Looking out from Como’s lakefront, your eye is drawn to a Liberty-style villa on a hilltop – the Villa Dosso Pisani. This villa sits on top of Monte Olimpino near to a small rural village called Cardina which gives its name to the surrounding countryside. The area offers two major attractions. The first is the old settlement of Quarcino with its beautiful romanesque church and the second is the park of Cardina itself with its remains of First World War fortifications and a series of paths criss-crossing the hilltop. However it is not somewhere to walk for views of the lake. Those views are reserved for sites like the Villa Dosso Pisani and for those living along the Via Panoramica San Pietro on the eastern edge of our area.
Cardina is one of very few areas within Como where you can take a pleasant countryside walk while staying entirely within the city’s limits. This has recently become quite an advantage since the imposition of ‘Red Zone’ anti-Covid regulations in Lombardy. While these do allow for unlimited individual outdoor exercise, we are constrained to staying within our own town or city limits. In spite of being within the city, Cardina feels very rural particularly when you venture onto its secondary paths.
Cardina sits between the city districts of Tavernola to the north, Sagnino to the west and Monte Olimpino to the south, all close to the Swiss border. In the past this hilltop would have been productive agricultural land given over to vineyards and chestnut groves. Nowadays it is mostly wooded except around the small community of Cardina itself with its restaurant ‘Il Crotto del Lupo’ near to the pond known rather grandly as the ‘Laghetto di Cardina’.
The area around the laghetto used to be a popular spot for families to take a stroll in the countryside at weekends. This is where you are most likely to come across other walkers since it still is very attractive. Cardina remains a curious but rather overlooked oasis of green surrounded by urban development on all sides. It lacks the care and maintenance evident in its cossetted southerly neighbour, the Parco Spina Verde, but well worth a visit for those who like full countryside immersion.
The paths through the woods vary in quality with some parts only slightly discernable from the surrounding woodland although steps are provided on steep slopes. The signposting is also minimal and inconsistent. However there is little to fear if you are temporarily lost since you are surrounded by urban development. You can reach a start point by car or by any of the other buses serving Monte Olimpino (numbers 7 and 1), Sagnino (Number 7) or Tavernola (Number 11).
The starting point chosen for this route was just above the church of Cristo Re in Tavernola at the junction of Via Conciliazione with Via Raimondi. There is both a bus stop on the No. 11 route at Via Tibaldi 6 and a small car park at this point.
The noticeboard shown in the photo below marks the start of the walk. It identifies points of interest around Cardina including the defences built for the First World War which are part of what is known as the Linea Cadorna. These defences which run through the Parco Spina Verde, and along the length of the Swiss border to Sasso Gordona above Schignano, were built to defend against a possible attack from Austrian forces crossing through Switzerland.
The starting point (A) is on the curve of Via Conciliazione where the private road, Via Raimondi, goes off to the left. You will see the noticeboard shown above on this corner. The road turns from tarmac to gravel and shortly after you will see the hiking path go off to the right.
As you walk along the northern edge of the Cardina hill, the area becomes more humid and lots of mushrooms are to be seen. This is also the least well-maintained part of the walk and one section in particular is marred by many fallen trees obstructing the path. However it is worth persisting but noting where you need to take an alternative route when returning.
With a decisive turn to the left after the fallen trees, you start a gradual climb up to the highest part of the walk (around 450 metres above sea level). From here you take a narrow path that eventually opens up on to the tarmacced road leading down to the Cardina community.
You will now pass the old settlement of Cardina with its farmhouses and a small chapel attached to a building which is now rented out for holiday lets. The road leads down to the restaurant ‘Il Crotto del lupo’ which has been in he same hands for a number of years and specialises in dishes from the Valtellina. It is also a bar so a handy place to stop before passing the laghetto and making your way back to your starting point.
‘Il Crotto del Lupo’ – Website: https://www.crottodellupo.net/it/
Contact information: +39 031 570881 or +39 347 817 8428
Distance: 4 km
Time: 1 hour 20 mins
Climb: 190 metres
Descent: 190 metres
Difficulty: Intermediate, sure-footedness required