737 - Via Calanca

23.4 km
7:40 h
1052 mhd
321 mhd

Calanca was born in the Adula mountain group, in the heart of the Alps, and opens onto the vineyards of the lower Val Mesolcina. It is crossed by the Calancasca, whose sources flow at the foot of the Zapporthorn, which culminates at 3152 m.

Technique 0/6
Fitness 0/6
Highest Point  1071 m
Lowest Point  339 m
Best Season
Grono (Italy)
Red (Calanca)
46.246531, 9.143056



At the mouth of the valley the villages of Castaneda and Santa Maria rise on the terraces of the Mesolcinese side, while inside the villages are mostly located at the foot of the steep wooded and rocky slopes or on the terraces at high altitude.

A reserve of raw materials and first-rate natural spaces

The landscape of the external Calanca offers lush and varied vegetation, dominated by chestnut trees, which partly conceals the large terraces built over the centuries for the cultivation of cereals. Spruce and larch gradually colonize the inner valley, giving it more and more a typically alpine appearance, to which high mountain pastures also contribute. Wood, stone and water intensely mark the natural and cultural landscape of the Calanca.

Stratifications of human events

The history of the population of the terraces of Castaneda and Santa Maria boasts millenary origins, as expressed by the discovery of a settlement of the late Neolithic, and is linked to the underlying transit route of San Bernardino, a bridge between the Mediterranean and continental worlds. The oldest settlements in the inner valley date back to the year one thousand and until the last century were characterized by the practice of transhumance on three levels, from the valley floor to the mountains and the Alps, as well as by the frequent migrations of people through the transverse Alpine passes.


The Via Calanca in three stages.

1. Stage Grono (340 m) - Santa Maria (955 m): 4 km, 2 hours (Santa Maria - Braggio: 7.3 km, 3.5 hours). A cultural landscape shaped over millennia

From Grono the route climbs to Nadro before winding along the Menö trail and the old valley road built around 1830 for the transport of timber. You reach the suggestive complex of the mills of Pisella, surrounded by centuries-old agricultural terraces and dominated by the chestnut forest of Mola. Just above, the terrace of Castaneda (800 m) bears the evidence of agriculture dating back to over 4500 years ago.

From Castaneda an ancient mule track flanked by dry stone walls leads to the village of Santa Maria, dominated by an architectural complex that, unique for its beauty, evokes a majestic past. Santa Maria, with its parish church already documented in 1219, was the religious and political capital of the whole Calanca. The current appearance of the church dates back to the beginning of the seventeenth century, a time when the Capuchin Fathers settled in the adjacent hospice. The medieval tower was built in the XIII-XIV century by the Counts de Sacco. In a dominant position on the Mesolcinese valley floor, it was inserted in a system of territorial control.

From Santa Maria a path leads to the mountains of Bald (1220 m) from where the view sweeps over the side valleys of the Mesolcina and the Magadino Plain. The path climbs up to the peat bog of Pian di Scignan (1500 m) and to the plateau of the chapel of Sant'Antoni de Bolada (1674 m) from where you can enjoy an unobstructed view of the Calanca, before descending towards Braggio (1320 m).

2. Stage Santa Maria (955 m) - Selma (914 m): 10.3 km, 3.5 hours. The Alpine world: natural elements and human initiative

From Santa Maria to Buseno-Molina (710 m) the historic path of Circolo acts as a bridge between external and internal Calanca. The route is dominated by the spectacular rock formations of the Crap de Maria and crosses a completely unique landscape, dominated by brooms, junipers and hawthorns. In Buseno stand the last lush chestnut groves, whose fruits have been the basis of rural food for centuries.

The stone In the valley the exploitation of gneiss boasts a centuries-old tradition. Along the stretch that connects Buseno to Arvigo (820 m), on the right bank of the Calancasca, there is an imposing sector of extraction and processing of beola active for a century.

Water and air Between Arvigo and Selma the itinerary runs along the left bank of the Calancasca offering fairytale natural landscapes. From the humpback bridge mentioned in the sixteenth century, the ancient mule track suddenly leads to a spectacular alpine environment dominated by the impetuous flow of water. The Arvigo and Selma cable cars connect the valley floor to the terraces of Braggio (1320 m) and Landarenca (1280 m), which can also be reached on foot along historic mule tracks. The hamlets of Braggio echo the compact rural core of Landarenca, a jewel of stone and wood architecture.

3. Stage Selma (914 m) - Red (1088 m): 6.7 km, 2 hours. People, animals, goods: migration, transhumance, trade

From Selma to Cauco (981 m) the trail meets the first real flat area. Cauco was a soapstone processing center. This craftsmanship, whose origins in Moesano date back to Roman times, took on a leading role in the eighteenth century.

To the north of the

village of Cauco you cross the floodplain of Pian di Alne, which takes its name from the white alders that partly cover it. In the past, when the timber was transported on the river, here there were quantities of wads, retained by a lock erected near the current bridge.

The parish church of Santa Domenica (1035 m) is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture. Together with the mother church of Santa Maria, it was the only one to possess the title of parish since the mid-sixteenth century. In Santa Domenica and Augio (1039 m) the positive effects of the emigration calanchina in European cities shine through both religious and private buildings, such as the Casa Spadino, a building of the eighteenth century, and the Cascata hotel, with the beautiful hall of mirrors, from the beginning of the twentieth century.

From Rossa the transhumance routes lead to the Alps, appreciated for centuries, while once in the woods of Valbella next to the woodcutters were active ragaioli, artisans of resin required as far as Bavaria.

The Pass Giümela (2117 m), the Pass de Buffalora (2261 m), the Btta de Trescolmen (2161 m) and the Pass de Passit (2082 m) have always been the most important passages to the nearby valleys.

Responsible for this content Ente Turistico Regionale del Moesano San Bernardino, Mesolcina, Calanca.
This content has been translated automatically.

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