Alpenrose field with self-help hut

Let me start by saying that this title is misleading! This hike neither starts at Monte Tamaro nor finishes at Monte Lema. But that’s what it’s called in the website where we got the idea from sometime last year, so we’ll call it the same…


We catch a lift in gondolas from Rivera-Bironico to Alpe Foppa at 1527m a.s.l. (a ‘gondola’, is like a mini cable car… i.e., think cable car, then reduce the size of the carriage to a four-six person carriage). It’s the first day since the lockdown started that the cableway is operating. Not too many people around, so we get onto our carriage straight away!

We decide to have a coffee at the restaurant. Later we’d be sorry we did not wait until we got to Capanna Tamaro – a very interesting looking little mountain hut a few hundred metres higher and not far from the summit of Monte Tamaro. Next time.

Our trek to the summit of Monte Tamaro is uneventful, except for me getting annoyed at the number of shortcuts people have taken – one particularly broad swathe showing the signs of extreme erosion! And the exact reason why one should stick to the paths! Sadly the views are obscured by low hanging clouds. Up ahead of us we see bits of Lago Maggiore. The Matterhorn and Monte Rosa, both visible from here remain hidden in the clouds.

Barbara on Monte Tamaro

When we get to the summit of Monte Tamaro (1962m), there are about half a dozen or so people on the summit. We contemplate brewing a cup of coffee, then decide that it’s too windy and crowded. When we check the ‘wegweisers’ (signs) we suddenly realise that we don’t have a lot of time to play with. The last cable car from Monte Lema leaves at 17.15. It’s 13.20, and we still have three-and-a-half hour to go.

About an hour walking further we’ve made up about 20 minutes. We find a great spot with 360 degree views and light up the stove for a quick coffee. Lunch will have to be energy bars. Not enough time to make our avocado and banana sandwiches.

When we move on the vegetation starts getting more interesting, and soon we’re on a ridge, which we’ll follow all the way to the Monte Lema cable car. We pass a little hut with signs inviting you to have a drink. It’s self service. Faith in humankind still exists in some places.

We walk through an area where almost every inch is covered in ‘alpenrosen’ (Rhododendron ferrugineum) and Elderflower trees. The combination of pink ground cover interspersed with the white flowered trees makes for an unforgettable sight.

Barbara walking through the alpenrose
Alpenrose (Rhododendron ferrugineum)
Path through Alpenrose and Elderflower trees
Alpenrose with clouds

In the valleys below we see hamlets surrounded by forest. Every once in a while the sun peeps through the clouds and lights up the red tile covered roofs of the houses below.

Path along the ridge

The ridge gets narrower and the terrain slightly trickier. Ahead of us we can see the Monte Lema cable car station. We still have a few kilometres to go, but we estimate that we’ll be there at about half past four.

Not far from Monte Lema Alpine Swifts cross our path. They’re one of my favourite birds to watch. Fearless as they dive at dizzying speeds from on the heights. Pulling up and sailing back into the skies above. A little way ahead of us there’s a large bird hanging in the air. Hovering. Probably a buzzard. Waiting for its meal to make an appearance.

We make it to Monte Lema cable car station with enough time to gulp down a cold drink, then we’re off to the cars and the ride down to the village of Miglieglia where we’ll catch a bus back to the nearest train station.

Though the cloud obscured some of the magnificent views this route is renowned for, and we know that we’ll have to come back at another time, we’re happy to have had another perfect mountain day.

Path disappearing in the mist
Miniature wasp nest
Tiny shortcut becomes swathe of erosion
Path along the ridge
Glimpse of Lago Maggiore
Sun on red tiled roofs

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