From Castasegna walk towards Italy, by the scenic variant of the Via Bregaglia in Somasascia, to Savogno and Piuro, where the Natural Landmark of the imposing Acquafraggia waterfalls can be admired. It is advised to use this trail only in summer, as the terrain is rugged and can become dangerous in winter or with rainy weather. The waterfalls became a natural landmark in 1983. The stream originate on the alpine watershed separating the Mediterranean water catchment from the Rhine’s. The water flow out of a wonderful little Alpine lake, then flow precipitously in their steep and craggy river bed towards Savogno, to fall to the underlying Piuro flats. In summer it is pleasant to relax in the rest area at the foot of the waterfall. A trail leads up to the waterfall’s first fall, in an enchanting environment, with rare plant species and a stunning view over Piuro. Once in Piuro you can visit the Vertemate Franchi Palace, the only building to survive the 1618 landslide. It is a typical 16th century palazzo with an Italian garden, historical vineyard and a century-old chestnut grove. In the area many characteristic taverns, named “crottos”, can be found. They were originally found in the vicinity of natural caves that could ensure constant temperatures all year round and where wine, cheese and cured meats continue to be stored and sold. There are hundreds of crottos in Val Chiavenna, from the informal to the more sophisticated kind. Often you will be allowed, on request, to visit the cave. In the more modest types of crotto the typical table d’hote can be found: Val Chiavenna gnocchis, meat and vegetables on the stone, black polenta, cheese, Prosto biscuits, wine. In Piuro visit Crotto Belvedere, on the Mera River or take a break in the shade of old chestnut trees in the Crotto Quartino. After that head towards Chiavenna, a town at the foot of the Rhaetic Alps, where the Spluga and Bregaglia valleys meet. Along the towns alleyways you will find many vestiges of the past. The Museo del Tesoro, housed in the San Lorenzo parsonage, is of outstanding interest. The Bottonera Mill, in Chiavenna’s old industrial neighbourhood, is an extremely rare example of industrial architecture where the life of XIX century millers can still be experienced. In the Comunità Montana della Valchiavenna the Valchiavenna Museum can be found. Last, though not least, visit the Natural Reserve of the Giants’ potholes and their botanical garden.
Trail description: Maria Gredig, valchiavenna.com, viabregaglia.it
Environment, NATURA2000, Protected areas
Fauna, Natura2000 species
Insects: Libythea celtis
Birds: Pernis apivorus, Dryocopus martiu, Lyrurus tetrix
Other species of interest: Ficedula albilollis, Accipiter gentili, Tichodroma murari
Protected areas, proposed Emerald sites, Natura 2000 sites
WWF-proposed Emerald site Val Bregaglia:
Southern, almost Mediterranean wildlife characterizes the Val Bregaglia, with altitudes varying from 700 to 3300 m. The landscape is rich with chestnut woodland and dry meadows and generally high biological diversity. The site is shared by the municipalities of Bondo, Castasegna, Soglio, and Stampa. The most frequent habitats are dry meadows and wetlands.
The Val Bregaglia is an IBA (Important Bird Area), an internationally recognized stopover area for migratory birds. The identification and description of IBA’s (a BirdLife project) was instrumental in the designation of the Special Protection Areas of the EU Natura 2000 network.
The Acquafraggia Falls are an imposing feature of the landscape. The falls are not only beautiful, they are also very fascinating geologically and constitute a unique habitat. On the rock walls, and at the foot of the falls, specialized plant species grow. (valchiavenna.com)
The “Parco delle Marmitte dei Giganti” (“Giants’ Potholes Park”), that includes a Regional Nature Reserve, is just outside Chiavenna. It is easily accessible by the old paths and muletracks that once led to the ancient soapstone quarries. What you see now is the result of the erosive action of glaciers over the millennia. The nearby “Paradiso Botanical Garden” contains a rich collection of rare and interesting plant species. (valchiavenna.com)
WWF’s tips for hikers
Plan each stage carefully, purchase a 1:25000 map, use light but sturdy equipment (hiking boots, rain cape, binoculars…). Be sure to carry a small supply of water and food. We suggest you taste local food (possibly organic) at resting places and restaurants.
Do not litter, do not pick up flowers or rocks and in no way disturb the local fauna. It is unsafe for inexperienced hikers to leave the marked trails and it may cause disturbance to wildlife.
- Aquafraggia Falls
- Savogno town centre
- Piuro, Palazzo Vertemate Franchi
- Museum and digs of Piuro, Piuro
Next stage: Emerald Trail Grisons-Lombardy: Stage 6
Stage before: Emerald Trail Grisons-Lombardy: Stage 4