The popularity of Corno d'Aquilio goes as much to its hiking and panoramic qualities, as to its famous caves. Actually, when the name of the mountain is mentioned, usually the name of Spluga delle Prete is added - the famous cave, I'll describe a bit more later. This is not so surprising, as we all know that Lessinia's nature is quite karstic. But for me, coming from Slovenia, where karst is really abundant, it's very unusual to see a gentle plateau with gentle meadows and many ponds, where water is due to water-proof rocks staying on the surface, and then only 100 meters away finding a karst cave, which has a total drop of as much as 1000 meters!
Back on the surface again! Towards the west, Corno d'Aquilio is falling steeply more than 1400 m all the way down into the Adige valley (there called Vallagarina). Those slopes are craggy, wild and overgrown, yet a few paths, marked and unmarked are coming up from there as well. In the middle of those slopes there's the panoramic rock of Cima Rocca Pia, 1052 m. Towards the south there's some 350 m high, quite rocky drop to the meadows above the villages of Fosse community (Fosse is otherwise on the altitude of 941 m). The eastern side is bordered by the forrested, high Liana valley. Above, this valley disappears below the broad upper Lessinia plateau, there's the Pealda bassa pasture and above it the saddle between Corno d'Aquilio and Monte Cornetto, 1543 m. And the northern side of the mountain is simply formed of broad meadows, lowering down on the Malga Fanta (pasture).
The two caves
Visiting the site of Spluga delle Prete is simple. But when you come to the entry, you don't see much, just the fence around the dangerous cave entry funnel. On the Malga Fanta there's also a small chapel, dedicated to the speleologists (among the researchers there was also one victim).
Much different is the Grotta del Ciabattino. Its big cavern everyone can enter and explore. The cave was created in the jurassic limestone, called rosso amonitico. Its special temperature conditions allow forming during winter and spring time interesting ice stalactites and stalagmites. The cave is situated only some 200 meters SW of Spluga delle Prete, already in the slopes of Corno d'Aquilio, on the altitude of 1469 m. The cave was well known to the locals and is shrouded in many legends.
1. The trailheads deep down in the Adige valley, if you are ready to make those 1500 m of ascent. The first one is in Peri, southwest of Corno d'Aquilio, the second one is in Borghetto all'Adige, northwest of Corno d'Aquilio. In the summit part those ascents go around the summit and only then on top.
2. Tommasi hamlet, 1127 m. That's a very popular trailhead, north of the Fosse village. Actually, the road, ascending from Fosse northwards, is there officially closed for public traffic (November, 2017). That southern trailhead is suitable either for the direct ascent on top, or for encircling the whole mountain.
3. The northeastern trailheads. Here, it's a bit unclear how the narrow mountain roads are officially really opened. For sure you can always reach the Passo delle Fitanze, 1393 m, as long as that mountain road is cleaned (in winter). But that's already unnecessarilly remote. The much better trailhead is the saddle west of Monte Cornetto, on 1471 m. From the south, from Fosse and Tommasi, a narrow macadam road reaches there. On November 1st, 2017 it was closed for public traffic, but some people were driving up and so we did. Without any issue we reached the saddle, where there were some 8 cars already. The other option how to reach that saddle is from the north (we drove down there). You drive up by the road from Ala towards Passe delle Fittanze, but in Sega di Ala (Malga Pieta), 1230 m, you deter right and drive up by a steep asphalted road directly on the saddle. In 2017 there was no sign that the road would be closed, even if on the tables of Monti Lessini Parco Naturale, the road is marked as closed. The third option how to reach the nice saddle 1471 m is on foot from passo delle Fitanze (the marked path crosses the northern slopes of Monte Cornetto), some 20 minutes of walk.
Hiking routes1. From the northeast. From the saddle / road pass 1471 m, we go by the cart-road up towards the northwest. We soon reach the houses of Casera Preta di sotto, 1527 m, and from there continue towards the southwest on Malga Fanta, 1496 m. If you continue by the chapel, then it's worth deterring good 50 meters across the meadow towards the east to the Spluga delle Prete and then returning on the cart-road. The cart-road descends a bit more, left of the lowest part is the Grotta del Ciabattino. After visiting that cave you can start the real ascent on Corno d'Aquilio. By a good, marked path (No. 220) you just continue towards the southwest and in some 15 minutes you reach the big summit cross. From the parking place 45 min, easy (T1).
2. From the south. You start the tour in the Tommasi hamlet, 1127 m. Continue by the road some 500 m and before its big right turn deter left, on the marked path No. 250. It ascends through the woods, crossing the eastern slopes of Corno d'Aquilio, and then exiting on the Malga Fanta. From there (after visiting both caves) left on top as described in #1. Easy (T2), 1 h 20 min.
3. Corno d'Aquilio round tour. This is a quite popular, but longer tour, which encircles the mountain, and also reaches its top. From the Tommasi hamlet, 1127 m, you start walking westwards, by the path signed with No. 220 and No. 250. The path ascends gently towards the northwest and north, soon reaching the Passo di Rocca Pia, 1148 m. Then it continues across the western slopes of Corno d'Aquilio (the 'smugglers path'), descending slightly. On 1076 m from the left the path from the Cima Rocca Pia joins. Now we turn right and in the eastern direction gain most of the altitude. The path exits on the plateau of Malga Fanta, from where we continue on top as describer in #1. For the descent from Corno d'Aquilio, we use the route #2, so encircling the mountain by the eastern side. Technically, also this tour should be easy (T2), for the whole round tour count some 3 h 30 min.