Scala del Paradiso – Como, Italy - Atlas Obscura

Scala del Paradiso

Parco Regionale Spina Verde

This trail was once used to smuggle cigarettes, sugar, and other black market goods between Italy and Switzerland. 

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Spina Verde regional park is located just steps away from the resort town of Como, Lombardy, Italy. It spans the border with Switzerland (where it is called Parco del Penz), allowing hikers to cross back and forth between the two countries. Inside the park, visitors can follow trails like the Scala del Paradiso (Stairway to Heaven) that were once used by smugglers to bring cigarettes, sugar, and black market wealth to these poor communities back in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Through much of the 20th century, Lake Como was home to a prosperous smuggling industry. Italian police patrolled the border, and were known to be harsh on those caught bringing illicit goods into the country. But smugglers were often seen as local heroes, and a few remnants of their activities remain. The Scala del Paradiso is made up of more than 900 stone steps, which carve out a path from the top of Cavallasca Hill down to the town of Ponte Chiasso, flanking the border. The staircase was originally built for use by the border guards, but it wound up being used by smugglers as well.

The park was also the site of trenches and other military works built during World War I, which you can still find, though there was no fighting here. The views of Lake Como and the surrounding Italian and Swiss countryside are incredible.

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