09 - Sentiero del Viandante (“Wayfarer’s Path”)

The Sentiero del Viandante (“Wayfarer’s Path”) follows an ancient mule track along the eastern shore of Lake Como (from Lecco to Colico),offering an alternative access route to that by boat up the lake and to the Via Regina towards Valtellina and the Alpine passes of the Splügen, Septimer and Julier. The path along the eastern shore of the lake has been called by different names through its long history, and has undergone many changes to the route. It connects up a number of different roads and paths that have been created over time (the Via Ducale, Via Regia, Via Napoleona and in some sections Strada del Viandante). To learn about the origin of the entire route we must consult the studies by the Larian historian Pietro Pensa, who considers that it goes back to Roman times, even though the route does not have the peculiar features and structure typical of a consular road. There is also evidence that it was used by wayfarers and pilgrims in documents that attest the presence along the way of numerous places offering hospitality and refreshment. In the 15th century, a period in which the plague raged through the district, this road was suggested by the Dukes of Milan as an alternative for pilgrims from Bellinzona bound for Rome. From the 17th century onwards, the “Strada della Riviera” or Lakeside Road, gradually grew in importance. The most convincing testimony to this is a report written by the engineer Tolomeo Rinaldi on a roading project that was to leave from the new Forte di Fuentes, built to guard the border with the State of the Leagues of Graubünden, and continue through to Milan. In notarial documents of the 18th century (1743, 1757, 1767) the road assumed, for long sections, a new name: Via Regia or Ducale, a descriptive title, given its probable function as the main link road between the northern borders of the Duchy of Milan and Forte di Fuentes. The importance of this road as a link road between Milan and Valtellina climaxed during the Napoleonic era, when important stuctural improvements were made along certain sections. The new improved sections took the name “Strada Napoleona”. The road remained active until the first decades of the 19th century when the military road to the Stelvio Pass was built by order of the Austrians, a grand carriageway which started from Milan and ascended to the Alpine passes via Lecco and Colico. From that moment on, the old route, known as the “Strada del Viandante”, the Wayfarer’s Road, was practically forgotten as an access road, until its revival in 1992 for tourists.
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