The Verzasca is a Swiss 30-kilometre long mountain river flowing into Lago Maggiore. It is known for its clear turquoise water and vibrant colored rocks, as well as its treacherous currents. The Verzasca Dam is a few kilometers upriver from this lake. The Dam is well known for its 220 m height jump, which is one of the highest jumps in the world and also the most famous bungy jump, as it was used in the James Bond film GoldenEye.
Valle Verzasca extends over a length of 25 kilometres in north–south direction. The surrounding mountains respectively passes have an average altitude of 2,400 metres (7,874 ft).The Verzasca River valley is in Ticino, Locarno district, the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland.
The valley comprises several small municipalities, but we only visited Sonogno. My husband’s sister has a friend living there, hosting a restaurant at the end of the road. Sonogno is also the last village on the paved road through the Valley Verzasca. All motor vehicles are required to park at the entrance to the village. Understandable if you walk the narrow streets.
With the connection to the public transport, tourism developed from the end of the 19th century, but still the majority of the young people of the Valley is looking for an income in wealthier regions of Switzerland or northern Italy.Today, the majority of the locals is active in the tourism. The conversion of the old Rustici houses into holiday houses created jobs, increased tourism revenues and ensured that the old houses and the characteristic image of the Verzasca Valley are preserved.
Sonogno is a very charming village and has a population (as of December 2013) of 94. The village has its own language which is a mixture of Latin and Celtic. But, the language of Sonogno is a dying language as only about 100 persons are known to speak it. Unfortunately we didn’t meet anyone using this old language – but that would have been awesome. The Villagers also speak Italian which is an official Swiss language – and I guess this will be the only language here within a couple of years…
The so-called Rustici (Italian for farm house) in grey stone, with white borders on the windows and heavy stone roofs, are typical houses in the valley. As a bar for the heavy stone roof, Castanea sativa wood is used. This tree was introduced by the Romans and is still growing in the southern part of the valley, below 1,000 metres (3,281 ft).
The local economy was traditionally based mostly on grazing. During the summer, the cattle grazed in the high alpine pastures, in the winter the cows were moved to their winter pastures. Due to limited jobs, many of the residents emigrated and after about 1850, many went overseas.The more recent exodus to urban centers, combined with emigration have caused a steady decline of population since the mid-nineteenth century. In 2005 the agricultural sector still offered about 50% of the jobs in the municipality.
Due to its isolated location, the Verzasca Valley is claimed as one of the valleys that could keep the best its originality. The secluded geographical location made it unattractive for conquerors. First traces of settlement have been found from the early 2nd millennium BC in its south. In the European Middle Ages, the population operationed mainly pasture farming, and since the early 17th century, many residents had to search seasonal labour outside their home valley; still unemployed young men were recruited as mercenaries for foreign armies.