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On the Search for Old Churches in the Leventina

Lavorgo - Chironico - Piottino Power Plant - Altirolo - Giornico

Route Infos ▾ | Tour Ratings (1) ▾ | Tours in the Vicinity ▾ | Favourite Entries (2)

Lavorgo - Chironico - Piottino Power Plant - Altirolo - Giornico

Published/updated on 16.07.2016 by GabrielleMerk | 27362 points
 | Date of Tour: 11.10.2015 | Favourite Entries (2) 

Those travelling the North-South Route from Airolo to Bellinzona cannot have failed to notice a group of beautiful old churches in the town of Giornico.

There are several more churches, chapels and oratoria nearby, so we... read more >>

Those travelling the North-South Route from Airolo to Bellinzona cannot have failed to notice a group of beautiful old churches in the town of Giornico.

There are several more churches, chapels and oratoria nearby, so we planned an easy “Church” tour that took in five historical churches plus a variety of these others as well. This tour is definitely worth doing for the historical and architectural value.

The tour starts at the train station in Lavorgo in the Leventina Valley (trains no longer stop here, but the bus does) and heads up through the quaint town of Nivo and via a slight ascent along a forested channel and chestnut groves to the equally quaint town of Chironico, which is located on a terrace at the entrance of the Chironico Valley, a side valley of the Leventina Valley. (This terrace is unusual for the otherwise steep flanks of the Leventina, and was created by the Ticino River as it had to find a new path through the valley due to a prehistoric landslide on the opposite side).

In Chironico you can admire several wooden log-style houses (typical of the Leventina region) as well as the always enchanting Rustico architecture. Other buildings of historical or architectural interest are the Sant’Ambrogio Oratorium (dating from possibly the 10th century) and a six-storey tower from the middle ages.

The Parish Church of San Maurizio is located on a hill on the outskirts of Chironico. The official hiking trail goes past the Church toward Grumo (where there is also an Oratorium), but more interesting is to take the road on the North side (village side) of the bridge/river past the dammed reservoir lake and down a very steep trail to the Piottino Power Plant which perches at the entrance of the steep ravine.

After crossing past the Power Plant, the rest of the trail to Giornico is an easy descent through chestnut forests, past the historical Church of San Pellegrino, situated in the middle of the forest. This church has vast cultural significance because of the extensive 16th Century paintings inside done by renowned Italian Artists. An appointment must be made to view the interior (contact on the Internet is Frau Solari Doris, Tel. 091 864 1987).

Shortly past this Church is the community of Altirolo, an absolute gem with its grape arbors spanning the cobblestoned alleyways, and the old cellar structures West of the village at the base of the mountains.

Heading South you can see the ruins of the 12th-Century Castello di Santa Maria, in whose heart stands the Church of Santa Maria.

After crossing the railway line, you head to the side-by-side churches: the further and larger Parish Church of San Michele (first mentioned in 1210) and the Church of San Nicolao (built in the second decade of the 12th Century). The Church of San Nicolao deserves special mention as it is considered the most impressive example of Lombard Romanesque architecture in Switzerland, with its simple stone build, mysterious crypt, medieval frescoes and unusual stone animal sculptures at the base of its walls near the entrance.

History and quaintness doesn’t stop here. As you head toward the village of Giornico, you cross two 14th-century stone bridges which connect the two sides of the village across an island in the middle of the Ticino River. In Giornico is a final Oratorium (San Carlo) to view, as well as the Tower of the Bishop Atto von Vercelli.

And a final historical note: Giornico was the site of a significant battle fought in 1478 where a Swiss force of 600 defeated 10,000 Milanese soldiers.

Published/updated on 16.07.2016 by GabrielleMerk (27362 points) | Date of Tour: 11.10.2015

Route Infos

Time Required
2 hours 45 minutes
9 km
412 m
639 m
Max. Altitude
792 m
Min. Altitude
384 m
Season Start / Season End
February - November
Level of Difficulty (Hiking)
Starting Point
Lavorgo Train Station
Starting Point with Public Transport
Giornico Village
Return with Public Transport
Places to Eat
Lavorgo, Chironico, Giornico
Things to Note
To view the inside of the San Pellegrino Church, an appointment must be made. Try Frau Solari Doris, Tel. 091 864 1987. In the winter months, the village of Giornico lies in shadow at 2 pm.

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  • Detailed map with traced route on SwissMobility map, including elevation profile
  • GPS file for download
  • Route description in text form
  • Printable tour description



Eine abwechslungsreiche (Aussicht, Natur, Geschichte, Architektur) und nicht...

Rating: 5/6

Hiked on 21.08.2016 by GabrielleMerk

Eine abwechslungsreiche (Aussicht, Natur, Geschichte, Architektur) und nicht anstrengende Wanderung. Diese Tour haben wir schon zwei Mal gemacht.

Publish your own Tour-Rating. Push the button on the right. >> >>


Tours in the Vicinity 

12.2 km from Starting Point

Hiking in the Stunning and Lesser-Known Val Malvaglia

⏱️ 4 hours 45 minutes  / ↔ 18 km / ↑ 218 m / ↓ 1272 m / ⛰ 1485 m / ☀️ 4/5 / 😀 5/5  (Legend)

Published/updated on 22.04.2019 by GabrielleMerk

This wonderful hike in the lesser-known Val Malvaglia is best suited for people without knee problems, as the hike out of the valley requires much downhill, sometimes steep,... more >>

Tour Ratings 0
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Favourite Entries 1
Favourite Entries 1