Premeno, Lago Maggiore, Italy | A Snowy Hiking Tour through the Woods to the Summit of Mount Pian Bello

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Cat Conference

After an adventurous day in the mountains the day before, we had slept soundly at Villa Giulia, when we peeked out the window to see if we had had any more unseasonal snow over night. However when we got up that morning we found a peculiar sight, in the neighbouring garden. Not more snow, but a group of cats seemed to be having a secret conference next to a flowering azalea bush. When we returned after our breakfast they were still there, Jerome found this rather strange and wanted to sneak into the garden next door to take a closer look at what was going on.

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Drive to Piazza

Over breakfast we had decided that we would go for another hike up to Mount Pian Bello, having enjoyed our walk up to snowy Mount Spalavera the day before. Unfortunately the weather was not so sunny but as long as it would not rain or snow we decided it would be fine. We packed our walking gear and drove back to Colle, where we had parked the day before, but this time driving onwards on the road to the right, in the direction of Trarego Viggiona. The road narrows shortly afterwards and there are no barriers on the roadside, which slowed our drive down considerably, as there are some steep drops on the various bends around this route. Luckily there were no oncoming cars and we reached the car park at the next col – Piazza/Santa Eurosia (after about 4.6km) for the start of that day’s walk.

The first part of the hike was along the tarmac road, uphill, into the direction of Monte Ologno and Trarego Viggiona to reach the start of the ridge. Only a few cars passed us and one driver even stopped to ask if we wanted to catch a ride, we declined and wandered on. It was good to get the road walk out of the way and we headed up the zig zags towards the start of the mountain path. Jerome kept pushing the large remnants of snow from the snowplough down the steep hillside to watch how far they would make it down. Most of them burst or stopped pretty shortly on the slope but a few rolled a fair distance. After a while, as we climbed we got a glimpse of the Lago Maggiore and a village below. Shortly after we got to a viewpoint with a display of the surrounding mountains, sadly the view was nowhere near as clear and far as on the day before.

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Start of the Hiking Path

Once we reached the narrow path that would lead us up to Mount Pian Bello, we could see another family with children coming towards us which helped give us confidence that the path would be easily passable. At first, the ascent was rather steep but the ground underfoot was soft with the leaves from last autumn still covering the path. In and out we walked between the trees and the dead ferns with small patches of snow every now and then. Half way up we found a cave, a part of the remains from WWI we had encountered the previous day. Jerome and I ventured into the dark opening for a few meters, with the torch of my phone trying to light up the inside. It looked like it went on for quite a way, deep into the darkness of the mountain. Jerome got scared and we turned around, commencing our walk uphill. Just before we entered the deep dark pinewoods the path levelled out and we got a last view of the lake and the mountain. The snow was deeper here and the grass remained carpeted from the snowfalls a few days before. We noticed a windsock next to the forest edge at a gap in the trees, obviously a popular place for paragliders to come and lift off into the air.

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Snow in the Forest

The forest at this point was divided into the pinewoods to the left side of the paths and a beech forest to the right. To our joy, there was still plenty of snow on the ground, this high in the mountains it had obviously not been warm enough to melt it yet. It looked beautiful, the contrast of the dark pines and the light green leaves of the beech trees against the white snow. The snow was strewn with the seeds of the beech trees and many young green leaves, they had been surprised by the late snow as much as we had. We could see other footsteps in the snow ahead, this made it much easier for us to find our way through the trees, although there were also red and white markers on the trees marking the way.

Wandering between the trees, the sun appeared from behind the clouds and projected bright spotlights onto the snow. It looked even more magical in between the pinewoods, between the thick and dark canopy of the trees. After a while we found a bench, covered in snow but still a perfect spot for a break. We got out some lunch and a drink from our backpack before heading on.

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Mount Pian Bello

After another incline we reached the highest point of the hike, where we found just a sign with the height of 1325m of Mount Pian Bello, sadly however, the view was just a sea of trees but nonetheless beautiful. Moving on the path became steeper and we descended the hill fast – it was slippery in parts due to the snow and the leaves underneath.

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End of Our Hike

After some fun sliding down from the ridge we arrived at a crossroads where several other hikes joined. We took the left turn, originally we had wanted to hike further but it had taken us much longer trudging through the snow than anticipated, normally we would have managed to walk further in that time. With the loss of height by then we barely saw patches of snow and the narrow path crossed several streams of melted snow water running down the steep hillside. At the bottom, near a small car park on a track we found a little chapel of Santa Eurosia and a fountain with the head of a dragon hammered into the stone. Its mouth was spitting lots of icy-cold water into the basin below.  The track led us left back towards our car.

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The Pretty Village of Trarego Viggiona

Back in the car we drove to the pretty village of Trarego Viggiona. The village seemed to still be deserted at this time of year and the Hotel La Perla was the only place open. Time appeared to have come to a still stand sometime in the 1970’s and the little bar was filled with old men of the village smoking their cigarettes and having a chat while playing cards. We got a table outside on the terrace with a panoramic view of the village, Lago Maggiore and the mountains, next to a group of other hikers. Their cake looked delicious and the boys ordered a slice accompanied by a homemade thick chocolate with cream. Jerome explored the boules court next to the terrace and would have loved to play a game but we could not see a set of boules anywhere, I guess you had to bring your own.

Afterwards we strolled along the little alleys through the village of Trarego , apparently one of the most beautiful on the lake, past villas with their gardens in full bloom and across a bridge over a raging mountain stream. We ended our walk at the church before getting into the car to drive up the mountain, to return to Premeno. The drive back was equally as hair raising as the drive there on the narrow roads.

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Dinner at La Gianzianella

We had dinner at Ristorante La Genzianella in Pian di Sole, a short drive from where we were staying in our Airbnb. The restaurant is based right next to a ski lift and serves classic Italian pasta dishes. We had been for dinner at the restaurant two night before and had enjoyed it rather a lot. Jerome and I absolutely fell in love with their pasta al Limone, while Chris loved the wild boar ragout with noodles so much, that he ate it on both nights!

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