The green Muggio Valley in Ticino

The Valle di Muggio is the southernmost valley in Ticino. It stretches from the Chiasso region up to the foot of Monte Generoso. Over the centuries, people have created a colorful mosaic of habitats here. Chestnut woods alternate with dry meadows, pastures and orchards.

Jahrhunderte alte Kulturlandschaft: Das Valle di Muggio hat viele Namen: "Toskana der Schweiz", "Landschaft des Jahres 2014", "südlichstes Tal im Tessin" / © Foto: Georg Berg
Centuries-old cultural landscape: The Valle di Muggio has many names: “Tuscany of Switzerland”, “Landscape of the Year 2014”, “southernmost valley in Ticino” / © Photo: Georg Berg

A Swiss cultural landscape like in a fairy tale

After short rain showers, small dots of clouds settle over the greenery. Vineyards and fields are interrupted by hedges and dry stone walls. The region is rich in plants and more than 100 butterfly species feel at home in the Valle di Muggio. Numerous thematic trails, along which the ancient cultural landscape can be discovered, crisscross the valley.

Unter einem riesigen Ahornbaum lassen es sich die Schafe gut gehen / © Foto: Georg Berg
Sheep have a good time under a huge maple tree / © Photo: Georg Berg

The spectrum of biodiversity here is broad. From the fire salamander rustling through the foliage to rare bird species such as the wryneck, many animal species can be observed here. A hike through this cultural landscape with its numerous traces of rural life also reveals the current traces of rural exodus. Abandoned farmsteads and empty houses. As is often the case in rural areas, young people move to the cities and the elderly stay behind.

Im Dorf Scudellate leben noch 20 Menschen. Das würde auf Dauer nicht reichen, um den Ort im Valle di Muggio zu erhalten / © Foto: Georg Berg
In the village of Scudellate, 20 people still live. In the long run, this would not be enough to maintain the village in the Valle di Muggio / © Photo: Georg Berg

Scudellate – a village becomes a hotel

The village of Scudellate is the highest in the Muggio Valley. Scudellate still has 20 inhabitants, an osteria, with an ossobuco praised beyond the valley, a bird tower and a post bus that stops by several times a day. All around there is a lot of nature, fantastic views into the valley and empty houses. The Osteria Manciana is open all year round, which is worth a lot. Guerino Pifaretti is the owner and chef, his wife does the service. His grandfather built the osteria, in the parlor hangs an old photo. Guerino as a little boy on his grandfather’s lap.

Geurino Pifaretti, Inhaber der Osteria Manciana vor dem Foto, das ihn zusammen mit seinem Großvater zeigt / © Foto: Georg Berg
Geurino Pifaretti, owner of the Osteria Manciana in front of the photo that shows him together with his grandfather. / © Photo: Georg Berg

Guerino’s children went out into the world long ago. It is the typical fate of small villages. That of Scudellate also seemed sealed. But then an initiative starts, in which Guerinos’s son also sees a perspective. He is one of five people who have the village at heart and who are committed with deeds and money. An Albergo Diffuso is to be built in Scudellate. This expression sounds evocative and enticing at the same time. Albergo Diffuso – the whole village is to become a hotel and the Osteria Manciana its lobby.

Das Restaurant von Guerino Pifaretti liegt ganz markant oberhalb der letzten Serpentine, mit der man das Dorf erreicht. Rennradfahrer machen hier oft Halt. Die Osteria hat auch viele Stammgäste, die aus dem Tal heraufkommen / © Foto: Georg Berg
Guerino Pifaretti’s restaurant is prominently located above the last switchback that takes you to the village. Road cyclists often stop here. The osteria also has many regulars who come up from the valley / © Photo: Georg Berg

Carlo Crivelli, director of the Enoteca Borgovecchio in Balerna, has spent a lot of time in Scudellate. His family owns a vacation home there. For him, the revival of the village is a real project of the heart. He sees great potential. The location of the village is fantastic. Road cyclists love the route, which is also part of the Swiss Trophy in the lower section. Above, many hiking trails lead through the cultural landscape to the summit of Monte Generoso. The old schoolhouse, where Guerino Piffaretti still went to school, was a youth hostel for many years. Also in the new concept of an Albergo Diffuso, the former school building will remain an ostel. An inexpensive and simple accommodation for everyone. Further apartments are to be built throughout the village.

Carlo Crivelli ist Direktor der Enoteca Borgovecchio und ein großer Fan von Scudellate. Daher engagiert er sich neben vier weiteren Personen für ein Albergo Diffuso in Scudellate / © Foto: Georg Berg
Carlo Crivelli is director of the Enoteca Borgovecchio and a big fan of Scudellate. That’s why he, along with four other people, is committed to an Albergo Diffuso in Scudellate / © Photo: Georg Berg

Albergo Diffuso on Monte Generoso

Monte Generoso, at 1,701 meters, occupies an imposing position above Lake Lugano. It is a last post of the Ticino Alps before the Po Valley. Most tourists make their way to the summit by the old rack railroad, coming from Capolago. At 1,600 meters is the end of the line. The remaining meters in altitude must be hiked. Alternatively, the summit can also be reached from Scudellate. On the way to the summit, less than a ten-minute walk from the village, hidden among the trees, lies another attraction of the region. The Roccolo is a bird tower that tells a lot about life in the Valle di Muggio.

Versteckt zwischen den Bäumen, auf eine Höhe von 950 Meter steht der Roccolo Meri, der Vogelturm von Scudellate. Der Turm wurde restauriert und ist zu bestimmten Zeiten auch zu besichtigen / © Foto: Georg Berg
Hidden among the trees, at an altitude of 950 meters stands the Roccolo Meri, the bird tower of Scudellate. The tower has been restored and can be visited at certain times / © Photo: Georg Berg

The bird catchers in Valle di Muggio

Probably the most famous bird catcher in the world is called Papageno. In Mozart’s Magic Flute of 1791, the bird catcher plays the leading role alongside Prince Tamino and probably corresponds to the spirit of the times. For bird catchers delivered the songbirds in those days. They intercepted the birds on their flight routes from the north to the south and offered them for sale in the surrounding towns. Songbirds served as a pastime for the upper class society. But the birds also landed on the dinner plates of the fine houses. The profession of bird catcher was born out of need and poverty. In the Valle di Muggio, especially during the long and cold winters, there was not much to eat. Chestnuts brought the people through the winter. From the sale of the birds they could buy necessary things.

Kastanienbäume im Valle di Muggio. Noch heute wird jährlich ein Kastanienfest gefeiert. Früher waren Maronen ein Hauptnahrungsmittel der armen Landbevölkerung / © Foto: Georg Berg
Chestnut trees in the Valle di Muggio. Even today, an annual chestnut festival is celebrated. In the past, chestnuts were a staple food of the rural poor / © Photo: Georg Berg

The Roccolo Meri in Scudellate

In Scudellate, a signpost points to the Roccolo Meri. It is located a little above the village and consists of three floors. Each floor of the bird tower has an ingenious function. By the song of birds already held captive, migratory birds were lured inside, then startled by the throw of a flying object that the animals mistook for a bird of prey, and when they tried to fly out of the tower they landed in a net. The perfidious system enabled high catch rates. In Switzerland, bird catching was banned in 1875. The story of the bird catchers is a very striking relic left by the people of the Valle di Muggio.

Wandert man vom Roccolo Meri weiter Richtung Monte Generoso so kommt man an einigen verfallenen Häusern vorbei. In den alten Gemäuern haben es sich Ziegen gemütlich gemacht / © Foto: Georg Berg
If you continue walking from Roccolo Meri towards Monte Generoso, you will pass by some dilapidated houses. Goats have made themselves comfortable in the old walls / © Photo: Georg Berg

By the way, Scudellate is only a stone’s throw away from Italy. Today, a hiking trail leads across the border to the picturesque Erbonne. The Italian village is closely connected with Scudellate. But this is another story and tells of the coexistence of people in a time when border lines were not only on maps, but often also in people’s minds.

More stories from the Muggio Valley. Click here for the report on Zincarlin – a cheese speciality from the Valle di Muggio.

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