Chiavenna, 03 aprile 2014   |  

Around Chiavenna: nature, art and history from the Lake of Novate Mezzola to the secluded Val Codera

Valchiavenna, the valley stretching along the river Mera from the Lake of Novate Mezzola to the confluence with the torrent Liro just below the town of Chiavenna, offers unspoiled natural landscapes surrounded by high peaks. Visitors have the possibility of practicing trekking, canoeing, mountaineering or cycling along secondary roads partially protected.

pian di spagna

The village of Novate Mezzola, located on the namesake small lake that in the past was part of the Lake of Como, can be the starting point of a journey taking to impressive places like the natural reserve of Pian di Spagna, and symbols of the historic and cultural heritage of the region like the Temple of St. Fedelino, built shortly before the XI century, the Galleria di Mina di San Fedele di Verceia, dating back from the First World War, and the Picapreda Museum. Last but not least, the Val Codera, one of the two narrow and almost secluded valleys branching off the main Valchiavenna area, is a good destination for walkers used to go off the “beaten tracks”.

The Nature Reserve of Pian di Spagna is a broad plain between the Lake of Novate Mezzola and the Lake of Como, with a large wetland of great importance for the nesting of many migratory birds and therefore an ideal place for bird-watching. The plain is at the entrance of Valchiavenna and Valtellina, which stretch respectively north and east among the mountains. Pan di Spagna landscape is characterized by reeds typical of wetlands, mixed with forests, farmland pasture and corn fields.

Situated on the shore of the Lake of Novate Mezzola, where Mera river flows into the lake, the temple of St. Fedelino represents one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Lombardy and one of the oldest in the Alps region. The small church was built between year 900 and 1000 on the place of the martyrdom and burial of San Fedele, a Roman legionary who converted to Christianity and was killed by the soldiers of the emperor. It can be reached by a path starting from Casenda (Samolaco) or by boat from Novate Mezzola. The isolated location has preserved the temple from being visited by large groups of visitors or pilgrims and therefore enlarged and transformed in a big sanctuary, like it happened to other ancient churches. So, San Fedelino with its original architectural structure, is an intact symbol of the religious tradition of the early first millennium.

The Picapreda Museum  is a small exhibition in Novate Mezzola, in front of the town hall, with a collection of images and a display of typical quarry equipments used to extract the “Sanfedelino” granite from the XVIII century to today, established in order to document the work of the “picapreda” (literally stone breaker), the main activity of the Novate Mezzola area for almost two centuries. The Sanfedelino granite owes its name to the first quarry opened, which exactly was behind the Temple of San Fedelino. The Sanfedelino granite was primarily used for street paving for the surrounding cities and it is also possible to find squares paved with this type of granite in Milan, Como, Pavia and Bologna. The production of the Sanfedelino granite was at its peak from the 1920s to the mid thirties, then it declined till in the seventies.  Today only one cave remains in operation.  

The Mine Tunnel at Verceia: a walk inside the defense system from the First World War

A narrow tunnel 200 meters long, excavated into the heart of the mountain almost 100 years ago, during the First World War as a barrier against possible invasion from the north: the Galleria di Mina di San Fedele di Verceia, (a Mine Tunnel) is an unusual site of great historical significance. In the past protected as a military secret, it was recently opened to the public after the renovation works financed by the Mountain Community of Valchiavenna, Ersaf and Interreg funds. It consists of a vast underground labyrinth created between 1916 and 1917 in Verceia by the Italian military forces in order to cut road and rail links throughout Valchiavenna by the controlled burst of an enormous amount of explosives placed in deep wells inside the tunnel. It is better preserved than the tunnels located at Brienno and Menaggio on Lake of Como and its entrance overlooks the Lake of Novate Mezzola, with a wonderful view on Pian di Spagna natural reserve and on the cycling path connecting Valchiavenna to Valtellina and the northern part of Lake of Como. Today, the main tunnel with four branches and 18 deviations, hosting 16 mine wells, six bedrooms, four storage tanks and three air ducts, is part of the historic heritage of Valtellina and can be visited with guided tours upon reservation.


For more information: Tourist Office Chiavenna Tel +39 0343 37485 -

Picapreda Museum: in winter visits are possible by pre-booking with the Novate Mezzola local authority - Tel. +39 0343 63040 -

Pian di Spagna - Lake of Novate Mezzola - Via Della Torre 1 / A - Sorico (CO) Tel +39 0344 / 84251 - Fax +39 0344 / 94556 -

The Tempio of San Fedelino is open from April. In the winter months it can be visited by appointment. For information and reservations: Fam Sciam, Novate Mezzola tel +39 339 2908864 -  Mr. Romano - transport by boat or Verceia Dascio tel. +39 389 3438863 or +39 346 0873962


The Discovery of the Val Codera

Val Codera is a unique place in the Lombardy Alps area accessible only by foot from Novate Mezzola through two paths. This lack of roads open to vehicles has helped to preserve the natural landscape from the urban development, experienced by other alpine villages. The torrent Codera, flowing through the valley to the Lake of Novate Mezzola, provides clear and fresh waters, a real treat in the hot months. The difference in height between the bottom of the valley and the mountain peaks, even reaching 3,000 meters, provides visitors with different environments and landscapes and a great diversity of flora, ranging from the Mediterranean species like the broom, to the alpine ones such as the rhododendron and the mountain pine. Also the fauna of the valley is interesting with many species of birds, including the golden eagle, and mammals like the fox, ermine, squirrel, dormouse, deer, roe, chamois. Therefore Val Codera has been included among the SCIs (Sites of Community Interest) for its significant wealth in flora and fauna.

Codera, the main centre, is a rural village 825 metres above sea level, reachable through a mule track in about two hours, which has kept the typical stone buildings and simple frescoed murals of the alpine area in the past. It hosts craft and agricultural activities that keep it alive like the mountains villages used to be in the past. In the village a small museum, divided into four sections, illustrates the geological (minerals and crystals), natural (flowers and fauna), historical and ethnographic (reconstructions of a traditional home) features of Val Codera.

Musem opening hours: Codera section: Saturday and Sunday  8-12 e 14-18 - San Giorgio section: by booking. Entrance free - Web-site: - Information at: Chiavenna Tourist Office Tel. +39 0343 37485 -  



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