Dear friends from Cuneo are coming to visit us with their three children… and one of them is Silvia – a most wonderful friend and perfect host, the type of person who comes for a visit and ends up rearranging and tidying your home. One (sort of) drawback is that she can be very demanding, when planning activities for the entire family. After endless discussions (before her arrival, obviously) we decided to take her to the Verzasca Valley and go for a short hike. The valley is very interesting from many points of view: historical, artistic and above all naturalistic. The emerald clear waters of the Verzasca River were a real hit with our guests.
We had intended to stop at the Ponte dei Salti in Lavertezzo and start hiking form there, along the art trail (plan A), but the village was too crowded and we could park our can anywhere. Therefore we decided the stop in Lavertezzo on the way back, glad we had a back-up plan.
The Verzasca Valley trail between Ganne and Brione Verzasca
We selected to hike from Ganne (where we parked our cars) to the village of Brione Verzasca; the total hiking time was no longer than 1 hour, and we walked very slowly. The trail is suitable to all ages (kids included) and it is mostly flat, moreover it is very scenic, as it generally tends to follow the river. Ganne is not a village, but rather the place where the road bridge crosses the river and the trailhead starts right before the bridge.
For some stretches, the river runs wild and huge polished boulders surround it, then suddenly it becomes gentler without losing any of its charm. At some point, despite the icy waters, we see a family swimming in the river: it looks as if they know what they are doing and the stream seems safe enough. We say hello and keep on walking, passing some old buildings, and reach a second place which offers an easy and safe access to the river. At midday we stop for a picnic and then the children decide to have a rock balancing competition. None of us is brave enough to go for a swim, though – the water is far too chilly.
The wolf trap (lüéra) of Alnasca
After a couple of hours we decide it is time to leave, and resume our Verzasca Valley hike. We soon reach the Lüéra di Alnasca, a wolf trap used in the past. “Lüére” were deep holes supported by dry-stone walls, in which trappers used to place a live bait to lure wolves into. The trap itself is not exactly a memorable sight, but the kids were certainly impressed to know that wolves used to roam the area.
Alnasca, a most charming hamlet
Our next stop is the capannina di Alnasca, a little shed with a picnic table, which you could consider if you want to eat more comfortably. As you keep on walking, the valley widens, the forest ends, and you reach the hamlet of Alnasca that with its meadows and flowers, no road in sight and charming restored traditional houses: an idyllic place where time seems to have stood still. Silvia spots a plum tree and picks (or maybe steals!) some tiny ripe plums that taste like honey. Everyone snacks on them. Finally we cross a suspended concrete bridge and reach Brione Verzasca, where we buy an ice-cream and the children have fun at the local playground.
Silvia, with her Touring guidebook always within reach, plans the sights: we explore the narrow streets of this beautiful stone village (typical of the Verzasca Valley), we take photos of the Marcacci Castle and rave about the cycle of frescoes inside the Church of the Madonna Assunta, which were painted by Giovanni Baronzio, from Giottos’ Riminese school. We return to Ganne on foot, walking along the road; it takes us less than 30 minutes.
The two-humped bridge (Ponte dei Salti) and the Verzasca Dam
Before returning home, as we had promised it to the kids earlier in the morning, we stopped to admire the Ponte dei Salti in Lavertezzo (it is the two-humped bridge) and the Verzasca Dam (Goldeneye!). The bridge is the best-known sight in the Verzasca Valley, and for a good reason. It is stunning! In the lat afternoon it is still packed with people, so we just take some pictures while the kids run to and from. Our last stop is at the Verzasca dam, but unfortunately it is too late in the day to see anyone jump. My son Stefano would like to jump, and asks someone about the minimum age … there is no age limit but minimum weight of 45 kilos. Dad breathes a sigh of relief: our kid is short and thin; we therefore won’t be discussing bungee-jumping for many years!