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Exploring some mountain villages
of Ticino

As the train swept northwards into Switzerland, mountains began enclosing us in a dramatic landscape. I was heading into the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, to find the small mountain village of Corippo. There I hoped to walk in the paths of my Swiss ancestors.

The next day dawned fine and sunny and at 9am I joined a regular "Postbus" service headed up the steep, winding road into Val Verzasca. After thirty minutes there was a breath-taking sight of the village of Corippo, with its stone houses perched steeply against a mountainside. Corippo lies at an altitude of 560m, with mountains 2500m high around it. It was founded in the fourteenth century, and is one of the few mountain villages in Ticino where the building structure has stayed the same over several centuries. I approached, very conscious of the link that I was making with my family's past.

The village of Corippo in the Canton of Ticino, Southern Switzerland,
was the home of my Scettrini ancestors.
I was fortunate to explore
the village and valley in 1998.
The first place I reached was the village cemetery, set on a small flat terrace, slightly apart from the rest of the village. I pushed open the gate and entered. The names of my ancestors seemed to present themselves on the headstones in front of me: - Giovanni Scettrini, Giuseppe Gambetta, Abbondio Scettrini. Yet these were all more recent burials, as in this part of the world, the same land has been re-used for burials many times over the centuries.
I soon reached the village itself, and there was much to explore in every part of it. The narrow winding streets of Corippo are steep, and only suitable for humans and animals. Most of the houses are built close together, and only the cemetery, bakeries, and two mills near the river, were slightly separate.

All the houses in Corippo are made of mountain granite, with slate roofs, in a design that is specific to Ticino. The house fronts all look out across the valley, built to face the prevailing rain direction. The buildings tend to have two or three floors with small rooms, plus an attic. Because of the steepness of the terrain, hay and wood were often placed in the attic at the top, from the upper side of the house. Chestnut wood from the valley provides a framework for the roof, and is also used in furniture and joinery.

Click here to see more photos of Corippo