Guide to the Area
Walk ski or relax among stunning mountain scenery on the south side of the Alps. In the mountain valleys you can laze around in alpine meadows, follow networks of ancient cobbled roads leading to Alpine villages, and eat lunch at lovely old Mountain 'rifugios' (refuges) and 'crotti' (the famous 'cave' restaurants of Valchiavenna). High above are some of the most spectacular mountains in the Alps, where famous Italian mountaineers like Cassin pioneered routes. Some of the mountains like Pizzo Cengalo and Piz Badile have granite spires and rock faces over a kilometre high. The area gets 320 days of sunshine a year.
Exploring Pianazzola, Chiavenna and the surrounding area
Pianazzola is a lovely mountain village perched on the mountainside above Chiavenna. There are about 60 stone-built houses, and while you can reach the village by car, you can only enter on foot, which makes a peaceful spot. It sits on a south facing hill above a large zone of vineyards and below a large deciduous forest mainly of chestnut. Although it is less common nowadays, some of the locals keep goats or sheep in the stables under their houses.
Pianazzola has a panoramic view across Valchiavenna and Engadina, which stretches from the top of Lake Como, into Switzerland over the Maloja Pass. Since ancient times, these valleys were an important route between Northern Italy and central Europe. In Middle Ages, Chiavenna became the administrative centre of a vast area, and enjoyed special privileges and independence.
Fortunately Valchiavenna has not remained a major arterial route, but there are still signs of its important past in the streets and squares of Chiavenna's town centre.
We started visiting the area in 2001 when we lived in Milan, and discovered a fabulous area that was somehow still 'off the beaten track'. We found that there was so much to do that we bought a house here in 2005 as a base for further exploration. This website should give you a better idea of what a holiday here could be like, and why valleys like Engardina have been attracting the Brits and foreign holidaymakers for the last 150 years.
Here are some suggestions of what to do:
Winter/Spring - 1 week
- 2/3 days skiing at Madesimo and a day in St Moritz
- A day exploring Pianazzola and Chiavenna, walking up to Crotto Belvedere for lunch in a 'cave restaurant' in front of their roaring fire
- A wintery walk past the ice falls of Val Febbraro
- A visit to the wildlife observation centre in Orobie National Park
- A horse-drawn sleigh ride from Sils up the beautiful Fex valley
- Lunch in Soglio (CH) and a walk up the dizzy granite peaks in Val Bondasca
- A day on Lake Como - wander through the narrow streets of Varenna, before having a lakeside pizza
Winter/Spring - 2 weeks. The ideas above plus
- Back to the ski slopes for a day or two
- Walk up the spectacular gorge to Codera, staying overnight in the rifugio. Spend the evening drinking wine and roasting chestnuts on the fire using their special chestnut pan
- Unwind for a day at the famous spa complex at Scuol
- Curl up on the sofa in front of our wood burning stove and catch up on all those books you wanted to read. Nip down for a swim and a sauna in the afternoon in Chiavenna, before a meal at the excellent Trattoria Uomo Selvatico
- Visit Val di Mello to see if you agree that it looks like Yosemite National Park
Summer/Autumn - 1 week
- A day exploring Pianazzola and Chiavenna, walking up to Crotto Belvedere for lunch
- Lunch in Soglio (CH) and a wander up Val Bondasca to see the dizzy granite peaks
- A day in the Swiss National Park looking for Golden Eagles and Ibex
- A spectacular day canyoning in Val Bodengo
- A day on lake Como - take the car ferry from Bellano to Menaggio and then wander around the lovely gardens of Villa Carlotta
Summer/Autumn - 2 weeks. The ideas above plus
- Walk or ride following the old route of the spectacular "tracciolino" mountain railway near Val Codera
- Lie in the sunshine and read in the meadows at Val di Mello and gawp at the scenery in Europes 'Yosemite' national park
- Ask in the tourist office where the mountain 'festa' is. Each weekend, locals in one of the villages celebrate the summer with a barbeque and wine - open to all
- Take the lift up to Albigna to see the high mountains the easy way. Walk 45mins to Rifugio Albigna for lunch at the end of a glacier
- For the ultimate mountain experience, make the two day walk up Val Bondasca to see the stunning Piz Badile, Sciora spires, and the kilometre high rock face of Pizzo Cengalo. Stay in Rifugio Sciora overnight.
Eating well is one of the delights of living in Italy, and Chiavenna is no exception. We've given suggestions of where to eat below, and we've also mentioned good places to eat in the walks and activities. For ideas on where to eat, pick up the following free guides from the tourist office: "Valchiavenna Enogastronomia" (a list of restaurants in Valchiavenna) and "Trekking e Gastronomia" (a map of where to walk and eat in the mountains). If you have kids, Italians commonly take their children with them to restaurants (even late at night) so eating out with kids is a more relaxed affair than in the UK. It's not usual for them to have a kids menu, but they will normally cook you whatever you ask for (eg pasta con pommodoro - pasta with cooked tomato sauce)
These are the famous 'cave restaurants' of Chiavenna and definitely worth a visit. Millions of years ago, an enormous earthquake brought a massive avalanche of rocks and boulders down from the mountainsides. These formed natural caves and underground passageways that allow cool channels of air to circulate down from the mountaintops. These caves were used by locals to store wine cheese and meats as natural larders and houses were literally built onto the mountainside at the front of the holes. Many of these 'Crotti' are now restaurants and once a year in September at the "Sagra dei Crotti" there is a treet party where all the Crotti are open and serve food and wine late into the night. The Crotti serve typical hearty mountain food like Pizzocheri made with wholewheat pasta and local cheese, or polenta with meat barbequed over an open fire. You may not get a choice of food, or if you do it will be limited. At most of the Crotti you will get your own chair, but at some of them you sit on benches. They all ooze rustic charm and often have big roaring fires.
- Crotto Belvedere
Loc. Prosto - Strada della Chiesa - Piuro
Tel: +39 0343 33589
- Trattoria Uomo Selvatico
Via G B Cerletti 28
Tel: +39 0343 32197
- Crotto Ombra
Set under a huge boulder
Viale Protagiano 14
Tel: +39 0343 33403
- Crotto Ristorante Torricelli
Built underneath a large boulder, the owners have nevertheless made an interesting modern twist on the crotto theme. Great food and good value.
+39 0343 36813
Chiavenna has a number of really excellent restaurants and we have listed three of our favourite below. Both these restaurants are really first rate, with interesting local menus and great wine lists. Main courses from €10-15
- Trattoria Uomo Selvatico
Via G B Cerletti 28
tel: +39 0343 32197
- Ristorante Lanterna Verde
Part of the "Jeunes restauranteurs d'Europe" and awarded a Michelin Star. You will need to book in advance.
Via S Barnaba 7
+39 0343 38588
Villa di Chiavenna
- Ristorante Al Cenacolo
With a terrace overlooking the river in the centre of town.
Via C Perdetti 16
tel: +39 0343 32123
In Italy, across the mountains there are thousands of 'rifugi' - a posh version of what we think of as a mountain hut. Spending time over lunch or dinner is just as important as the walking in Italy and they go to great lengths transporting the right ingredients by helicopter or by aerial tramway (baskets hanging from wires) up into the mountains. Like the crotti, they serve hearty mountain food and local wine at reasonable prices. There are a number of lists of huts on the internet such as CAI or Huts - Bivouacs, but you are just as well to ask at the tourist office for info. If you want to stay take a sleeping bag or sheet sleeping bag.
See walking section for more info.
Part of our interest in this area is because it is good all year round, due to the good weather and because there are a lot of things to do in the summer and winter.
The good weather is the effect of mountains around the Engadina valley and the moderating effects of Lake Como. St Moritz boasts 320 days of sunshine every year (the best record for Switzerland), and calls Engadina the sunny side of the Alps.
Pianazzola is southern facing and sits up above the valley floor, so it gets more sunshine, especially in the winter, and this is why the villagers planted vineyards over the slopes below the village, despite it being at an altitude of 600m. In the summer that extra altitude and mountain breeze helps keep you cool when things hot up in the valley.
For the weather forecast:
We've picked a selection of our favourite walks to keep you busy for several weeks, and graded them for difficulty (effort) and character to help you choose something interesting. They are only a small fraction of what's available - whether you like pottering, strolling, or hiking there are hundreds of places to walk.
- Walking in the Central Italian Alps. Cicerone 1995. ISBN 1852841834
- Walking in Italy. Lonely Planet 2003. ISBN 1740592441
1. Walks from the house (635m)
Heights give metres of ascent (height difference) of the walk.
The view from Dalòo (Strenuous. 460m. About an hour)
Climb the hill on the path directly from Pianazzola. The path starts at the very end of the road to Pianazzola and a steep walk of about an hour finishes at the mountain village of Dalòo. The village of pretty alpine houses has quite a sweet church. It's perched on top of a dramatic cliff right at the join of two valleys and has a spectacular view over 270 degrees around the valley. We've also walked to Dalòo from San Giacomo on the road between Chiavenna and Madesimo.
Down to Chiavenna (Easy to go down! Strenuous 300m, 40mins to go up)
The road to Pianazzola was only completed in 1973 and before that the only way to reach the village was on foot. Mrs dell'Ava told us this is how she reached the hospital when she gave birth to her sons! It is one of those lovely old cobbled paths, and peeks out through the woods to the old vineyards below the village. From the house walk towards the church along the main street, then at the fountain head down the hill past the old school.
2. Walks around Chiavenna
The river Mera runs through the historic centre of Chiavenna and tumbles over giant boulders as it makes its way through the town. The best place to see the view is from the old bridge (pedestrian bridge), where you can also see many of the oldest buildings built directly on of some of the biggest stones. Starting from this bridge there are some lovely old streets to explore, and there's a pleasant morning exploring them in search of one of the many fine restaurants in Chiavenna.
The Chiavenna valley and Engardina are an important low pass through the mountains, and centuries of travellers and foreign rulers have passed through - including Barbarossa, the Grison Podestà and the Austrian Consuls on their way to Milan. There is a 'Treasure museum' (Museo del Tesoro) in the church of San Lorenzo which holds a bible cover called the 'pace' - "one of the worlds great masterpieces of medieval goldsmithry" - worth a look. The church itself is also interesting and has some lovely cloisters.
There are plenty of other things to do in Chiavenna including a swimming pool, several old palaces, and an industrial museum in a flour mill by the river. The best place to go for info is the Tourist information office midway on via Consoli Chiavennaschi (this is the where the main road through chiavenna the river). Don't miss the café next door which serves the smoothest cappuchino's in Chiavenna. You can also buy ski lift passes here to save queueing at the top.
Up the river to Crotto Belvedere (Easy 50m 20mins)
It is a nice stroll up the river Mera to Crotto Belvedere: along one of the ancient paths in the valley. Crotto Belvedere is one of our favourite crotti ('cave restaurants'): it looks like it hasn't changed much since it was a medieval tavern and is great place for a hearty lunch of pizzocheri or gnocchi and wine sitting next to the river or inside in front of the fire. Its about a mile from Chiavenna to Crotto Belvedere, you just follow signs for Via Bregaglia from the centre of Chiavenna following a good path on the right ride of the river. (tel: +39 0343 33589).
After lunch you could look into the nice church next the crotto in Piuro, alternatively you you will pass the Parco Marmite di Gigante on your way back to Chiavenna, which is a lovely way to spend the afternoon.
Parco Marmitte dei Gigante (Easy/moderate. Park on the edge of Chiavenna)
Come and see the 'Pots of the giant'. The rocks in this national park on the edge of Chiavenna look like a giant has carved deep potholes in the side of them. In fact they were carved out by the glacier that scoured out the valley. As it passed over the rocks, water and rocks on the glacier surface would pour down vertical cracks and shafts in the ice. As the rocks hit the bedrock underneath they would swirl around (like water going down a plughole) and made an effective scouring pad to carve potholes.
The small park has a number of nice walks in it that take you between the rocks. As you go look out for the famous Bronze-age carvings there, as well as more from a succession of visitors in the 10th, 14th and 19th centuries! The tourist office has a good guide that explains more
There is no set route through the park and you can wander as little or as much as you like. If you have already walked up for lunch at Crotto Belvedere, then Crotto Torricelli is a great place to eat on the edge of the Park on the corner of Viale Pratogiano and Via Picchi (tel: +39 0343 36813) - good food and an interesting modern setting.
The AcquaFraggia Waterfalls and the climb to Savogno (Easy to reach the waterfall. To reach Savogno = strenuous, 90mins, 600m ascent).
These famous waterfalls are just up the valley from Chiavenna at Piuro (drive up the valley for 10mins heading towards St Moritz until you see them on the left). At the bottom of the waterfalls there is a small meadow and some trees which is a nice place for a picnic and to play games. You can also follow steps up to the right of the rocks to the top and look out at the waterfall crashing down beneath you.
Alternatively you can follow this path (or a wider path just to the right which avoids the waterfalls) and after about 90mins of climbing arrive at the lovely mountain village of Savogno 932m). There is a rifugio in the village (tel: +39 0343 34699 or +39 348 3004776) which is a good place for lunch and a glass of wine. You can also stay there and they have smart clean rooms for groups or families. Each room has a balcony, most with a good view. They have a great game outside the door where you have to swing a ring on a string over a hook on the wall. Harder than it looks!
Val Bodengo (Easy, 100m, 30mins or more)
Val Bodengo is a good day trip from Chiavenna with a picnic. It's a peaceful high alpine valley, with a couple of traditional farms halfway along. There are plenty of spots by the river which are lovely places to lay out your picnic rug and stretch out in the sun. Once you get to the road head at Bodengo, just follow the track along the valley bottom for as long as you want, the nicest spots are after the hamlet of Corte terza, a few km from Bodengo.
The road that reaches the valley is one of the most spectacular in the area. It starts about 5Km south of Chiavenna at Gordona (best is to take a map to find it). After winding up a very steep hill and some vertiginous drops you pass a small café at Donadivo. This is a great place for a beer and to take in the views, its run by a couple of canyoning fanatics. You will soon see why they have chosen to live here because just around the corner you cross the most spectacular canyon before reaching the safety of the valley on the other side. The roads really are quite something. you may want to save the beer for the way down!
3. Val Codera
Two unforgettable walks around a dramatic gorge - a wide path clings improbably to the sides of this valley, with stupendous views. If you are feeling adventurous please don't leave without trying them. There is a good Rifugio (see link below) in Codera which allows you to explore the valley above, or to link both walks. Val Codera is 20mins south of Chiavenna on the main road, above the village of Novate Mezzola.
A hundred years ago, the pretty village of Codera was a mining settlement producing very fine quality granite. However the workers and inhabitants were faced with a tricky problem because the village is at the top of one of the most steep-sided valleys in the Alps. To overcome this a broad path was hewn literally into the hillside to reach the valley, and a tiny railway "Tracciolino" was built on the other side of the valley to take away the rock.
Val Codera path (Strenuous, 500m, 2 hours)
This dramatic path winds its way up from Novate Mezzola to Codera. You can make it as a day trip, but we like to stay at one of the rifugios at Codera for some great mountain food and a roaring fire (book in advance if you want to stay). Start at start at Novate Mezzola on the main road south of Chiavenna.
The "Tracciolino" (railway track) (Strenuous, 500m, 4 hours round trip)
The other path (or railway tunnel) known as the "Tracciolino" locally is 14Km. To make this walk as a round trip start at Novate Mezzola on the main road south of Chiavenna and follow the track to the mountain village of S Giorgio (748m). From here you follow the old mountain railway track, including a series of tunnels to Frasnedo and then the path down to Verceia. The views are pretty dramatic. Don't forget your torch!
This famous long distance path continues up the valley from Codera to make a five day trek among some of the highest mountains in the area. For more info follow the links in the Waltellina site.
4. Val di Mello
Val di Mello is pretty and peaceful alpine valley with giant waterfalls and huge granite rockwalls full of awe inspiring mountaineering routes. It's been compared to America's Yosemite national park and it's not hard to see why. Despite the dramatic scenery, Val di Mello is still unspoiled, partly because much of the valley bottom is without vehicle access and still farmed in traditional ways.
It's worth going there just to potter around in the valley and ogle at the tremendous views. It's about an hour by car from Chiavenna - head south on the main road then turn left towards Sondrio. The nicest valley walks are to park in San Martino and then head East along the valley following the main path (dirt road). There are some very nice rustic restaurants along the way where the locals will serve you barbequed local sausage + polenta and slugs of red wine. A good place to stop and relax in the sun or watch the rock climbers dotted on the enormous cliffs above you. For the latest climbing gossip and a cool beer try the friendly Bar Monica in San Martino.
Engadina is a lovely Swiss valley, famous for its mountain scenery and 320 days of annual sunshine, for St Moritz and for containing Swizerland's only National Park. We have only explored its western end but it's pretty much as quintessentially Swiss as you could hope for - lovely Alpine villages set in meadows of flowers and dreamy looking cows wandering around with large bells on. Although you are a few miles from St Moritz at the border there are some quite ritzy places to eat too.
Up above are some pretty staggering mountains - if you have any interest in alpinism then a closer look at Sciora peaks, Piz Badile and Pizzo Cengalo are a must.
A potter around Soglio
Soglio - the "gateway to heaven" as locals call it. This hamlet, narrow, cobbled alleys lined with close-set stone buildings, offers tremendous panoramic views over the valley: sitting opposite the impressive mountain Piz Badile. The village is the focus of a number of mountain walks, easy ones following a valley-side route down to Stampa (2hr), as well as longer high-level hikes back to Vicosoprano, or up through the treeline behind the village.
But there are lazier reasons to spend a day or three in Soglio: the Palazzo Salis in the village (+41 81/822 12 08, fax 822 16 00; Easter–Oct) is one of Switzerland's more extraordinary hotels. Soglio was the seat of the Von Salis family before 1630, and the hotel is still owned by the same family today. The hotel is an eye-opening experience, from the echoing vaulted hall, crammed with antique furniture, chaise longues, open fireplaces and suits of armour, to its grand guest rooms complete with four-poster beds and antique stoves.
You will find a couple of lovely places for lunch in Soglio including a smashing garden restaurant where you can sit under apple trees. This place has been the "gateway to heaven" and inspiration for famous artists such as Hermann Hesse and Giacometti family. Definitely worth a wander. Soglio is just left off the main road, once you enter Switzerland.
The lift to Albigna (to reach the rifugio: moderate, 200m, 45mins)
One of the easiest ways to get up into the mountains is to take the lift from Pranzaira to the dam at Albigna (2163m) which runs from June 1 to Sept 30. The lift runs from 7.00 to 11.30 and 13.15 to 16.45 every day, call them on +41 81 838 14 14 to check.
From there it's a short walk to Rifugio Albigna or you can continue up the valley for dramatic views of the glacier and the Sciora peaks. There's some good rock climbing there at spazzacaldera and the famous "Fiamme" (flame) rock spire seen on the front cover of many rock climbing guides.
Into the big mountains - Val Bondasca (an easy stroll, or strenuous for the full tour)
The walk into Val Bondasca from Bondo takes you into the most dramatic mountain scenery of the area. Val Bondasca is considered "the pearl" of the region for its difficult climbing on the giant granite mountain faces. The rifugios 'Sciora,' and, 'Sac Fura,' are surrounded by breathtaking alpine landscape and have a stupendous panoramic view of the valley. Climbers from all over the world meet to climb the routes here.
To get there, start at Bondo, which like Soglio has a charming historic centre, including many stone houses and what looks like a turn-of-the-century English hotel that could have been transported from the Lake District. The valley walk is lovely, with the mountain views framed by the river and woodland. Its very nice just taking a stroll here without going further.
If you do want to get the full mountain experience and walk up to the huts, you can make a round trip between them to take in the best views. It's no mean feat getting there with over a kilometre of height gain from the valley floor at 822m. The Sac Fura hut (1904m) has the nicest setting in the trees, but it can get crowded with climbers waiting to climb the famous north ridge of Piz Badile. The Sciora hut (2118m) has a slightly desolate setting up above the treeline, but the best mountain views. It is surprisingly cosy inside, and is super-clean as you would expect from the Swiss. You should telephone ahead to reserve a bed, especially in the summer.
Bondo is just off the main road on the right, after you enter Switzerland.
This useful website gives you more of a flavour of the area and describes three of the longer walking routes here. The photography is not that great, but the site is in English.
Activities with Children
As well as the 'easy' walks we've listed, here are some of the other things to do as a family in Chiavenna. The tourist office has all the information, but here is info on our favourites:
- Picnic spots - There are plenty of great places for picnics, where you can play games, swim or just relax in the sun. Our favourite spots are the waterfall of Acqua Fraggia, Soglio, Daloo, and Val Bodengo. Val Bondasca and Val di Mello are also great, just further afield. See the descriptions on the walks section
- Goat feeding! Go and see the goats being fed in Pianazzola - we normally go to say hello to the ones just beneath the road
- Museums - The industrial museum, based on the flour mill (Mulino di Bottonera in Via Bottonera)
- Swimming. At the Chiavenna Sports centre, the swimming pool has a childrens pool (tel: +39 0343 31882)
- Parco Paradiso. These gardens are part of the grounds of the castle in Chiavenna and have a nice botanic garden and views.
Playgrounds! Can't live without them? Well there are plenty here, and most are funky new ones. They are all over the valley, just ask someone ("Campo da Giuoco"). Our most frequented:
- Moreschi Bakery – 2Km south of Chiavenna on RHS of the main road is the Moreschi bakery and restaurant. It’s a glass building with a car park outside, often full. Try the fabulous brioche (croissants), and a great place for lunch. And there’s a children’s playground here too! Perfect
- Central Chiavenna – There are playgrounds in the parks near the churches of San Lorenzo (on via Picchi) or San Fedele (Viale Maloggia)
- Castagena. Ask in the centre of town (Swiss side of the border). A short, but steep walk or drive up a steep and narrow road! It’s a peaceful spot with some cool ‘double swings’ and crawling tubes. Combine this with a picnic in the idyllic meadows between Castagena and Soglio (15mins stiff walk uphill from Castasegna on the footpath)
- Villa di Chiavenna. Ask someone for directions to the playgound from the centre of town. You can park there and walk from there to the rifugio at Savogno for lunch
Casa dell’Ava is close to some of the largest and most important nature reserves in the Alps
Casa dell’Ava is situated in an area of outstanding beauty close to three of the largest national parks in the Alps, covering a massive 2000km2 within Italy and Switzerland. The Swiss National Park is the only National Park in Switzerland. Together with the adjoining Stelvio National Park, they form a giant area of protected land across the two countries. The Orobie Valtellinesi Park is a further protected area to the NE of Lake Como.
If this wasn’t enough, there are a further two Nature Reserves and a National Monument all within 30mins drive of the house. The Nature Reserve of Marmite dei Giganti contains ancient rock carvings and glacial rock formations (see above). The Pian di Spagna Nature Reserve is an important area of wetland and sanctuary for birds migrating over one of the lowest passes in the Alps. Finally you can see the Acquafraggia Waterfalls (National Monument) from the village of the house.
The parks contain many protected species of wildlife including Golden Eagles, Ibex, Bearded Vultures, Capercaillie and Fire Salamanders. There is talk of Lynx and Wolves arriving back into the area and famously Brown Bears have recently been reintroduced into the Adamello Brenta National Park which adjoins the Stelvio National Park.
The area is rich and varied in plant life. There are many diverse habitats as you move from the valley forests up to the mountain tops. The Orobie Park lists nearly 600 species of rare, endemic or protected plants including lovely purple lilies and many alpine meadow flowers.
As well as walking in the parks, you can also visit the visitor centres of the parks and get involved in activities such as guided walks. Details:
- Swiss National Park visitor centre
- Orobie wildlife observation centre and activities
- Stelvio visitor centres and activities
Unlike English National parks, Italian parks do not generally have voluntary work schemes (eg path building, conservation projects etc). If you are interested we ask the parks to let us know when activities are available.
Climbing and mountaineering
Its hardly surprising with all these mountains that there is a lot of rock climbing in the area, and many people come to the area just to climb - particularly Italians, Swiss and Germans. The main areas are Chiavenna valley, Albigna (see the section on walks above), Val Bondasco and Val di Mello. There are enough routes to keep you busy for several years eg the sport climbing guide (versante sud - see below) has 330 pages.
The routes in Chiavenna valley are on a series of bolted granite crags, all easy to reach from the road. If you don't have one of the guidebooks below then the tourist office publishes a free guide book to the area, which has about 200 routes in it - ranging from French 4c-7c.
Because of all the climbers in the area, there is also an indoor wall at the Centro Sportivo in Piuro (+39 0343 32327).
If you do come here to climb then you will doubtless be heading for Val Bondasca and Albigna. The huge granite walls and spires offer some of the most exciting climbing in the world, whether you are heading for classic routes like the north ridge of Piz Badile, or more serious routes on the kilometre-high North face of Pizzo Cengalo or the rock spires of Sciora.
For the best bouldering in the area you should head Val di Mello. If you coincide with their bouldering festival MelloBlocco (normally the first weekend in May) you'll have the chance to see some of the worlds top climbers in action.
For more information on climbing in the area
- Plaisir Sud (2003). Filador. ISBN 3906087174. A good overview of the main valley and alpine routes with good topos
- Alpine Club Guide to Bernina and Bregaglia (1995). ISBN 0900523603.
- Arrampicate Sportive + Moderne in Valtellina, Valchiavenna, Engadina (2004). Versante sud. The 330 page guide to the sport routes in the area.
Swimming / Sauna / Wellness
There is a good swimming pool in Chiavenna, off via Picchi. (tel: +39 0343 31882). Opening hours vary during the week, so check out this site Typically the pool is open in the morning, and then again from 4.30pm until 10pm at night. You can buy a ticket that also includes access to all the museums and the Parco Paradiso.
For a sauna try Il Tempio Wellness Centre (Via Alpetto, 2. Tel: +39 0343 34741). You can also try a turkish bath, massage or massage bath with an appointment.
The spa at Scuol. Despite a 1hour 40min drive, the world famous spa at Scoul in Switzerland is a good day out. It is a major spa complex and you can spend hours exploring all the different pools and rooms. Check out their website for info on their wellness and therapy centre. The pretty streets of Scuol are worth a wander, and a good way to cool off! The spa is child friendly with currents and waterfalls and bubbles in the outdoor pool. And for serious spa lovers the Roman Irish baths are a separate nude! spa complex, with a 'two hour cycle' of baths and treatments.
With the Gruppo Equestre Valchiavenna (+39 339 3550786) at Samolaco you can make accompanied tours on horseback from 1 hour to 1 day. Fees: 1 hour 16,00 euro - 2 hours 30,00 euro - 1 day 60,00 euro. You can contact them also by email.
Sailing / Water sports on Lake Como
There are lots of places you can sail from on Lake Como. Tabosurf is good in Gera Lario, at the northern end of the lake. There are a lot of other places too, look on the internet. At Tabosurf you can have sailing lessons or just hire dingies, windsurfers, kite surfers, canoes or mountainbikes. We've hired dingies for the weekend before, and it's a great way to explore this beautiful lake.
You can hire mountainbikes from Sport Deghi in Madesimo (+39 0343 53372) or Tabosurf in Gera Lario.
The valleys around Chiavenna are too steep to be a good mountainbiking area, however there are some good dirt tracks up to the villages of Bodengo, Uschione, Pratello and Menarola. Once you reach the Maloja pass in Engadina, the countryside is much more mountainbike friendly and there are some great routes - eg these pictures from Val Maroz. For an unforgettable mountainbike route try the "Tracciolino" route in Val Codera.
You can spend a few hours or a whole day in the spectacular canyon of Val Bodengo, just south of Chiavenna. The whole route will take 8 hours, but you can also spend a few hours on one of the easier sections with the guides from Top Canyon.