The Valleys Valmaggia, Centovalli and Valle Onsernone
4 November 2023
The river Maggia flows into Lake Maggiore between Ascona and Locarno. The river Melezza in the Valley Centovalli joins the Maggia at Losone, a few kilometres before. The river is the namesake of the Maggia district in Canton Tessin.
Its calm mouth in the lake contrasts sharply with the natural violence a few kilometres upstream. At Ponte Brolla, the Maggia has been plunging through the gorge for millennia. This force of nature has formed beautiful rock formations. At high tide, as much water flows through the river as in the Rhine at Basel!
The Maggia rises in the Cristallina massif at an altitude of over 2 400 metres, north of the canton, bordering the cantons of Valais and Uri. After several lakes and valleys (including Val Sambuco, Val Lavizarra and the Valle di Peccia), the rivers Bavona in Val Bavona (near Bisagno and Caverno) and Rovana (near Cevio) flow into the Maggia.
From Bisagno, the course of the river as far as Ascona is called the Maggia Valley (Valmaggia). The Maggia Valley is the longest in the region, with several tributary valleys. These contributions briefly cover the Maggia Valley, Centovalli and Valle Onsernone.
There are three main junctions at Boschetto and Cevio. One road leads to Broglio, Prato-Sornico, Mogno, Peccia and Fusio in the Lavizzara valley. Peccia is the location of Switzerland’s only marble quarry. For this reason, Peccia is home to the Centro Internationale di Sculptura (CIS). Mario Botta designed his famous church in Mogno in 1990, using marble from Peccia.
Another road leads through the village of Cerentino to the Walser village of Bosco Gurin. The third road goes via Brisagno towards San Cristallina.
From Cevio, the Maggia flows past the villages of Someo, Riveo, Giumalio and Coglio towards Maggia. From Coglio to Maggia, the landscape in the natural park near the town of Lodano resembles a river landscape with floodplains and grazing cows. UNESCO has recognised Lodano’s beech forests as a World Heritage Site.
The village of Maggia has one of the longest and, in any case, the most modern suspension bridge in Tessin and an authentic medieval centre. The villages of Mogheno, Aurigeno, Gordevio Avegno and Ponte Brolla ate the main villages along the Maggia until Losone.
The Swiss side of the Centovalli runs from Tegna to Camedo, the border with Italy. From Camedo, the road runs to Domodossola to reach Switzerland again at Gondo and the Simplon Pass (canton of Valais).
Centovalli has been the municipality’s name for several years, a merger of the villages in the valley. The valley was known as Chimney Sweep Valley until 1945. Today, it is known, among other things, for its chestnut trees. Indeed, in autumn, there is a carpet of chestnuts.
Verscio Theater Dimitri
However, the valley is also the location of the world-famous Dimitri theatre in Verscio, the longest church tower in Tessin, the museum Centovalli e Pedemonte and the museum founded by Hans Flüh in Intragna, the ancient Roman road and the Ponto Romano across the wild Melezza, the palace of Tondü and the old mill park in Lionza and several authentic villages, including Tegna, Cavigliano, Rasa, Corcapolo, Verdasio, Palagnedra, Borgnone and Lionza, just before the border with Italy near Camedo.
The ancient road and the Ponto Romano
Just before the border town of Camedo lies the village of Lionza, the location of Palazzo Tondü and the (medieval) mill park (Parco dei mulini).
Lionza, Parco dei mulini
The valley’s old trade road (Via del Mercato) ran from Locarno through Intragna to Camedo and from there to Domodossola in Italy.
Via del mercato
The Onsernone Valley
The valley runs parallel to the Centovalli and has its peculiarities. Its dense forested steep mountain slopes, hamlets, streams and waterfalls are the backdrop of a fairytale atmosphere, with Spruga as the undisputed highlight.
Impressions of the Maggia Valley
Impressions of the Centovalli
The guide Stefan Flüh standing before his museum near the museum Centovalli e Pedemonte