The walk that leads to the church of San Martino (472 m), located in a panoramic position above the village of Griante, is suitable for all seasons and within everyone's reach, although entirely uphill.
The (little) effort required will be rewarded by the breathtaking view that sweeps from the village of Griante to the promontory of Bellagio and the branch of Lecco, with the mountains sloping towards the lake and the Grigna massif in the distance.
For a long time Cadenabbia was one of the favorite resorts of the British who settled here founding a community so important that led to build the Church Anglican Ascension, the first in Italy, which was consecrated in 1891.
To start the walk, take the small road on the right side of the Hotel Britannia and then climb the steps (Via Mazzini) on the right. Cross the asphalt road near the town hall to continue on via Franzani. Turn right following via Tommaso Grossi and pass the parish church of SS. Nabore and Felice built in the first half of the 18th century. For those coming by car, from the parking lot continue along via Brentano and then turn right to rejoin the promenade.
Just before the porch that leads to the historic core of Griante, on the left, there is the house where he stayed for many years, during his vacations, Achille Ratti (there is a plaque on the facade), pontiff and famous mountaineer. We now enter the historical nucleus where it is advisable to wander through the alleys to admire the beautiful six-eighteenth century buildings. At the end of the historic core, stands the Oratory of S. Rocco. From here you must take the small road with the indication of San Martino. You are now in Carsolina, one of the ancient hamlets of Griante that owes its name to the karst conformity of the land.
At the end of this small road you enter the hill road that, since 1984, connects Cadenabbia to Tremezzo via Rogaro. At this point, if you decide to go back to Griante or to the lake, you have to turn right, otherwise continue the walk until you reach the path that indicates San Martino. You will find it on the right and you can reach it by going down some steps leading to a small bridge, after which you will start climbing through meadows and woods. You are now in the middle of the Natural Oasis Park of San Martino, established to protect both the landscape and the local flora and fauna. Some protected species of birds of prey nest on the overhanging rock and, recently, the eagle has returned to nest.
Along the cobbled path leading to the church there are several chapels with mosaic decorations depicting episodes from the life of Christ. Halfway along the path there is the Cappella degli Alpini, dedicated to S. Carlo. Inside, above the altar, you can see a painting depicting the saint, while on the walls there are images of the Alpines during the war painted by the painter Azimonti, native of Menaggio.
Shortly after the Chapel of the Alpini, you come out of the wood and at a crossroads you turn right, leaving in the opposite direction the branch to Forcolette. From here begins a long stretch halfway up the hillside very scenic that leads to the fence that surrounds the grassy knoll on which stands the church of San Martino, a real natural terrace on the center of the lake.
The church of S. Martino was built in the sixteenth century. It became a venerated Marian shrine following the discovery of a fifteenth-century wooden statue of the Madonna and Child. Legend has it that in the seventeenth century the statue was found by a girl of the village in a cave in the mountain, where it had been saved a hundred years before by an inhabitant of Menaggio, when the country was devastated by the Grigionesi. Brought the news in the country, the faithful rushed and carried the statue in the parochial church of SS. Nabore and Felice, but from here it miraculously disappeared and was found again on the Sasso di S. Martino. This was interpreted as Mary's wish to be venerated on the spot, so a niche was first built and then the present oratory.
We recommend that you wear hiking shoes, bring water and a packed breakfast, on the left side of the church there are in fact picnic tables and a wooded area, on the opposite side you will find instead a sunny meadow, with picnic tables and benches, in a very panoramic position.
Climb to the Sasso di San Martino
If you are not tired yet and you aim higher, you can continue the walk up to the panoramic Sasso di San Martino (862 mt), with a walk of medium difficulty, all uphill.
Leaving the church behind, we resume our walk going backwards along the access path. After a few hundred meters, you can see a path that comes off on the right to proceed halfway up the meadows. The easy path touches a farmhouse in the valley and, a little further on, joins the path that goes up to Forcolette. At first pleasantly shaded by birch and beech trees, the path advances with wide hairpin bends, making us gain height almost effortlessly. It is a well-designed path, which once was a wide mule track, gradually abandoned and largely "reabsorbed" by the mountain.
The ascent brings us to the beginning of a long zigzag stretch through steep meadows, uncovered by tall vegetation. A spring located more or less halfway along the route provides refreshment and water. Higher up, a stretch halfway up the slope to the north leads behind a rocky tower that marks the beginning of the small valley that leads to Forcolette. From here the path becomes a little less easy, but still easy: the erosion of the soil, and the flow of the waters that have chosen the path as their bed, have ruined the path a little.
Back in the woods, go up a few more hairpin bends until you come out in the beautiful meadow below the Forcolette saddle. A large beech tree watches over the area occupied, in the upper part of the clearing, by some huts. When you reach the houses, leave a detour on the left to proceed in the opposite direction, passing between the buildings. A last short climb leads to the edge of another meadow, right on the saddle of the Forcolette. The continuation to the nearby peak of Sasso di San Martino is a little hidden by the vegetation, but it is easy to find: just follow the edge of the meadow on the right and you'll be immediately back in the woods, where the wide uphill track appears.
Some hairpin bends allow you to gain height and to reach the summit from where a magnificent panorama opens up. To the north, the entire northern sector of the lake stretches out and you can see the peaks of the Rhaetian Alps including Pizzo Badile, Pizzo Cengalo, Sasso Manduino. To the north-east the lake is guarded by the beautiful pyramid of Mount Legnone, while to the west you can admire the wide valley of Menaggio and a stretch of Lake Porlezza. Even the view to the south has become more extensive to fully embrace the promontory of Menaggio, the northern tip of the Larian Triangle that culminates with Mount San Primo. More to the east, on the eastern shore, the Grigne group stands out.