A Project supported under the banner of “Lo splendore del Vero – religious tourism in Lombardy – Faith, Art and Flavours: itineraries under the Mantle of Mary”. Visiting Valchiavenna to discover the many religion-based attractions is also an ideal opportunity to immerse yourself in the silence of Nature and seek out some of the most evocative and indeed mystical corners of the valley. We’re proposing a religious itinerary that satisfies the search for Faith and spiritual testimony, as well as the desire for new stimuli and experiences, but which also incorporates the exploration of gastronomy, of the artistic, cultural and natural substance of a territory with a wealth of history.
The itinerary leaves from the ancient town of Chiavenna, today boasting the prestigious orange flag and città slow accolades, with its atmospheric corners, its piazza hosting fountains in local potstone (pietra ollare) and historic mansions adorned with frescoes dating back centuries. Pedalling through the heart of the impressive historic centre you encounter the Church of Santa Maria, a fine example of the Baroque style in Valchiavenna, consecrated in 1327, and which gives its name to the neighbourhood; it’s characterised by a striking 17th century portal in local potstone surmounted by marble sculptures. Having negotiated the quaint little streets of the historic centre you reach the sun-kissed district of Loreto where you might visit the Santuario della Madonna di Loreto, constructed in 1618. The building was inspired by the Santa Casa di Loreto di Recanati. Moving up along the shaded cyclepath on the right flank of the river Mera you’re heading towards Italian Val Bregaglia. Along the first stretch there’s the chance to see the huge potholes which form part of the Parco delle Marmitte dei Giganti; we recommend a slight detour here to explore this impressive glacial phenomenon with its rock engravings; a little further along the way you’ll come across the Crotto Belvedere at Prosto di Piuro where you can enjoy typical Valchiavenna cuisine, visit the actual crotto and discover the "sorèl" for yourself! It’s a short pedal now to the Church of Maria Assunta, where in 1572 a local girl reported having seen the Madonna on the river bed, who invited her to construct a church in her honour. Next to the church is the ancient hospital building and in the nearby piazza there just has to be an obligatory halt at the old Mulino Del Curto (mill) where you can sample the legendary "biscotìn de Prost" oven-baked for centuries according to a strictly guarded recipe. In the same vicinity you’ll find the studio of Roberto Lucchinetti, the only craftsman still working pietra ollare who’ll engage you with his narrative and display of original artifacts. Before charging off along the cyclepath, there’s a natural temptation to head up to the Palazzo Vertemate Franchi in the village: a magnificent and splendidly-restored Renaissance mansion. Meanwhile back en route and before long you’ll pick out the awe-inspiring Cascate dell’Acquafraggia waterfalls up ahead, a natural monument also celebrated by one Leonardo da Vinci. Moving on you head into ancient Piuro, Borgonuovo where the archaeological excavations are sited and the highly-evocative ruins of Belfort, a testament to the ancient borough overwhelmed by the landslide of 1618. And now for the neighbourhood of Santa Croce, a village noted for its "marroni", a particularly large and tasty variety of chestnut, but equally for the Church of San Martino and the Chiesa rotonda. And so to the last little township in Italian Bregaglia right on the Swiss border: Villa di Chiavenna. Lots of fascinating little corners to explore. Here, each district boasts its very own church: the first you come across is the Chiesa dell'Immacolata at 598m in Guavera. Once past the dam constructed in the 50’s, further along the cyclepath you reach Chete and the Santuario della Madonna della Salute built as a spiritual safeguard against the Protestant Reformation. In the hamlet of Canete at the end of the Via Crucis that flanks the cyclepath you reach the Chiesa della Madonna Addolorata dating back to 1776.