Val Poschiavo and Poschiavo in Graubünden
19 February 2023
Val Poschiavo (Puschlav), Valle (Val) Mesolcina (Misox), Val Calanca and Val Bregaglia (Bergell) together with the village of Bivio (Beiva in Romansh) on the Julier Pass form the Grigione Italiano, the Italian-speaking part in the trilingual canton of Graubünden.
The Lago di Poschiavo (Lake Poschiavo) separates the upper and lower valleys of Puschlav; the main town of Poschiavo lies in the upper valley, and the municipality of Brusio in the lower valley. As early as the 12th century, the municipalities of Poschiavo and Brusio had their independent administrative structures.
Lago di Poschiavo
Together with the Veltlin, the Val Poschiavo was donated by Charlemagne (748-814) to the monastery of St. Denis near Paris. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the lords of Matsch-Venosta had lordship over the valley instead of the abbey of Saint-Denis. At the same time, the city of Como also extended its power over the valley. When Milan subjugated Como in 1335, the Puschlav also came under the rule of the Duke of Milan, the Visconti, in 1350.
In 1408, the inhabitants rose against the duke. They joined the Lega Caddea (the League of the House of God, der Gotteshausbund). From then on, Poschiavo and Brusio shared the fate of the Three Leagues (Drei Bünde).
From this time, Poschiavo and Brusio were also governed by a common constitution, the “Comungrande”. It was a free and independent territory. In 1524, the region was incorporated into the Free State of the Three Leagues (Freistaat de Drei Bünde) and, in 1803, into the Canton of Graubünden. The separation into two autonomous municipalities, Poschiavo and Brusio, occurred in 1851.
Already in the 14th century and later during the occupation of the Valtellina by the Three Leagues (1512-1797), the Valposchiavo played an essential role in transalpine trade traffic. The Bernina Pass was one of the main traffic axes. Today, the traditional mule trails (säumerpfade) are made accessible by the “Via Valtellina” cultural hiking trail.
Tirano was the starting point of the winegrowers of the Veltliner: the famous “Veltliner” grew and still grows here. Tasting the Valtellina specialities (wines, bresaola and cheese) and visiting the Palazzo Salis is still possible! Tirano is also the starting point of the Italian continuation of the Via Valtellina, as the Via Terrazzamenti to Morbegno begins here.
Napoleon Bonaparte united the Veltlin with the Cisalpine Republic in 1797. The Puschlav was assigned to the Helvetic Republic (Helvetische Republik). This separation considerably weakened the local economy. The poor economic condition forced many people from the valley to emigrate.
The construction of the Bernina road (1842-1865), the railway, and the realisation of hydroelectric installations in the Brusio power plants in 1906-1910 changed the economic situation.
The opening of the Grand Hotel Bagni in Le Prese followed on the shores of the Lago di Poschiavo. The village of Poschiavo became a small town. A series of stately buildings were erected, including the museum (Museo Poschiavo) in the Palazzo de Bassus-Mengotti and the Casa Tomé. Other destinations and beautiful nature are worth a visit as well.
Smuggling was still an important economic activity until the 1970s. One of the most important routes was the hamlet of Viano above Brusio. From here, the old smugglers’ trails led across the border to Roncaiola and Baruffini in the neighbouring Valtellina. The smugglers’ paths can still be walked today.
Source: Historisches Lexicon der Schweiz, Arno Lanfranchi, Puschlav, translation Pia Todorovic Redaelli, 29.09.2011; www.valposchiavo.ch