute drive from the village of Ronco, Pizzo Leone is accessible in two hours walk. The trail leading to its summit is spectacular and offers stunning views over the Brissago Islands, the lake, framed by the mountains and the jagged, neighbouring peaks of Ghiridone. The view from the summit also embraces Centovalli and Valle Vigezzo, which is already on Italian ground. Both regions are populated by several charming villages.
Itinerary: Pizzo Leone (5h, see map)
Our tour starts at Ronco sopra Ascona, which can be reached by car from Porto Ronco, on the coastal road between Ascona and Brissago. The first breathtaking view over the Brissago Islands and Lake Maggiore at its widest stretch, can be enjoyed from the square of the church of San Martino, whose interior is decorated with frescoes and stuccoes which embellish the nave and the choir. The cycle of frescoes in the choir, representing the allegories of the months and dating back to 1491-92, is particularly noteworthy.
Featuring closely packed houses, overlooking tiny, narrow streets, Ronco was formerly a village inhabited by peasants, wine makers, (virgola se A.E) and emigrants. Its most famous citizen was undoubtedly Antonio Ciseri, considered one of the greatest authors of religious painting of the Italian 19th century.
Born in Ronco in 1821, he died at the age of seventy in Florence where he had emigrated. The ground floor of his native home, overlooking the square of the church, hosts the Centro culturale Ciseri (an art gallery and gift shop), run by the ‘Istituto Terapeutico La Motta’ in Brissago.
Those who do not wish to explore mountain paths and trails to reach Pizzo Leone – but believe us, it is worth the effort – can settle for a walk along via Gottardo Madonna, a tarred, panoramic road which does not have heavy traffic, and leads from Ronco to Monte Verità in Ascona. Alternatively, it is also possible to follow a path in the opposite direction, towards the hamlet of Fontana Martina, which has a sweeping vista.
The Pizzo Leone trail
The simplest route to reach the starting point of this walk is to set out from Ronco sopra Ascona along the main road, and follow the signs to Arcegno along via Livurcio. After reaching the crossroad at Gruppaldo (marked with a signpost), take the first road on the left and follow the signs to Monti di Ronco. At this point you will cross through a residential area with a breathtaking view over the lake. For a few kilometers the road is fairly wide and easy to cross, only narrowing significantly over the last 2-3 kilometer stretch.
You can park the car just after the hamlet of Porera, where the road is closed with a gate. The path leading to Pizzo Leone (1659 metres) involves a two-hour-walk and starts from the small church of Pozzuolo (1181 metres), winding upwards to Alpe Naccio (1395 metres). Before taking the last stretch of the climb to the top, you will come to a panoramic viewpoint with a cross rising up. From this point, the path divides and you can either choose to take the road upwards or to continue on a flat trail at a lower altitude.
We suggest that you take the path going uphill, which crosses through woods and flowering pastures, and enjoy several stunning views over the lake, the islands and the rugged peaks of Ghiridone. In June, when the Alpine rose bushes are in full bloom, the meadows are bathed in a radiant glow of pink. On reaching the summit, you will be met by a panoramic view, not only of the lake but also of the Alpine chain dominated by the imposing Monte Rosa, as well as the charming villages of the Centovalli, in Switzerland, and of the Valle Vigezzo, beyond the border.
On your return-journey, we recommend that you follow the same path. Please note: on reaching Alpe di Naccio and before arriving at Casone, we suggest that you take the downward path towards to the small church of Pozzuolo, instead of following the signs to Porera, as this will make the homeward journey longer.