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The Antigorio Valley [Valle Antigorio] is well-known for the beauty of the Alpe Devero, however, the valley floor also offers a range of picturesque trails through age-old villages, works of art, mythical locations and unique geological phenomena.
Popes and non-alcoholic drinks
A perfect trail for mountain biking enthusiasts and a great alternative to the main Laghi&Monti Bike route (which follows the course of the Toce river from Lake Maggiore to its source and then on to Switzerland), it starts from the square [piazza] located in front of the Baceno Town Hall.
After travelling along Via Sant’Antonio, follow the trail to the village of Cuggine. Once you reach the mill, continue downhill towards the bridge that crosses the Devero stream, before arriving at the village of Uresso. From here the paved road leads to Graglia village, and before the final bend, a dirt track takes you to the village of Crino. Rather than heading down to the village of Baceno, follow the mule-track to reach the paved road that climbs to Cravegna village. At the next hairpin bend, a meadow trail takes you to the small hamlet of Croda, proud to be the birthplace of Giovanni Antonio Facchinetti, who later became Pope Innocent IX in 1591.
Gorges, potholes and the “0” element
Continue along the road to Navasco and then join the mule-track (path G11) that leads down and crosses the Alfenza stream to reach Crodo via a network of smaller paved roads. Once in Crodo, the Antigorian centre that gave its name to the famous non-alcoholic drink Crodino, and where the production of soft drinks and mineral water still takes place, cross the state road near the Antigorian Dairy to cycle down towards Maglioggio. Don’t ascend to the village, but continue along the Verampio plateau. After crossing the Toce river, turn right until you reach the car park past the Campagna Trattoria. From this point, follow the signs for the Orridi di Uriezzo [Uriezzo Gorges], where the dirt track begins, cross the Devero stream and then gradually climb uphill.
From the Maiesso bridge, you can admire the splendid marmitte dei Giganti [Giants’ potholes] eroded into the white rock, then continue along the trail past the Orridi di Uriezzo (Uriezzo gorges) to the car park in front of the Oratorio di Santa Lucia. (Santa Lucia Parish Church).
The potholes and gorges are fascinating examples of glacial erosion. The gorges were created when the entire Toce valley was covered in ice and subglacial streams carved these deep, narrow ravines. Today, no water flows through them anymore and now it is possible to walk along its floor. From a geological point of view, the area is also of particular interest as the so-called “element 0“, i.e. the deepest layer of the Alps, can be seen between Verampio and Maiesso.
Witches and the ‘viper priest’
The paved road climbs up to Premia after crossing the spectacular Balmafredda gorge. After the hamlet of Piazza, turn right onto a small road (follow signs G00 Via del Gries – Sbrinz Route) which turns into a mule track leading to Rozzaro. Once in Pioda, ride uphill to the hamlet of Cresta, where a firebreak trail starts and continues towards Croveo – Beola. Once you have reached the first houses of the hamlet of Beola, descend to the Baceno – Goglio provincial road. It is recommended to use this road to reach the centre of Croveo. The hamlet of Baceno is notorious today due to the accusations of witchcraft made by the Dominicans against many of the women of the Antigorio Valley who eventually ended up being investigated and tortured. They came from the village of Croveo and it was believed that they gathered at the Osso bridge, near the Devil’s boilers, on their way to the witches’ sabbath. Thus this area became steeped in legends. Croveo, on the other hand, became known in the 20th century as the village of the viper priest, Don Amedeo Ruscetta. The priest, skilled in capturing poisonous snakes, also taught the technique to his parishioners, and thousands of vipers were captured and sent to serological research centres. Guido Piovene also wrote about it in his Viaggio in Italia.
The trail ends by descending from Beola to the Baulina bridge, here once again experiencing magnificent forms of erosion carved into the rock. Continue along the trail until it crosses the main H00 path, which you must then follow in the direction of Graglia (beware of the steep and slippery mule track). From Graglia continue towards Uresso and, following the H00 trail, descend on a steep mule track to the bridge at the Baceno sports field and then climb back up to the town hall square. Before leaving Baceno it is well worth paying a visit to the parish church of San Gaudenzio, a national monument. Inside, a sloping floor leads you towards the altar through beautifully decorated and frescoed aisles, columns and chapels. The ancient Romanesque church was enlarged and enriched between the 15th and 16th centuries by the De Baceno feudal lords, and Baroque elements were added later. The result is a spectacular sight built on a spur of rock.
The trail is moderately difficult and can be walked from April to November. The total length of the route is 23 kilometres. The height difference is 620 metres uphill and the same amount downhill, as a result of numerous ascents and descents, considering that the starting point is 665 metres and the highest point is 820 metres at Cravegna. An excellent trail to discover Alpine art and rural architecture and admire unique geological landscapes, in a setting steeped in history and legend.