Lecco, 09 maggio 2013

The rediscovery of the nature of Valsassina

di Viviana Vestrucci

With a walk of 1.30 hours through woods and meadows you can feel the charm of Grignetta

colonia ballabio

Ballabio (Lecco), the “Colonia Ferrovieri” or “Colonia FS”

A walk from the lake up to the Grigna Valley, towards the Prealps of Lombardy, following a path and an old mule track along fields and rural houses, crossing a chestnut wood generously offering its fresh shadow in summer months. A rather easy 1:30 hour tour taking visitors from Lecco to Ballabio, at the foot of the Grignetta (or Grigna Meridionale, 2,177 m.) and Monte Due Mani (1,666 m.). The track starts in Lecco, in the area of San Giovanni, on the right side of the Valsassina main road, near the bus stop, where “Via Montalbano” begins. This street passes along  “Casa del Clero” (home of a religious community) and goes up between two walls until a crossroads, where the walk continues on a mule track among fields and stone houses, and then on a dirt road leading to Montalbano Plateau (575 m.), overlooking Lecco and the Lake, covered by chestnut trees.

The only building to be found there is the “Osteria di Montalbano”, a typical local inn with a wide outdoor area, where walkers, bikers (the courageous ones who can face the steep uphill road from Lecco), families with children and dogs can have a rest. From the Osteria the trip continues on a dirt road and then on the main provincial road (SP 62)  to Ballabio, a small town (3,967 inhabitants) split into lower and upper parts: Ballabio Inferiore (653 m.) spreading along the SP 62, and Ballabio Superiore (721 m.), on the slopes on the left of the main road. Ballabio is a holiday resort developed in the last decades where many city-dwellers have their holiday homes for week-end breaks and summer vacations. One of the most impressive buildings in Ballabio is the “Colonia Ferrovieri” or “Colonia FS”, the holiday camp-site building that in the past used to host hundreds of Italian Railway Company employees' children during the summer because of the healthy mountain climate.

The Colonia was closed, left abandoned for several years and then sold to a  private entrepreneur. So far, however, it has remained unused because the size of the building makes the renovation works really expensive. From Ballabio it is possible to reach (8.3 km on a nice road) Piano dei Resinelli (1,276 m.) - a large plateau on the slopes of the Grigna Meridionale with a fantastic view on the mountains, a popular starting point for  walks and excursions to the nearby peaks -  and return by bus. On the way back from Ballabio to Lecco, it is worth taking an alternative route along the Gerenzone Valley to see Laorca, an old area of Lecco located in the “Vallata” or “Iron Valley”.

Veins of metal ore in the nearby Valsassina Valley, forests supplying  pit-coal to smelting furnaces and the Gerenzone stream, providing power for machines, laid the foundations of the iron processing industry in the Lecco area, giving the name to this peculiar place. Small drawing mills and forges for the production of semi-finished products: this is the landscape visitors will admire, offering a still active and working example of industrial archaeology. 

 

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