Highlights and tour details
The Via del Mercato is a hiking route that connects Domodossola with Locarno through the Val Vigezzo and Centovalli along mule tracks used since ancient times to take the products of the valleys to the market of the cities. The same mule tracks were travelled by the many emigrants of the valley and pilgrims who went up to the Sanctuary of Re, an important devotional centre of the valley dedicated to the Madonna del Sangue, a destination of pilgrimages from Domodossola, Locarno and Cossogno (in the Verbano area).
Val Vigezzo, unlike the other Ossola valleys, is a place where orography rules are reversed. It is not a valley dug by the course of a stream with villages at different altitudes from the head to the mouth of the plain. Vigezzo seems to have no beginning or end: it boasts two opposing streams, one of which seems to run uphill, is flat and not very incised. It is not just the orography that is unusual here, but also the history and culture: it is a prosperous valley that lives on tourism and the work of frontier workers, which has experienced an emigration that over the centuries that has produced curious inventions and returning prosperity, but also the tradition of chimney sweeps and an artistic history linked to important schools of painting. The restful environment and the polychromy of the deciduous woods make the landscape very sweet to the eye. And yet Val Vigezzo is an alpine environment, an open place but nestled between dark and wild valleys.
During the last century, the valley has undergone a deep transformation in its socio-economic system: the traditional agro-pastoral business has suffered a heavy reduction, carving out a small space as an integrative economy. There has been no industrial development so the "border area" in neighbouring Switzerland and tourism are the primary source of economy in Vigevano. This has made it possible to avoid people emigrating, which in other valleys has negatively affected the social fabric and land use. One of the best ways to get to know and appreciate the historical content and beauty of Val Vigezzo and the adjacent Centovalli is to retrace the ancient road that connected Domodossola with Locarno (CH), in use since the Middle Ages by merchants and woodcutters, herdsmen and emigrants between Ticino and Italy.
Today, part of the route has been lost, covered by the present road network, but some well-preserved sections of the ancient mule track are still present both in Italy and in Switzerland. Walking along this "Via" is easy and pleasant, thanks also to the cross-border "VIGEZZINA" railway line, recently defined "the most beautiful panoramic railway in Italy" that links Domodossola with Locarno. By moving around with the Vigezzina train it is possible to spend the night in any village of the valley, reaching the departure point of the stage in the morning.
Itinerary code: VME
Historical interest: Yes
Devotional interest: Yes
Access by public transport: Yes
Classification: Medium and low mountain provincial
Provinces crossed: Distretto dei Laghi
Notes on public transport
Departure, arrival and municipalities crossed
- VIA DEL MERCATO Domodossola - Locarno (60,00 km)
- Via del Mercato: Stage 1 Masera - Santa Maria Maggiore (18,00 km)
- VIA DEL MERCATO Stage 2: Santa Maria Maggiore - Camedo (CH) (19,00 km)
- VIA DEL MERCATO Stage 3: Camedo (CH) - Intragna (CH) (12,00 km)
- VIA DEL MERCATO Stage 4: Intragna (CH) - Locarno (CH) (11,50 km)