4 - 5
FATMAP difficulty grade
As you may have figured out from studying FATMAP, there are countless variations on this hike, with paths criss-crossing the hillsides above Bellinzano allowing you to extend and shorten any hike easily.
The route shown here is a wonderful trip, but it could be started from several different points, and can be adjusted en route as well.
Feel free to follow the line exactly, or just use it to vaguely guide you between the highlights of the hike - of which there are many. Starting out in Bellinzano means that you have a tough climb to start, but the cultural interest of passing through the town's narrow suburban streets makes up for the grinding nature of the ascent.
Once clear of the houses the path continues to climb unrelentingly, but when you ponder how many millions (literally) of stones have been placed by hand to create the trail, your efforts - relative to the path builders - will seem insignificant! Most of the trail is in the forests as you climb but the occasional hut breaks up the scenery, and there are also several spots from which the views begin to reveal themselves.
The path is well signposted and marked with red and white paint dashes, but it is occasionally vague - don't switch off completely! The first major landmark is Motto della Croce, marked with a huge cross and with a commanding view across the valley to Lago Maggiore.
From this most spectacular of viewpoints, drop back into the forest and continue climbing up to Motto d'Arbino.
This sits in an open meadow and offers - hard as it might be to believe - an even better view than Motto della Croce.
Having taken it all in, descend down the aesthetic blunt ridge which leads to the village of Paudo, via the beautiful and welcoming Capanna Genzianella - a gorgeous mountain hut.
There is a regular bus service from Paudo down to Giubiasco, and taking this is recommended ahead of the knee-grinding descent back to the valley floor! From Giubiasco there are regular buses and trains back to Bellinzano, or further afield. The brutal heat of mid-summer means that this hike can't be recommended in July and August (go up a cable car and hike at a higher altitude instead) but it's wonderful in shoulder season, and an excellent introduction to this famous region.