Valle Onsernone

Wild, unspoiled and authentic

The first thing that springs to mind when you think of the Onsernone Valley is its steep permanently sun-kissed green slopes that make photographs of this wild and silent corner of the world spectacular. This is not a valley to be experienced in a hurry: its unspoiled landscapes and two forest reserves, where you hear nothing but leaves rustling and birds chirping, invite you to explore calmly and enjoy its regenerative power to the full. Venture into the Onsernone Valley to reconnect with nature and experience the well-being of “slow living”. A contemplative, reflective and slow holiday in the valley that fascinated numerous artists such as Max Frisch, Golo Mann, Kurt Tucholsky and Alfred Andersch, and welcomed them on their journeys in search of inspiration.

Nestled along the road that winds its way across the valley are a number of small villages, clinging to the mountainside, kissed by the sun and boasting a typical style of architecture characterised by stone rooftops. Auressio is the first. Its church, dating back to the 16th century, dominates the village from above. The most attractive parts are its centre and the Villa Edera, now home to a hostel. Continue on to Loco, once the local capital. The Museo Onsernone is the place to learn about the valley’s history. Another must-visit in Loco is the incredible 270 years old mill. This old water mill was active until the 1970s before being restored in 1995. You can also book a tour with the miller Marco Morgantini to discover the secrets of how it works.

In days gone by, the Onsernone Valley was home to almost 30 working mills, quite a number for a valley that has always had few inhabitants due to its ruggedness. For many centuries, the inhabitants lived off the income generated by rye, especially when woven into straw. Nowadays, this tradition is kept alive in Berzona, where, in the studio of the Pagliarte association, colourful straw hats fill the shelves together with lots of other craft objects made exclusively from straw. The higher you go, the steeper and wilder the valley seems. In Russo, as well as admiring the little church, you can also take the AutoPostale PostBus to the Vergeletto valley. The village of the same name is home to the mill where, thanks to Ilario Garbani, production of Farina Bóna has been resumed. 

  • Getting there

  • For an eco-friendlier holiday, take the train to Locarno and the AutoPostale PostBus 324 from right outside the station towards Spruga. 

In Comologno you can admire a number of noble residences such as Palazzo della Barca and Palazzo Gamboni, restored to its original style and converted into a hotel, and the lovely church of S. Giovanni Battista. If you make it to the end of the valley you will get to Spruga. Follow a path that runs along the Isorno river, and you’ll find the Bagni di Craveggia, on the Italian-Swiss border. As well as witnessing important historical events during World War II, explained in detail on the panels, the town is known for its natural thermal spring. Ruins are all that remain of the old structure, but, thanks to its beauty, it’s definitely somewhere worth spending an afternoon.

In the Onsernone Valley every town has a story to tell: the best way to visit is to take a few days to soak up the power of nature and the warmth of the locals. Choosing one of the beautiful villages as a base and taking day trips out to explore the whole valley is the ideal way to see it.

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