Sonogno - 09.06.2016
We start walking from Grotto Efra, about 700 m to the West of Sonogno. After a short walk on the flat road we cross the river Redorta on a small bridge, then walk back down valley on the other side of the river. At the waterfall La Froda we climb up about 40 m on a mountain trail with steps, then go down again to the level of the river and continue on a forest trail until another bridge that leads us to Sonogno, a picturesque village with old houses, a ethnographic museum, some restaurants and shops with handicrafts (ex: Casa della lana). Finally we walk back on the asphalt road until Grotto Efra where our common lunch is served.
This valley is very popular with tourists thanks to its natural beauty and large network of hiking trails in the valley and on the mountains. It stretches 25 km from North to South and is located in the middle of the canton. Actually the Brione Verzasca is considered to be the geometrical centre of Ticino. It is also the only valley that does not touch the cantonal borders. From the lowest part of the valley in the South to the highest mountains in the North all types of Ticinesi climates are present. Therefore you find also all species of plants and animals living in Ticino.
The economy of the valley was originally completely based on agriculture and grazing. Starting from the 14th century, people took the habit to move to the Magadino plain during the winter months together with their cattle. From the 16th century an important part of the work force practiced a seasonal migration, looking for jobs in the neighbouring countries. Many were hired as mercenaries by foreign monarchs and warlords. In the 19th century many people also emigrated to California.
And a lot of youngsters went to Milan to make a living as chimney sweeps. This is the subject of a novel written by the German author Lisa Tetzner in 1940. 7 years earlier she had emigrated to Carona near Lugano because her husband was in conflict with the Nazi regime. Among their friends was Hermann Hesse who lived nearby in Montagnola. Bert Brecht also stayed for a while in their house. From her novel the Swiss film director Xavier Koller made a realistic film in 2013.
The dam built in 1960 -65 at the lower end of the valley by the engineering studio Lombardi in Minusio is the 4th highest in Switzerland, 220 m high. It is an important economic factor. The hydroelectric plant produces 215 GWh of electricity every year. The dam attracts thousands of tourists. Many of them come to practice or to watch Bungee jumping, an extreme entertainment inspired by a famous stunt performed here for the James Bond film GoldenEye (1995).
Like in other mountain valleys of Ticino the population of the Verzasca valley has been shrinking steadily during the last 100 years. Currently the 7 municipalities have roughly 3300 inhabitants, but only about a quarter of them are living actually up in the valley, the big majority are residents of two exclaves of Lavertezzo and Gerra down in the Magadino plain. The valley can offer only a few jobs (184 in 2008), mainly in agriculture and tourisme. In winter, when there are no tourists, the villages of the valley seem to be in a state of hibernation.
It does not make much sense that these villages with small populations and minimal financial resources remain 7 independent municipalities. The cantonal government wanted to merge all of them into one single municipality Verzasca. In April 2013 a consultative vote took place. 70 % of the votes were in favour of the merger. Only in Lavertezzo there were 58 % against. The larger population in the plain had over-voted the small minority in Lavertezzo-Valle who were in favour. In view of this situation the government proposed to go ahead with the merger of the whole valley, leaving Lavertezzo-Piano alone. But last year the highest federal court ruled that Lavertezzo could not be split into two parts. There will probably be a second consultative vote in the 6 municipalities that were in favour, asking people to merge without Lavertezzo. A good example how complicated and tricky Swiss federalism and direct democracy can be...
Tony Walker (Anton Marti)