Quick Walks out of Como 1: San Donato – Garzola

centre of Como

From the centre of Como looking out to Brunate

One of the beauties of Como is that green hills are clearly visible to both east and west from its centre. By foot it just takes 10 minutes to leave the city behind you for a total immersion in nature and chance encounters with deer or boar. Thus a brief uphill walk will provide an immediate switch from an urban to rural environment whilst providing a marvellous cardio-vascular work-out featuring spectacular views over the old city and the lake. The steep slopes to the north east up to Brunate or to the west in the Parco Spina Verde ensure a clear boundary to the city’s built-up limits – not however a feature shared on its southerly flank where urban spread essentially links Como to what might be called the Greater Milan area. Altitude is perhaps the most immediate environmental differentiator – so let’s celebrate our good fortune in finding ourselves at the foothills  of the Alps!  The circular route described here is for those of you who may be looking for a brief one hour of exercise linking town, country, lake and mountain.

Casa del Fascio

Casa del Fascio, Piazza del Popolo

From the centre of Como, head out towards the Casa del Fascio, our modernist masterpiece, and walk up Via Maurizio Monti. This road starts to climb uphill gently towards its end. Cross the road as it bends round to the right to form Via Zezio in order to continue straight on the footpath and steps ahead of you. Cross the road (Via Crispi) and continue on the footpath ahead .

Via Monti

Via Maurizio Monti, looking towards Brunate

As you climb above the houses, the footpath narrows and concrete is replaced by stone and earth. There is no signage at this point but you don’t need it since you just keep heading uphill following various curves and bends. After about 15 minutes, the small path links to another path running left to right. Take the right hand turn as the path continues to go uphill. Within 20 metres the path joins another wider path where you should turn left to continue your progress uphill. However, if this is as much of a rural escapade as you can take, by all means turn right and follow the path downhill. You will then link up with the end of the route.

The path comes out at the base of the San Donato Sanctuary which is about half way up the path to Brunate. Continue on upwards to Brunate if you wish but for this brief excursion, we turn right following the signpost for Garzola.

San Donato

Turn right at the base of San Donato in the direction of Garzola.

At this point you have completed the cardio-vascular part of this walk – your uphill workout is over and you are now walking on the level or downhill.  The level path here first continues over a bridge that crosses a mountain stream which we will traverse again at a lower altitude. As with many of these mountain streams, it is often very quiet since the limestone rock swallows up most of the water run-off into its underground water courses except when rainfall is heavy and persistent.

Bridge at San Donato

Under the bridge at San Donato with reflected sky and trees in the pools of water.

Continue along this flat stretch passing worked terraces on your left and spectacular views down to Como and the lake on your right.

Garzola view 2

View from Garzago

Turn right as the path comes to a junction. Turn sharp right when you come to the next junction.

San Donato 2

San Donato Sanctuary as you look back on it

The path now leads you on to a small group of houses shown in the picture below. These are just the other side of the mountain stream we crossed higher up. The small hamlet is however occupied by a number of very loud dogs – safe enough but very noisy.

third route

The hamlet of noisy dogs

You are back on the mountain path again now and as you descend, you will pass a turning to the right going uphill that would link you up to the path you were on as you made your way up to San Donato. However we keep to the left and continue our descent until it reaches Via per Brunate.

Brunate sign 3

The end of the circular walk via San Donato or the possible start of a walk up to Brunate.

Turn right on the road and then either take the first on the right (Via Crispi) or the second (Via Zezio) to find your way back to the centre.

The next walk in this series will be going west from the centre to climb up the Parco Spina Verde. That also can be a brief one hour excursion.


San Donato Garzola

Distance: 2.06 km

Time: 0.45 hrs

Climb: 150 m

Descent: 170 m

Difficulty: Easy

San Donato Garzola profile