The Balzo Nero (Black Leap/precipice) is the name of that stately but slightly sinister mountain that rises above Vico Pancellorum, one of the more remote villages in the Val di Lima.
It’s notorious for hurling inexperienced mushroom collectors to their serious injury or even death as it’s got quite precipitous sides. However, if one stick to the well signposted footpaths, there should be no trouble.
The walk starts from the first hair-pin bend one encounter after passing Vico Pancellorum, well worth visiting just for its exquisite Pieve, one of the oldest churches in the area. Path no 8 start from here. The first part is along a gravelled rough road which soon peters out and gives way to the first of several scree crossings.
The path then submerges itself in dense woodland and follows the course of the Rio Coccia di Vico torrent some distance above it to then reach the Rio’s level and cross it.
Shortly afterwards there’s a little deviation to the grotta dei porci (pigs’ cave). I don’t’ know why it’s called the pig’s cave. Perhaps it may refer to wild pigs or boars as I doubt anyone would want to keep pigs here so far away from any settlement.
The path then begins to rise through the luscious woodland until it emerges into some wonderful upland pastures called ‘Le Piane’ (the levels). When I first did this walk a heavy mist descended here and the surrounding mountains were obscured making me feel that I was in some north London open space like Hampstead heath. A subsequent visit enabled me to appreciate the wonderfully extensive views from here at the Punto panoramico.
From le Piane it’s possible to go left and follow a path to the Poggio agli Agli (lit. ‘Hill towards the garlic’) but I’ve never explored this option (although I like garlic). More commonly, one can go to the top of the Balzo Nero through a precipitously exposed rocky ridge. This, too, I’ve never done although the signs say the summit’s just half an hour away.
On another occasion I took this walk with a group of young Germans who treated the whole exercise as a fast sprint. Reaching le Piane I pegged out but the Germans ran from here to the top and back in a little over half-an-hour!
The return to Vico Pancellorum can be effected using the same no 8 footpath but it’s more interesting to take the 8B deviation as this brings one out of the forest to an uncovered but steep mountain slope with magnificent views.
Planning this walk carefully will enable one to enjoy a great meal at Giovanna’s restaurant la Buca di Baldabò at Vico, an eating place which had consistently won the highest accolades in the Val di Lima.