Highlights and tour details
The ancient road that led from the Ossola valley floor to Valle di Binn and thus to inner Switzerland through the Arbola or Albrunpass (2409 m), is very significant for the history of transiting through the Alps. Arbola is the lowest and easiest pass in the Lepontine Alps, second only to the Sempione on the Ossola mountains. Instead, the Boccareccio, the Cornera and the Rossa Pass are made difficult by imposing rock ramparts that make it difficult for people to access and impossible for pack animals. The paved Arbola mule track allowed long convoys of pack animals loaded with goods, to transit across the Alps. The Lepontine Alps, not far from the Gotthard, from which rivers are created and flow down in the direction of the four winds, were always a fundamental orographic junction in the Alpine road network: the Arbola leads to Binntal, the Gries leads to Hasli and then to the Oberland, Passo San Giacomo (the "Valdolgia mountain") leads to Airolo and Ticino. For many centuries, the "strada Antigorio" to Baceno, Devero and Arbola (the "lower pass" to distinguish it from the upper or "glacier pass" made up of the Gries) was the main commercial arterial road between the Valais and Lombardy. So much so that even ancient maps define the Arbola as a "pass towards Lombardy" (Pass gegen Lombardy, Sebastian Munster, 1550) or "pass to Milan" (Pass auf Mailand, Gabriel Walser, 1768). In the centuries of the Middle Ages, when men began to cross the high Alpine passes to exchange goods and ideas, the stops at Baceno and Ernen grew in importance. The villages at the foot of the pass (Baceno, Binn, Ernen) are considered by historians as "pass settlements" where the trade function was combined with the pastoral one. Until the 13th and 14th centuries, when the gorges of Gondo on the Sempione were equipped with wooden footbridges anchored with chains to the rock, the Passo d’Arbola was the "gateway to Lombardy": wheat and wine, silks and spices went up North from the East; salt, cheese and cattle went down to the South. Dynasties of merchants grew up in Baceno and Croveo and travelled through Alpine Europe, also taking smuggled salt from the mines of Hall, near Salzburg, to the market of Ernen through the "transversal route" of Passo San Giacomo, Scatta Minoia and Bocchetta d'Arbola. They developed a branched network of transalpine relations with the Swiss cantons of Uri and Unterwalden. They crossed the high passes and owned meadows and pastures to feed their herds bought in Switzerland and to be sold at the Lombard markets. They also owned cellars where they stored wine and cheese. The route of the ancient Via dell'Arbola - Via Albrun is one of the Cultural Routes of regional interest in Switzerland.
Points of interest
A historic route through the Alpe Veglia and Alpe Devero Nature Park and the neighbouring Binn Valley Nature Park (Landschaftspark Binntal). Every year on the first Saturday in August, the people of Baceno and Binn meet at the Bocchetta d'Arbola to renew the centuries-old friendship and collaboration between the two communities.
Croveo: Lodging house, B&B and trattoria. Crampiolo: Lodging house, restaurants, Agritourism, B&B. Just below Bocchetta d'Arbola, in Swiss territory, is the Binntalhutte
Follow the A26 motorway to Gravellona Toce and then Superstrada SS33 del Sempione to the exit for Valle ANTIGORIO FORMAZZA. Then follow the main road 659 to Baceno.
Itinerary code: ARB
Phone coverage: Good
Recommended period: June, July, Auguat, September
Historical interest: Yes
Access by public transport: Yes
Classification: Medium and low mountain provincial
Provinces crossed: Distretto dei Laghi