Bregaglia. Foto/Photo: TES

The Zuckerbäcker from Graubünden

The canton of Graubünden is the only trilingual canton in Switzerland. German is the spoken language of most inhabitants. Romansh has been increasingly replaced by German over the centuries. Italian is mainly spoken in four valleys of the canton, in Val Poschavio (das Puschlav), Bergaglia (das Bergell), Val Mesolcina (das Misox) and Val Calanca (das Calancatal).

Bergaglia also stands out in architecture from the other side of the Maloja Pass, the Engadine. This pass may not be particularly high (1 800 meters), but its steep mountain slopes make it a formidable natural border.

Bergaglia was already, in Roman times, an important storage place for the north-south trade and remained so until 1798. (Austrian) Lombardy and its cities Bergamo, Brescia, Cremona, Verona, Treviso and Padua, the Duchy of Milan, Venice, the Duchy of Savoy, the Kingdom of Sardinia, and the Swiss Confederation of thirteen cantons were immediate neighbours.

Graubünden joined the Confederation as a canton in 1803, but with the loss of Italian territories. From 1512 to 1797, the border of Graubünden ran much further south; Chiavenna, Valtellina, and Bormio were occupied by the canton and the Confederation. Napoleon, however, created the Republic of Cisalpina in 1797, later the Italian Republic, including these areas.

Italian architecture and its status as a transit route accompany the hiker in Bergaglia on a twenty-kilometre tour from the Maloja Pass to the Italian border at Chiavenna.

The mountain scenery and the view of the villages give hiker wings, which are not superfluous because of the steepest and rocky slopes. It is not surprising that this European route has produced great European personalities. The artist Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966), born in Stampa, is perhaps one of the most famous, but along the way, the villages bear witness to other cultural and economic success stories.

Not only merchants or mercenaries in the service of European kings and princes, but especially Zuckerbäcker, patisserie bakers, and hotel and café founders in the European capitals tell the story of emigration in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

One of the most impressive witnesses of this typical ‘Bündner’ specialisation is the Palazzo Castelmur near Stampa. The builders were Giovanni Redolfi (1658-1742) and Giovanni de Castelmur (1800-1871). Today, the Redolfi Patrician House, converted by the Castelmur into a castle, is a museum.

The museum has a permanent exhibition about the successful “Zuckerbäcker” from Graubünden and the authentic furnishings and interior of the 18th and 19th centuries. Stampa is halfway along the trail from the Maloja Pass to Chiavenna.