Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mount Heathen

Located just south of Italy’s Stelvio National Park, Monte Pagano offers an incredible view of northeastern Lombardy.

So commanding is the view that a century ago someone commanded the construction of a fort on the pastures at the summit of Monte Pagano, whose name translates to “Mount Heathen”.

Our home base for our hike up Mount Heathen was the village of Monno. Dad had come through here on his bicycle in 2003 and knew the perfect place to stay, Hotel Quai.

The owner of Hotel Quai is super-nice. He invited me out of my transcontinental home in the dining room during dinner.

For the primo, both Mom and Dad had Piöde, a kind of gnocchi named after the rock slates once used on roofs. The owner called it a simple, poor man’s food; the best kind to eat, he said. For the secondo, Dad had his own gorgonzola and prosciutto pizza, while Mom had steak with salsa verde, a yummy combination of hard-boiled egg, lots of parsley, some salt, and olive oil all whipped together. For dessert, they both had an apple torte, also homemade, of course. I made a concerted effort to scavenge food off my Mom and Dad, but I was not successful.

With his in-depth knowledge of the area, the owner helped us plan our hike to Monte Pagano. He advised against using the upper trailhead that you read about in the guidebooks and he directed us to a little known trailhead at the Bridge of the Pasture, or Put de Palö in the local Camuno dialect.

From the Bridge of the Pasture, a century old military road spirals up, climbing 2,000 vertical feet and affording new 360° views at every turn all the way to the fort at the top.

The fort was meant to keep on eye on nearby Passo Tonale, which back then was a key border crossing into the Austro-Hungaric empire. Today, Passo Tonale is a ski resort while the fort on Mount Heathen is very popular with Val Camonica goats.

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