Highlights and tour details
The Cadorna Line is the defence system that was built near the Swiss border during World War I at the behest of General Luigi Cadorna, the then Chief of Staff of the Italian Army, who feared a German-Austrian invasion through neutral Switzerland.
The immense defence structure, built between the summer of 1915 and the spring of 1918, stretched from Ossola to Verbano and into Lombardy, becoming a dense network of military roads and mule tracks, trenches, artillery positions, lookout posts, camp hospitals and logistical facilities, barracks and outposts.
The work was carried out by local masons and stonemasons and women also played a fundamental role in the construction of the defence line, particularly in transporting material and supplies to the work sites.
The Cadorna Line was never used for war purposes and today this military road is a historical heritage that allows the community to learn about a historical moment of the 20th century.
It is also a natural heritage of trails for trekking and mountain-biking enthusiasts, offering routes that can be travelled almost all year round (take care in the event of recent snowfall).
Because of its isolated position, Mont'Orfano or Montorfano was considered an important strategic place from which to dominate the entire surrounding area, from Lake Maggiore to Lake Orta to Bassa Ossola.
Various military constructions were built on the slopes of the mount that are still visible and can be reached thanks to Strada Cadorna, a 4 km long and 4 metre wide dirt road.
The route along this section of the Cadorna Line begins in Mergozzo, in the hamlet of Pra' Michelaccio (204 m asl), following the signs for the military fortifications.
The military road, asphalted only in the first short section, becomes a beautiful dirt road that climbs steadily for 4 km, with beautiful stone hairpin bends leading to the first "Casermetta" (small barracks). Continuing with a succession of beautiful military artefacts (retaining walls and water channels), the road reaches the second Casermetta and the "Polveriera" (magazine). The panoramic view from up here is truly stunning.
From the Polveriera you can continue as far as Cima del Montorfano (794 m asl - about 2 km). The dirt road becomes a mule track that later becomes a grassy path and in about 45 minutes reaches other military works (shelters and barracks), whose construction involved the use of local natural resources including granite extracted from the nearby Cava Verde quarry at the foot of Montorfano.
Points of interest
Panoramic views over Lake Maggiore, Lake Orta, Mergozzo and Bassa Ossola.
Remarkably beautiful military artefacts.
Suitable for the whole family is the Sentiero Azzurro, a beautiful paved path that connects the village of Mergozzo to one of Montorfano, from which there is a panoramic view over Lake Mergozzo and Lake Maggiore.
For adrenaline seekers, along the Strada Cadorna is the access to the Via Ferrata Montorfano, a route with Tibetan bridges and exposed passages (Difficult level; a route to be followed only with suitable equipment). (https://www.comune.mergozzo.vb.it/it-it/vivere-il-comune/cosa-vedere/ferrata-montorfano-53879-1-3480876218cca183b7b50f304b8fa3ad )
From Pra' Michelaccio, along the banks of the River Toce, the homonymous Ciclovia del Toce (Toce Cycle Route) passes, which from Alta Val Formazza continues to Lake Maggiore. https://lagomaggiorexperience.it/percorso/ciclovia-del-toce-in-bici-tra-i-fiori/
For lovers of local history, the Montorfano Granite Ecomuseum and the Archaeological Civic Museum with a display of artefacts from Prehistoric to Medieval times can also be visited in the village of Mergozzo. www.ecomuseogranitomontorfano.it
There is no protection in some parts of the road.
The information contained in the routes is not the responsibility of the authors and verifiers of these routes.
Recommended period: spring - summer - autumn
Historical interest: Yes
Provinces crossed: Distretto dei Laghi
Departure, arrival and municipalities crossed
Verbano-Cusio-Ossolasee on map