This is a hike report on the route of the E1 in northern Italy from the Swiss border at Lake Lugano to Serravalle Scrivia. north of Genoa. It includes a general route description, details of hiking maps, and day by day route descriptions (including links to GPX files).
E1 Italy Lake Lugano to North of Genoa
WALKING THE E1 IN ITALY
PART 1: LAKE LUGANO TO NORTH OF GENOVA
In September 2016, we started a multi-stage journey (to be completed over several years) to walk the E1 long distance footpath from one end of Italy to the other.
In researching this route, we found that there are lots of resources available to support people walking the E1 in other countries that it passes through (especially Germany and Switzerland), but only limited resources covering the E1 in Italy.
These notes are a record of the practical details of our journey, and are aimed to help others planning to walk this route.
In this part, we cover the first stage of our journey, from the Swiss border at Lake Lugano, to Serravalle Scrivia, in the foothills of the Ligurian Alps, north of Genova. We completed this journey of 280 km over ten walking days. We hope to add details of further parts of the route as we complete them.
GENERAL ROUTE DESCRIPTION
The first 70 km of the route from Lake Lugano to Sesto Calende is mainly through the hills between the Italian Lakes, pasing through the Campo dei Fiori regional park, with great views of the Lakes and the Alps to the north.
From Sesto Calende, the E1 enters the Parco Lombardo della Valle del Ticino (regional park), following the gentle curves of the Ticino valley for around 100 km, to the ancient city of Pavia.
After Pavia, the route leaves the Ticino valley, heading south west through ancient farmland in the Po valley for 40 km, before crossing the River Po near where it is joined by the Torrente Scrivia (river). The E1 then heads south up the Scrivia valley for 30 km to Tortona.
From Tortona, the route heads up into the hills again east of the Scrivia valley, through vineyards and woodland for 40 km, dropping back down to the Scrivia at Serravalle Scrivia.
GENERAL ROUTE PLANNING
The E1 long distance footpath in Italy is administered by the Federazione Italiana Escursionismo (www.fie.com). There is a general description of the route of the E1, listing the towns and villages that it passes through, available on their site at:
Waymarked Trails website (http://hiking.waymarkedtrails.org) has a useful expandable online map, available here:
You can also download from this page a GPX file, which covers most of the route (but misses out a 70 km stretch between Sannazzaro de Burgondi and Serravalle Scrivia). We found it pretty reliable.
For general route planning, we used Michelin map 351 “Piemonte Valle d’Aosta” 1:200,000, which covers the whole of the route from the Swiss border to Genova.
For detailed planning and walking maps, this stage of the route is covered by a variety of walking maps from different publishers – we used five main maps (see details in specific sections below). However, there is one 30 km stretch (between Sannazzaro de Burgondi and Tortona) for which we were not able to find any walking scale maps.
We complemented our maps using the Viewranger app on our smartphone, with the GPX file outlined above downloaded onto it. Viewranger has openstreetmaps covering Italy available on it free. We found this mapping pretty reliable for roads and tracks, but it does not include contours and only a few footpaths. We used this to confirm our location and routes when needed, and to track our journey.
We have uploaded GPX files of our own day by day route onto Viewranger (see links on day pages below), which includes some minor variants, and includes the stretch that is missing from the GPX file on the Waymarked Trails website.
On this stage of the E1, the route is well marked by signposts in some areas, but there are no signposts in other areas (see details in specific sections below). The route is generally well marked on the maps, but there are some places where there is more than one variant of the route, and some places where the route on the maps takes you on a different variant of the route from the signposting on the ground. Once we were aware of this, we did not find it a major problem!
We stayed in local accommodation (small hotels, B&Bs, inns, or farmstays) along the way. With some care in route planning, there are places to stay each night close to the route along all of this stage of the E1. However, in some places there are only one or two possible places to stay (see details below), so it may be advisable to book ahead.
DAY BY DAY DESCRIPTIONS
Below are day by day descriptions of the various sections of this stage of the E1, which we completed in 10 days, walking between 17 km and 37 km per day. The times given are for average stamina experienced walkers, and include short stops, but not long stops of over 15 minutes
Day 1: Porto Ceresio to Brinzio
Porto Ceresio: (280m) sleepy lakeside town – a few hotels/B&Bs; several restaurants; supermarket). Can be reached by local bus from Varese.
Distance: 20 km Total Climb: 1100m Hours: 7.5 hours
- ‘Lago Maggiore Lago di Varese’ Kompass 90; 1:50,000 (available in good bookshops), or
- ‘Via Verde Varesina’; Istituto Geografico deAgostini; 1:35,000 (available free from Varese Tourist Information Agency)
Routemarking: Well signposted all day
Viewranger GPX File Link: http://my.viewranger.com/track/details/MzYyNTU2Mw==
- From Porto Ceresio climbs up through woodland to summit of Monte Piambello (1125m), great views of Lake Lugano from Sasso de Bol (500m diversion to north of summit)(9 km, 4 hours)
- Walk down to Ganna (500m, café and inn) – mainly woodland paths, some short stretches on road (7km, 2 hours)
- From Ganna, trail goes round lower northern slopes of Monte Martica (200m climb) through woodland to Brinzio (500m) (4 km, 1.5 hours)
Stay: Brinzio: Small town in the hills. Inn, B&B, local shops, restaurant
Day 2: Brinzio to Gavirate
Distance: 18 km Total Climb: 700m Hours: 7 hours
Maps: As for Day 1 Routemarking: Well signposted all day
Viewranger GPX File Link: http://my.viewranger.com/track/details/MzYyNTU2NA==
- From Brinzio (500m), climb woodland paths to ridge at Monumento dei Tre Croce (1111m)(Café just below path shortly after Monumento)(7 km, 4 hours)
- From Monumento dei Tre Croce continue along ridge to top of Monte Campo die Fiori (1227m) and on to Forte di Orino. Official E1 route runs along south side slightly below the ridge, for good views of the plains to the south. Alternatively, take path marked 3V/307 (shown on Via Verde Varesina map) along north side for stunning views of Swiss and Italian Alps to north (note: last part of path back down to rejoin E1 is quite steep)(3 km, 1 hour)
- From Forte di Orino to Gavirate, official route goes down to Orino village and then contours round the mountain back to Gavirate (12 km). Unless you want to go to Orino, there is a much shorter path south down through woodland to Gavirate from Forte di Orino (path 313, well marked, and shown on Via Verde Varesina map)(7 km, 2 hours).
Stay: Gavirate: Large commercial town at the northern end of Lago di Varese, with attractive waterfront. Range of hotels and B&Bs, restaurants, supermarkets, shops
Day 3: Gavirate to Somma Lombardo
Distance: 34 km Total Climb: 200m Hours: 10 hours
Map: Carta dei Percorsi Ciclopedonali, Parco Lombardo, della Valle del Ticino; Istituto Geografico de Agostini; 1:50,000; Available from the park website (www.parcoticino.it). (This map does not cover the first 8 km south of Gavirate to Cassinetta Rissone, which are covered by the maps described under Day 1)
Routemarking: Quite well marked, but with some gaps. In this section, there are several variants of the E1 route marked on different maps and on the ground.
Viewranger GPX File Link: http://my.viewranger.com/track/details/MzYyNTU2NQ=
- From Gavirate head round the west side of Lago di Varese. The main route for the first 5 km is shown as passing through Bardello and Bregano, but there is a more attractive cyclepath along the western shores of Lago di Varese to Cassinetta Rizzone, at the south west corner of the lake. Café and local shops in Cassinetta Rizzone. (6 km, 2 hours)
- From Cassinetta Rizzone the route heads south west across low hills to the south end of Lago di Monate, then south through low wooded hills to join the Ticino valley at the south-eastern outskirts of Sesto Calende. Café by the river just south of the A8 bridge over the Ticino. (20 km, 5.5 hours)
Route Warning: South of Lago di Monate, at the time of our journey, the main footpath between Lentate Verbano and Oriano Ticino was heavily blocked by many fallen trees. It is passable with some clambering, but slow progress. Alternatively you can head along the road to the west of the footpath (faster, but very little shade on the road route).
- From Sesto Calende (eastern outskirts), the main route heads up across the wooded headland towards Somma Lombardo (needs careful navigation as poorly signposted), before dropping back down to the river west of Somma Lombardo (8 km, 2.5 hours). Alternatively, follow the track along the eastern bank of the Ticino (easier navigation, but 2 km further)
Stay: Somma Lombardo, Large town 1-2 km east of the E1. It is one of the main locations for accommodation close to Malpensa Airport, so has many hotels and B&Bs. Note: There is an escarpment just to the east of the bend in the Ticino at Cascina Belvedere. If staying in Somma Lombardo, you will need to head into Somma Lombardo from Montebello, as there are no paths up the escarpment directly from the river.
Day 4: Somma Lombardo to Boffalora
Distance: 37 km Total Climb: <100m Hours: 10 hours
Map: As for Day 3
Routemarking: Fairly well marked on the ground, but some gaps and some variants.
Viewranger GPX File Link: http://my.viewranger.com/track/details/MzYyNTU2Nw==
- The route follows the eastern side of the Ticino all day, mostly through woodland, and mostly between the river and a major canal (Naviglio Grande). The canal has many offshoots, which are not obvious on the map, and some minor detours are needed to cross them. There is a cycleway along the side of the canal. The E1 is sometimes marked as passing along this cycleway, and sometimes along the paths closer to the river. The cycleway is very direct, but has little variety or shade, so we found it preferable to follow the paths closer to the river – probably added 2-3 km over the course of the day.
- Café by bridge across Ticino north of Tornavento, and by bridge across Ticino between Turbigo and Galliate (Road 341).
- Note: 4 km after the 341 bridge across the Ticino, near Cascina Gallarata on the map, the map shows warning signs (!!!), and on the ground there were signs saying the footpath was closed. In fact, the footpath was easily passable, with some care.
Navigation Warning: A further 1 km along (west of Castelletto), the main path by the Ticino crosses a small river as it joins the Ticino, and there is no bridge. You either need to wade across the small river, or take a 2-3 km detour inland via minor roads, before returning to the Ticino west of Bernate Ticino.
Stay: Boffalora town is 2 km east of the E1 route (accessible via a track from Cascina Rossa, south of the A4 motorway). However, Cascina Rossa itself is a friendly farm B&B right on the track.
Day 5: Boffalora to Besate
Distance: 32 km Total Climb: <100m Hours: 8 hours
Map: As for Day 3
Routemarking: Fairly well marked on the ground, but some gaps and some variants
Viewranger GPX Link: http://my.viewranger.com/track/details/MzYyNTU2OA==
- From Boffalora (Cascina Rossa), the main route continues south along the eastern side of the Ticino through woodland for around 7 km to Cascina Barcella, before heading east away from the river along minor roads for 10 km with limited shade, to the industrial town of Abbiategrasso (shops, restaurants, and cafes) (17 km, 4 hours)
- South of Abbiategrasso, the main route then runs along a very busy road with limited shade for a further 6 km to Soria Vecchia (you can avoid most of this by a minor detour along more minor roads through Ozzero village), before heading off along farm tracks for the last 9 km to Besate. (15 km, 4 hours)
- To avoid Abbiategrasso, and 16 km of walking along roads with little shade, it is possible to head south as the main route leaves the woodland at Cascina Barcella, and self-navigate along mostly woodland tracks closer to the river (eg via Cascina Castagnola, Cascina Remondata, Cascina Broggina, and Cascina Guzzafame), rejoining the main E1 route where it leaves the main road at Soria Vecchia.
Stay: There are B&Bs in Besate, or you can stay at Cascina Caremma (on the E1 route 2 km north of Besate), a large agritourism farm business with rooms (and an excellent restaurant, although a little pricey!)
Day 6: Besate to Pavia
Distance: 32 km Total Climb: <100m Hours: 7.5 hours
Map: As for Day 3
Routemarking: Fairly well marked on the ground, but some gaps and some variants
Viewranger GPX Link: http://my.viewranger.com/track/details/MzYyNTU2OQ==
- From Besate, the E1 heads south back to the Ticino at the Lido di Motta Visconti (café), and then through woodland near the river until Ponte di Bereguardo (bridge across the Ticino between Bereguardo and Zerbolo, café by bridge)(13 km, 3 hours)
- At this point, most maps show the main E1 crossing the bridge, and continuing along the southern side of the Ticino to Cascina Venara (2 km east of Zerbolo). At this point the main E1 leaves the Ticino to head south west, or there is a variant into the ancient city of Pavia (recommended).
- If you are heading into Pavia, you may choose (as we did) to take the slightly shorter variant of the E1 that continues from Ponte di Bereguardo along the northern side of the Ticino into Pavia. (This also means when you leave Pavia for the next stage, you are not retracing your steps along the south side of the Ticino.)
- For this variant, from Ponte di Bereguardo, follow the footpath along the northern side of the Ticino (marked SP on the map and occasionally on the route) through woodland to Torre d’Isola (restaurant/café), and then on into Pavia. (19 km, 4.5 hours)
Navigation Warning: Just before the footpath goes under the A7 motorway, it crosses a stream where there is no bridge, and you will need to paddle through the stream.
Stay: Pavia: Attractive ancient medieval city. Old castle, cathedral, and university. There is a wide range of hotels, B&Bs, and hostels, and many shops and restaurants (including a good bookshop if you need maps for the next stage of the journey).
Day 7: Pavia to Sannazzaro de Burgondi
Distance: 36 km Total Climb: <100m Hours: 8.5 hours
Map: The main E1 route is fully covered by the Parco Ticino map (see Day 3). For our variant (see details below), the last 13 km are just off this map. We used openstreetmaps on our phone to navigate this last section (route marked B1-2 on openstreetmaps), as we were not able to find a walking map for this area.
Routemarking: After leaving the Ticino valley, there are only occasional E1 signs on the route, so you will need to navigate from the map.
Viewranger GPX File Link: http://my.viewranger.com/track/details/MzYyNTU3MA==
- In Pavia, cross the bridge to the south side of the Ticino, and follow the E1 west through woodland and farmland to Cascina Gaviola (2 km north of Carbonara al Ticino)(10 km, 2.5 hours)
- The main E1 route then continues west along the Ticino for another 4 km to Cascina Venara, before leaving the Ticino valley to head south west for 20 km along minor roads through farmland via Zerbolo, Gropello Cairoli, and Dorno, to reach Sannazzaro. We chose to take a different route from Cascina Gaviola to Sannazzaro, to reduce the amount of time spent on roads, and see more of the Po Valley.
- To follow our route, head south east along minor roads through farmland (limited shade) from Cascina Gaviola through Villanova d’Ardenghi (café) and Zinasco (café), to Mezzana Rabattone, on the northern side of the Po River (14 km, 3 hours)
- From Mezzana Rabattone, follow raised tracks between irrigated farmland (limited shade) along the north side of the River Po (occasional river views), to Sannazzaro (12 km, 3 hours)
Stay: Sannazzaro is a small commercial town, with one hotel and a couple of B&Bs, a few restaurants, a supermarket and some other shops
Day 8: Sannazzaro de Burgondi to Tortona
Distance: 33 km Total Climb: <100m Hours: 8.5 hours
Map: We could not find any walking scale maps to cover this part of the route, so we navigated using openstreetmaps, via the navigation app (Viewranger) on our smartphone. As this part of the route is mainly along tracks and roads, this worked fine for the day.
Routemarking: We saw only two E1 signs all day! With no walking maps to indicate the detailed route, the specific route between Sannazzaro and Tortona is your own choice, but is not difficult to navigate.
Viewranger GPX File Link: http://my.viewranger.com/track/details/MzYyNTU3MQ==
- From Sannazzaro, the route broadly follows the P206 road south, crossing the River Po on a major bridge, to Molina dei Torti.. For the first 2 km out of Sannazzaro, there is a cycle path beside the road, as there is on the bridge itself, but on other parts of this route, there is no cyclepath or pavement, and it is quite a busy road. There are some minor detours that will enable you to stay off the busy road:
- 2 km south of Sannazzaro you can turn east onto a farm road, which loops around, and rejoins the main road 1.5 km further on (1 km additional distance)
- Immediately after crossing the bridge, you can turn right or left off the main road and follow farm tracks for 1-2 km parallel to the road, before rejoining the main road
- Turn east off the main road to go along quieter roads through Gerola Nuovo village (shop, café), before returning to the main road just north of the Molina dei Torti turn off
This section with detours: 13 km, 3 hours
- Turn west off the P206 along a fairly major road into Molina dei Torti, and continue west along a minor road into Alzano Scrivia, close to the east bank of the Torrente Scrivia (river). From here you can follow woodland tracks south along the east side of the Scrivia to the bridge across the Scrivia on the western side of Castelnuovo Scrivia (café, restaurant, shops in the village), and on under the A7 motorway. After the A7, the track along the eastern side of the Scrivia shown on openstreetmaps is badly overgrown. Advisable to take one of the tracks east to join the road, heading south along the road for 2 km, then you can head back west along a track to join a southbound track parallel to the road for the last 3 km, over the A21 motorway and into Tortona (20 km, 5.5 hours)
Stay: Tortona is a large town with a range of hotels, restaurants, cafes, and shops
Day 9: Tortona to Garbagna (San Vito)
Distance: 22 km Total Climb: 700m Hours: 6.5 hours
- “Il Tortonese e le Valli Scrivia, Curone, Grue e Ossona”; F8 in series Le Vie del Sale dal Basso Piemonte al Mare; 1:25,000; Studio Cartografico Italiano, Genova (www.studiocartograficoitaliano.it). Covers almost all of route for day, from Tortona to Monte Campogrande
- “Il Novese e le Valli Scrivia, Borbera, Spinti e Lemme”: F7 in same series. Covers last 2 km of route to San Vito (close to Garbagna)
Both maps show the E1 route. Available from good bookshops in Pavia
Routemarking: Very limited signposting of E1 on this section. From Montale onwards, you can follow signposting for Sentiero 124.
Viewranger GPX File Link: http://my.viewranger.com/track/details/MzYyNTU3Mg==
Route Description: From Tortona (120m) the route mainly heads south west, following the west bank of Torrente Ossona (river), climbing up along tracks through rolling hills and vineyards, via Villa Romagnano (café), and Montale, then on up to the top of Monte Campogrande (505m), and passing to the west of the top of Monte di San Vito (685m) to reach San Vito (573m)
Stay: There is a small and friendly B&B (La Casa dei Mimirs) right on the E1 at San Vito, a small settlement just south of the top of Monte di San Vito (no shops, cafes, or restaurants). Garbagna village itself is a further 4 km further on (2.5 km off the route and 250m down the hill), with B&B and restaurant/café.
Day 10: Garbagna (San Vito) to Serravalle Scrivia
Distance: 17 km Total Climb: 500m Hours: 6 hours
Map: Full day is covered by map F7 (see Day 9 for details)
Routemarking: Very limited signposting of E1 on this stage, but the route follows local footpath 200 for most of the route (from Sorli to Stazzano), which is periodically signposted
Viewranger GPX File Link: http://my.viewranger.com/track/details/MzYyNTU3Mw==
Route Description: From San Vito, the route follows a minor road to Bastita, where it cuts off to the west to the top of Monte Ronzone (714m), then follows mainly woodland footpaths and tracks south west amongst the hills until you reach the church of Madonna del Monte Spineto (459m). From here, the marked route follows minor roads down to Stazzano and then round to Serravalle Scrivia. You can shorten this by 2 km by taking the minor road contouring west down the hillside from the church, directly to the bridge across the Scrivia river that takes you into the town of Serravalle Scrivia.
Navigation Warning: The E1 route marked on the map shows the E1 heading off the road onto a path at the north side of Bastita, to reach the top of Monte Ronzone, but we found this path completely overgrown. There is a good track off the road at the southern side of Bastita, which goes round the west side of the top of Monte Ronzone, meeting a paved track on the south side of the peak. The route continues south from here, or you can detour up the paved track to the top of Monte Ronzone (full of radio masts, but good views).
Stay: Serravalle Scrivia is a medium sized industrial town, with a few hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, cafes, and shops. There are also places to stay in Stazzano, 2 km away.