Northern Grigna Regional Park
The Grigna Regional Park is spread over an area of more than 5000 hectares around the Grigne massif, consisting of southern Grigna, or Grignetta, and Northern Grigna, or Grignone.
The Park has as its natural borders Lake Como, Valsassina and the Varrone Valley. It includes the municipality of Esino Lario and a part of those of Cortenova, Parlasco, Pasturo, Perledo, Primaluna, Taceno and Varenna. Most of the territory of the Northern Grigna Regional Park is made up of woods. On the borders with the municipalities, pastures and small private forest appreciations survive. The exceptional diversity of climate and environments is due to the geological complexity of the protected area. It goes from the shores of Lake Como, to over 2400m of the highest peaks. For this reason the Regional Park has a biodiversity and a great geological and paleontological interest, despite its limited surface area.
The southwestern side, steeper and jagged, is an area much appreciated by expert mountaineers and hikers. From the height of its spiers it degrades rapidly towards the eastern shore of Lake Como. The east side, more inviting and soothing, where beech woods and pastures are protagonists, descends gently towards Valsassina. To the north, in the area of the Cainallo Pass, we find a large glacial basin characterized by karst environments, dolines, swallow holes and numerous abysses reserved for expert speleologists. Entering into the bowels of the mountain we can discover the Releccio complex. It is the second deepest karstic system in Italy, with over 22 kilometers and a gradient of more than 1,100 meters. To complete a geological picture, already exceptional in itself, we find the caves of Moncodeno. In addition to being spectacular, the perennial ice stalactites and stalagmites make these caves a place of scientific importance.
Already Leonardo, centuries ago, was attracted to this physical phenomenon. Lariosaurus marine reptile and other fossils of great paleontological importance, especially in the Pialleral area, attract scholars to discover the secrets of a territory formed about 20 million years ago. Step by step, as you walk along the vast network of paths, you can understand the patient’s work. These heroes, over the centuries, through mountain farming, sheep farming and silviculture, have been able to enrich the landscape with colors, scents and ancient flavors to be enjoyed.
Flora and fauna
An excursion for everyone allows you to reach the rocky arch of the Porta di Prada. There are many ways to climb the most important peaks, but an adequate trail network makes even the simplest walks pleasant. In low-altitude meadows, it is not uncommon to see the fox or the hare. In the shade of the woods you can walk among oaks, majestic chestnut trees and beeches. You can hear the rhythm of the woodpecker, the song of the black grouse, or the bellowing of the deer. Once you reach the open spaces, the moors draw the alpine landscape colored by rhododendrons, dwarf pines and junipers. If you are careful, you can see the roe deer and, among screes and rocky walls of limestone nature, the shy chamois. There are many floristic rarities that color the meadows and among all we mention the Rhaetian cornflower, the Bertola bellflower, the yellow colombina, the Grigne primula.
In the past the wood and the pasture allowed the maintenance of most of the families of the Park. Today these resources are of economic importance only for a few dozen people. In the past, especially in the 1800s, every corner of the mountains was crossed by teams of woodsmen who cut beech, hornbeam and chestnut woods. The forest guaranteed both the timber to build the houses, and the firewood for heating and cooking. Nowadays only memories remain of these activities, but it is not rare to find traces of them. At higher altitudes the large bunker yards can be found inside the wood, where coal was produced up to 50-60 years ago. Browsing through the woods of the Park, one can find the plants released as matricine even more than two centuries ago. These are beech specimens with trunks with a diameter greater than one meter.
Esino Lario is the only municipality whose territory is totally included in the Regional Park of the Northern Grigna. Notable are the characters who, over the centuries, have admired and studied the surrounding area. Leonardo da Vinci was already fascinated by its nature, the vegetation and the animals of this territory. It was then up to the Stoppani to study and catalog the local fossils, staying here for long periods. Among the small art treasures, in the countless churches that dot the entire territory of the Park, one can find several masterpieces. We mention paintings by Luigi Reali, a Florentine painter of the seventeenth century, kept in Pasturo in the parish church and in the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Cintura. The old nucleus of Cortenova, introduces the oratory of San Fermo, the most significant example of Baroque architecture in the entire Valsassina, with interesting wooden sculptures and painted canvases.
A stop not to be missed is Varenna and its old nucleus, embellished by the four churches leaning between them and the magnificent gardens of Villa Cipressi and Villa Monastero.