Bob discovered a hike on the internet from Ghiffa to Verbania. The website stated, “perfect for families and children.” It sounded like a perfect 3 hour hike. You take a quick bus ride, hike up the mountain, and hike on an old goat trail back to town. Simple, easy. Hmmm, NOT so much.
It was 60 degrees and we were off. Bob, our friend Dave and I take the 7 kilometer bus ride from Verbania to Ghiffa. The plan, as explained on the hiking website, was to follow an old trail to Sacro Monte of the Holy Trinity, a natural reserve and UNESCO World Heritage site (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.)
We believed we were the best prepared for any hike with printed directions in hand. Well, we quickly discovered the website was WRONG! The directions sucked and at times the trails were quite arduous.
Finding the trailhead was the first clue that the directions, as I said, “sucked.”
“Go to the hat factory/museum and follow the stone stairs.” Sounds clear, sounds easy – Nope, no stone stairs at the hat factory. They should say, “go south from the hat factory, past the parking garage, and look for the stone steps and a sign for Monte of the Holy Trinity.” The directions were about 2 football fields off.
We are feeling wonderful now. The trail is ancient stone, with stone walls on both sides and honestly radiates holiness. All goes well for about 15 minutes and we meet an asphalt road. The directions are not helpful. Is it a left? Is it a right? Do we turn three times, and click our shoes together? Our instincts prevail and we find the next major landmark, a church.
At the church, the directions, say ”walk up the steps past the church and follow the internal road until you reach the mule track that rises to the Holy Trinity of Ghiffa.” Again, sounds easy. Going up the stairs was as obvious as the yellow brick road. We get behind the church and you guessed it, turn left? right? Hmmm. And where’s the mule track? As if we’d know a mule track if we saw one.
At this point we are practicing our oral reading and listening skills. “OK, listen to me read this and you guys tell me what it means.” We choose right and keep walking. A few more dead ends, a helpful woman walking through the woods in a business suit talking on the phone (haven’t figured that one out yet) and two somewhat angry construction workers later ( we got busted cutting through some construction), we make it to Sacro Monte of the Holy Trinity.
The crazy hike was well worth it. The peace, the quiet, the view! We eat our picnic lunch sitting on an ancient stone bench overlooking Lago Maggiore, and explored a bit of the sanctuary.
OK, now we think all is great. There’s a trail marker and it looks crystal clear for the second half of the hike. Again, after about 20 minutes of clear trail, nothing is obvious. We run into many forks, trails that just end, and sometimes no trail at all. We read the useless directions, trust our guts, hit many (albeit beautiful) dead ends, and just keep hiking south.
Eventually we found our way back to the road, had a somewhat hair-raising walk on a highway, and arrived safely back in Verbania happy, a bit tired, and satisfied with a day of unexpected hiking.
We will be commenting on their website with a few suggestions on their directions. BTW, NOT children friendly.