The chestnut is not an indigenous tree: The Romans introduced it to our latitudes at the beginning of the Christian era, about 2'000 years ago. This kind of tree had a very important role in the past, both as source of food and a source of raw material, therefore, was considered as the "tree" par excellence. With the passing of time the chestnut lost its importance from an alimentary and economic point of view. At the end of the last century the transition to an agriculture based on the cultivation of corn marked the end of the exploitation of this tree. Today, with the chestnut woods no longer being cultivated indigenous species such as Lime, Beech, Ash, and Birch have settled themselves into these chestnut woods.
This way the ground gets sufficient light to develop a herbaceous layer which in the past was used as pasture. The trees belong to a grafted variety of fruit: in some of the trees, if you look closely, it still is possible to see the cleft of the graft. The grafts were made with different species. Each species had a particular use: the smaller chestnuts were milled for flour for the production of bread, others were dried, and some were eaten fresh. A recent survey established that there are more than 120 species of fruiting chestnuts in Ticino. The trees were pruned so to stimulate the growth of new branches and to obtain firewood and timber. The pruning was made in a way that the animals at pasture could not reach the buds on the remaining branches. The particular shape and structure of chestnut forests are precisely due to this practice. Managed this way the trees produced enough fruit to feed the population for more than six months a year. Additionally, they were used to produce firewood and bedding for the animals. Nothing of what the chestnut produces was left unused.
The Historical Sonvico Nature Trail
Stage 1: Well and "Riaron"
Stage 2: House of Reason
Stage 3: Graad
Stage 4: Cassinel
Stage 5: The mixed broadleaf woods
Stage 6: Geological oddities
Stage 7: Mill and bridge
Stage 8: The glade in the wood
Stage 9: The torrent Franscinone
Stage 10: Wash-house
Stage 11: The birds of the wood
Stage 12: The eroded valley of the Franscinone
Stage 12: Water and energy
Stage 13: The edge of the flood-level wood
Stage 14: Dairy farm for the processing of milk
Stage 15: Lime-kiln
Stage 16: The rural area
Stage 17: The Humid area of Canéed
Stage 18: The earth kiln for charcoal production
Stage 19: Terracing
Stage 20: Madonna d'Arla
Stage 22: The Beechwood
Stage 23: The Boulder with Engraved Cupels
Stage 23: I Denti della Vecchia
Stage 24: R’Alborón
Stage 25: The Oratory of S. Martino
Stage 26: The old center of Sonvico
Stage 27: The Walnut Press
Stage 28: The Church of Saint John the Baptist
The Luganese Regional Bus Line covers the Lugano – Sonvico stretch; from Val Colla you can reach Sonvico, using the postal bus from Tesserete to Sonvico.