Mangia to Cornice, Lower Val di Vara

Special Note: These trails were not significantly affected by the floods of October, 2011.

Hunting dogs near Scogna commented on our every step. 
The advantage of this walk is beauty with accessibility. The hiker can visit two evocative villages and enjoy fields and woods and views, yet it's not a long drive to the starting point. The length of the walk can be varied from 90 minutes to half a day as we describe three variations for the return to Mangia from Cornice. Glorious in spring, nice in fall, but not so good in the rain due to sections with poor footing and drainage. The height differential between Mangia and Cornice is about 180 meters. For lunch consider either a picnic or a nice restaurant in Brugnato (see below). A rough map is available at: Mangia Cornice Map.

Cornice in the Val di Vara, Liguria.

Leave the A12 (Genoa-Livorno) at the Brugnato exit. From the traffic circle at the exit, follow the statale SP566 in direction north (Sesta Godano) alongside the River Vara. After a bit more than 2 km, turn right on a smaller road toward Mangia. After driving up the small valley for 2 km, you reach Mangia where you can park outside the village. Along the way, you'll see damage from the terrific rain on October25, 2011. This unimaginable rain event - the same that damaged the Cinque Terre - dropped about 20 inches of rain in just four hours!

Mangia - arches showed communal pride in the Renaissance.

Mangia is a charmer. Built of stone, some of which obviously came from the nearby river, it is noble in its humility. There are several stone arches which suggest a past that included knowledgeable builders and a pride of place. As you start to enter the village, note a hard-to-see trail junction. Straight ahead is our path to Cornice, called 'Via du Carlascia'. To the right, disappearing between two buildings is a path that leaves Mangia alongside a very picturesque canal, complete with a small mill wheel. This is Antica Via Caneva. On the return from Cornice, you may choose to return via this path.

Mangia from the Mangia-Cornice trail-

Our hike to Cornice begins by walking straight through the village. The path is signed with red and white blazes. It begins to climb in the center of town and leads you quickly to a small piazza in front of the village church. Up still more and already there are views over Mangia and the small valley. Soon the garden plots end and you continue up the pleasantly wooded hillside. The trail leads past a pretty chapel where it would be suitable to rest and reflect on the sorry fate of mankind.

Church bellt ower, Cornice.
Continue alongside olive groves and fields as the views broaden, and soon enough you reach an asphalt road. Turn left and you'll enter Cornice after another 600 meters. This hill town looms over the autostrada and the Val di Vara. There are remains of a castle and several of the houses are being restored slowly, but the feeling is one of timelessness. At the edge of the village are some houses with excellent views and the homeowners have been exuberant with their plantings.

To return to Mangia, there are three choices. (1.) Return the way you came up on Via du Carlascia - 45min.  (2.) Follow the Antica Via Ducana du Case - 75min. (3.) Return along the Antica Via De Zua through the locality of Scogna, 10 km. - 4 hours.  Choice (2.) is down through the woods on a moderately steep trail and then alongside the canal to Mangia.  Choice (3.) is along dirt and asphalt roads, also ending alongside the canal to Mangia. There are no monuments or villages to see either way, just country walking with few cars and few people. Choice (3.) has more views of the valley.

After visiting Cornice, reverse course back down the asphalt road. First the arrival trail - (1.) Via du Carlascia - branches off.

Trail sign down, return 2.

Then after about 1 Km. (2.)  the Via Ducana du Case trail branches off to the right, downhill. This trail passes fairly directly down through the forest to the valley floor. It has some slippery gravel near the top, and overall,it's moderately steep. When you reach the end, turn right. Follow the valley road to the parking area at Mangia, or (recommended) watch for the beginning of the Antica Via Caneva (sign missing 6/12) and follow this back to Mangia. Along the way, you can admire the simple efficiency of this ancient method of irrigation and mill power.

To return on the Antica Via De Zua through the Scogna locality, just stay on the road. It roughly follows the crinale (ridge top) and slowly rises through forest and old fields. After several more km., this road ends at a paved road in the locality Scogna. Turn right, downhill, and follow this down. It's a pretty road with more fields and more forest and more views of distant hills. After several additional km. it flattens out and meets/becomes the valley floor road. Continue on and as you approach Mangia, watch for the Antica Via Caneva as above.

Picnic ideas: Pane Arabo (round and flat but more rise than a pita) with tomato, arugula, and either mozzarella or mortadella.  Cacciotta Cheese - a semi-soft cheese made with cow and sheep milk - is a specialty of the Val di Vara. When it's right, it is milk gone to heaven.

The Taverna dei Golosi in Brugnato (via borgo san bernardo, 16  Tel 0187 895007). A small romantic place in the center of town with innovative ideas about traditional food.

For a moderately priced restaurant, La Marina offer good cucina casalina (home cooking) at Via Antica Romana, 9. Tel.0187-897273. If you hear the words 'torta fatta in casa', don't ask questions - just order it.

Consider this walk in conjunction with The Feast of Corpus Domini. Nearby Brugnato celebrates with a famous Infiorita, or carpet of flowers on Sunday. The date is June 19, 2014, June 04, 2015, and May 26, 2016. There's more at

 We would like to acknowledge and thank the organization Mangia Trekking for the signage and maintenance of these trails.

Written by Martha