Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Welcome to Corippo—The Smallest Municipality in Switzerland



The tourist office in Corippo bills their tiny village as the “smallest municipality in Switzerland,” and they’re probably right. The population of the town was just 12 people in 2013, and things felt pretty small when I hiked through on Day 1 of our new self-guided Ticino Swiss Lake District Hiking Tour.

Perched on a steep hillside just north of Locarno and Lake Maggiore, Corippo resembles something straight out of a movie set. The entire village is fashioned from stone. The houses are made of stone, the church is stone, the rooftops are stone, and everything stands on a series of terraced walls, also laid down with stone. If you’re the type of person that loves walking through quiet medieval villages, then you’ll love Corippo. For me, hiking into Corippo felt like a step back in time.

One of the coolest aspects of Corippo is the quiet position that it maintains tucked away in the hills. Corippo isn’t the type of town that you see from miles away. It’s the type of place that sneaks up on you. You only see it when you’ve rounded the last corner, which is how it happened for me while hiking between the towns of Locarno and Lavertezzo.

The trail that we take from Locarno to Lavertezzo follows the west side of the Verzasca Valley. We start high, above treeline, but as we descend, we pass through alternating segments of terraced farm, hillside hamlet and forest, usually in that order. About mid-afternoon, the trail enters a dark and magical forest, the type that adorns children’s stories and pilgrim’s tales. The forest felt cool on the hot day that I hiked through, a welcome respite from the bright sunshine that beamed down on the Ticinese countryside.

Corippo is sneaky. One minute you’re enjoying the thick canopy of the trees, wondering what life was like for the villagers that walked these paths 400 years ago. The next minute, Corippo is there, peaking at you through the leaves from its comfortable hillside perch.


At the base of Corippo lies this cool old bridge. The trail crosses the bridge then climbs a series of steep steps to the center of town. 




Another look at the bridge, forward and back. Note the shrine at the entrance to the woods. Religion is a big part of Ticinese culture, and these frescoed shrines are common along the trail. Each one is unique.


A view looking up. The hillside is steep. The church is almost directly overhead.



Here's a view of the house on the right after a bit of climbing. Note the stone roof. The villagers built their town from local stone they quarried a long, long time ago. The first written mention of Corippo goes back to the early 1200's.


After a few more steps, the trail pops out in the center of the village. There's an osteria (restaurant), that serves local specialties. Of course beer and wine also round out the menu.


The osteria sits on one side of the village plaza. The Church of the Blessed Virgin Annunciata occupies the other side. There isn't a lot of room for cars, however, so it's a good thing this is a hiking tour. This village was clearly built before the advent of the automobile.


The inside of this old church is a refreshing place to be on a hot day. Please show respect, however. This Church of the Blessed Virgin Annunciata was built in the early seventeenth century, and it's still a place of worship.    


With Italian words like "osteria" and an abundance of stone architecture, I started to think I was on a hiking tour in Italy. Then I noticed this windowsill on the way out of town.


It's the little touches that remind us that we're still in Switzerland, and why we love it so much!

Click here to see more images from the first day's hike.

All images by Chris Pranskatis | Ticino Swiss Lake District Trek

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