The path from the cable car in Rasa takes us through the village and climbs steadily through the fine old village and the fields above. After a couple of kilometres we reach the foot of the Beech wood and we ascend steeply through its heavy shade for the next hour and a half. The path zigzags between widely-spaced, smooth, grey trunks.
Our voices seem hushed by the weight of the canopy above. Even where shafts of sunlight illuminate the leaves and branches, descending in places to the forest floor, a solid silence prevails. This is the moulting season for many songbirds, a high-risk time when old feathers are shed and new ones grown. They reduce the risk of predation by staying quiet, and as far as possible, inactive, until the new feathers are grown.
The trees thin out close to the summit and we scramble through scrubby rocks to get to the top. The view is astounding, the long ribbon of Lago Maggiore stretching to the east and south, towns and villages clustered on its shores and boats of all sizes breaking its flat-calm, deep-blue surface with narrow streaks of white. To the east the terrain rises in waves of brown and grey peaks to the massive bulk of the high Valaisian Alps, where ice and snow glint among the clouds eighty kilometres away. To the north, the province of Ticino is stretched before us in a hundred steeply wooded hills and valleys.
A raptor soars close above the summit, its broad head, long, shapely wings and distinctively barred underparts identifying it as a Short-toed Eagle. Two others join it, suggesting a family group, and they circle fast, heading off to the east. We leave this beautiful spot reluctantly, returning to Rasa through the heat of the afternoon, hurrying uncomfortably to catch the last cable car. There is just time for ice creams in the village, where Common Lizards bask and scuttle on the stone walls.