In the magic woods

If you happen to be travelling around the Lake Como area, and if you happen to like trekking in the woods, and if you happen to be a fan of wood sculptures, and if you happen to love elves and pixies and magical creatures altogether, then you might want to have a look at this magic wood right in the heart of the Triangolo Lariano.

Spirito del Bosco
The Spirit of the Woods.

Canzo is a nice little town placed at the foot of a mountain called Corni di Canzo (Canzo’s Horns), famous for its three peaks. It’s one of the main towns in that triangle shaped area called Triangolo Lariano, between the cities of Como, Lecco, and Bellagio.

Except for the delicious Nocciolini di Canzo (a particular kind of amaretto: biscuits made with sugar, egg whites, and hazelnuts) and for the Giubiana (a pagan origin propitiatory rite that takes place at the end of Winter and consists of a trial to the evil witch Giubiana and her consequent immolation on a bonfire), Canzo is also known for being home to the springs of Gajum.

While the water of the springs is good to drink and distributed freely, Gajum serves as the starting point of several paths and trails that enter the woods and go up the mountains. One of these trails takes you up to Prim’Alpe, a nice mountain shelter that hosts a small museum on the mountain environment and is often the destination of many school trips. A few meters away from the shelter is the start of a very special trail: the Path of the Spirit of the Woods.

Sentiero Lo Spirito del Bosco
On the left, local dialect; on the right, Italian.

To whom passes by.

You are on a path that has magic within, that looks at you and knows if you are in harmony.

Something in it is awake day and night, it checks on everything and never misses a thing.

It’s everywhere: next to a rock, on a branch, behind a plant, amongst grass blades, in a puddle of water; it rumbles with the thunder, blows with the wind, it flashes with the lightning, it carries on out and in.

It’s the Spirit of the Woods, sometimes showing itself, coming out from where it’s hidden, it appears.

But it’s hard to bring it to light, an artist does it with his hands and his heart.

A small tree trunk in the wood and a man close-by: they study each other, they read each other’s feelings, which are the ones guiding the chisel and the mallet, and from the wood a sprite is born, and a small animal.

And you see them beside the path, but there’s much more hidden behind: if you want to see as you pass by, you have to be a bit of an artist yourself.

It takes just a few steps to meet the first of the many wood creatures scattered along the path; and it is soon clear that they are everywhere, sometimes hidden, sometimes in plain sight.

There are gnomes and dwarves, elves, animals, little houses, big flowers, wizards, limbs sticking out of the ground, a tortoise with a small city on her shell, tiny stairs leading to tiny doors, a dragon… everything carved in wood.

Tartaruga, Sentiero Lo Spirito del Bosco
That city may be small, but it sure looks heavy!

The snake-like path twists and coils around trees; it crosses streams and smoothly climbs up the hill. It passes under the stare of a giant suspended dragonfly, then meets a rather confusing sign and splits up, one branch going this way, the other going that way. Both paths will eventually rejoin and come across a labyrinth.

Climbing this path feels like strolling through the pages of a fairy tale: you walk in the woods and meet characters, most of which are magical creatures; and the atmosphere is so thick with fantasy and magic that you unconsciously slip into a make-believe where you are the protagonist on a quest to some far-away land.

At the end of the hike you find yourself in the real world, and you start wondering: was it all just a dream?

But you only need to turn and enter the wood to fall back into the same fantasy world.


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