The Verzasca valley is a 25 km-long surprise: you never know what lies behind the next bend. It begins at the Verzasca dam in Vogorno, leads over the Ponte dei Salti in Lavertezzo and ends in the charming village of Sonogno. Either way, we're saving the dessert for last.
Sonogno – at the end of the world: but our journey actually begins in Sonogno, the furthest village in the Verzasca Valley. Here it feels like the end of the world. It's a well-kept little village with typical Ticino stone houses (rustici) exuding irresistible charm. As well as being surrounded by high peaks, from afar you hear the thundering Cascata della Froda waterfall.
A short walk takes us to this grandiose natural spectacle. You first see the waterfall and the wooden bridge below on passing the Grotto Efra. But if you climb a short stretch, you come to the huge trough into which the waterfall plunges. When the sun shines, the cascading water creates a colourful rainbow that straddles this trough – stunning! So why not bask in the energy of this place and picnic on the viewing bench?
Back in Sonogno, you can visit the Ethnographic Museum with its descriptions of the history and culture of the valley, or the Casa della Lana (House of Wool). We were lucky a spinning course was in progress, so we gained insights into the traditional production of wool. Piles of freshly dyed shaggy wool lay before the Casa della Lana, drying in the sun and waiting to be spun. Spinning, a craft that requires a great deal of finesse, is still practised here today. The resulting balls of wool and garments made from it can be bought in the small shop.
Walking from one place to the next… We follow the Sentierone (the footpath that passes through the whole valley) along the emerald-green Verzasca. It provides an easy means of discovering the beauties of the valley, something that can also be done in stages.
The wonderful flower meadows, the splashing of the water, the shade-giving forest, the warming sunshine and the goats along the way are a far remove from our usual daily reality. However, reality catches up with us again at the first pangs of hunger. So, we stop off at a grotto and fortify ourselves with typical Ticino fare, including a Ticino platter, polenta with brasato and risotto, washed down with a merlot sipped from the traditional bocalino. As I said earlier, we'll save the dessert for later…
By the way, the black goats in these parts go by the name Capra Nera Verzasca and are native to this valley. The fact that they're particularly resistant to large temperature fluctuations makes them the perfect breed for the Verzasca, which is hot in summer and can get quite cold in winter.
Not for the faint-hearted: we're now back in Vogorno, where James Bond jumped off the Verzasca dam in the 1995 film GoldenEye and where our long-promised dessert awaits. As you approach, your hands start sweating, and looking down makes you feel queasy – a feeling that the screaming of people bungee jumping off the Verzasca dam does nothing to diminish (whether the screaming is due to enjoyment or terror remains to be seen). Even though we're tempted to emulate 007 and plunge down the 220 metre-high wall into the depths, we (by which I mean I) skip that dessert just this once. On the way back, however, we are rewarded with a delicious ice cream.
Getting there: the journey can be done by car or bus. We recommend the bus (anyone staying at a hotel, hostel or camping site receives the Ticino Ticket), as parking is limited in the high season and you don't then have to somehow find your way back to the car later – you're free to complete the tours from bottom to top (or vice versa as in our case). If you still insist on coming by car, Verzasca parking permits cost CHF 10 per day.