There is a ‘dirt path’ walk between Dongo and Gravedona, by the side of the lake. It’s either three or four kilometres long, depending on which description you read, but somehow doesn’t seem that far when you walk it. At various points along the path there are tables and seating, where you can have a picnic, or just rest. In addition to providing gentle exercise, and lovely views, the walk also tells you something about the differences between the Alto Lario (northern end of the Lake) and the mid-lake and western branch.
To get to the starting point in Dongo, you walk down the Via Cimitero (which is the first ‘street’ north of the Torrente Albano,) until you reach the town beach (spiaggi). It’s not a beach in the conventional sense of the word, because there is no sand, only pebbles and stones. This is typical of many ‘shingle beaches’ around the Lake. But you do get the chance to have a dip in the water.
As you head off along the path, you soon notice caravan parks and campsites on your left hand side. The profusion of this kind of accommodation is one of the main differences between the Alto Lario and the rest of the Lake. But there is something distinctive about these sites. They seem to have created a new form of living space, consisting of a permanently fixed caravan with a sort of wooden structure around it, like a small ranch house, adding a porch and extra internal space. To judge from conversation you can’t help overhearing, these sites appear to attract a number of German visitors.
Following the path you will come to two nautical centres. One, called ‘Rent A Boat’, hires out motor boats and water ski and wakeboard equipment. The other, the Velamare Club, has the sign ‘Skiff Italia’ at the entrance, because it’s a centre for sailing that kind of boat (a type of catamaran). This is the first indication of another difference between this end of the Lake and further south. The Alto Lario is more obviously a location for water sports. It’s not that there are no such facilities in other parts of the Lake – there are plenty. It’s more that water sports stand higher in the pecking order of things to do and see in the Alto Lario. That includes hosting international competitions.
(The connection between caravan accommodation and a sharper focus on water sports becomes more increasingly apparent as you get further north, in places like Domaso and Gera Lario. It must suit the (relatively young) practitioners to enjoy cheap accommodation near the water’s edge.)
After passing a Lido with a swimming pool, the path ends at Gravedona’s River Liro . From there you can turn away from the Lake and follow the road into Gravedona, past the Palace of Sport, the baroque church of San Vincenzo and the Romanesque Santa Maria del Tiglio, to the town’s lakeside promenade. From there you can catch a ferry back to Dongo, unless it’s six o’clock on a Monday evening, in which case you’ll find you’ve missed the last one going in that direction. You then have two alternatives – either find your way to the Via Regina and catch the C10 bus back to Dongo, or go crazy, as we did, and walk back along the path in the opposite direction.