Loco mill & Onsernone museum
Look for the restored Loco flour mill directly on the main road on an escarpment at the end of the village with splendid cascades of the Borodino river.
Twenty-seven water-driven stone mills ground corn into polenta and farina bóna as the oldest sources of sustenance in the valley. Two mills remain in good condition at Loco and Vergeletto and are still used today to grind very fine flour from roasted corn into the traditional specialty farina bóna. The corn flour is baked into delectable sweets, Grissini bread sticks and breads, and can also be added to conventional flour recipes. It is popular across Switzerland and available at many main-stream grocery stores. You can also purchase it at the Onsernone Museum and other sales points in the valley. Gluten-free and delectable, try the chestnut cookies made with farina bóna and ask the miller to give you a tour!
Also in Loco, the small Museo Onsernonese is highly recommended. The museum provides impactful insight what it meant to be born and live in this rugged valley. The amazing skill required of the local straw-weaving industry; the breakneck transportation on foot and mule on trade routes into the Italian Lombardy; the inevitable emigration during hard times as much as typical costumes and regional art work.
Berzona straw weaving
Berzona is a beautiful town where many world-renowned artists made and still make their home. You will understand why when you visit this peaceful, powerful and inspiring spot. Stop at the chapel just at the cross road off the main road to the side road leading up to Berzona.
Also recommended is a stop at Pagliarte Berzona, the straw-weaving workshop according to the old traditions in this valley, where you can view and buy original creations from hats to handbags.
Palazzo Gamboni in Comolognio, Caraveggia baths, and chapels with frescoes
On your way into the Onsernone Valley you will note the surprisingly numerous and unexpectedly elegant buildings which were mostly commissioned by emigrants returning home after making good abroad.
Photo: Palazzo Gamboni
Palazzo Gamboni in Comolognio is such a surprising building where I happened to meet La Lupa, the famous Swiss-Italian singer who was born in this village, on the terrasse of the Ristorante.
Photo: Palazzo Gamboni[/caption]
Built in 1780 by a returning emigrant, the palazzo is located in an idyllic spot, overlooking the Onsernone Valley. The citizens of Comologno purchased the charming country house in 1996 and converted it into a small hotel du charme. It is open May to October and is worth a stay or tour to get a sense of the beautiful period artwork, – and, as always – enjoy the fantastic views.
From Comologno, the Craveggia baths, just across the border in Italy, can be reached in an hour’s hike. Restored in 2015, the bath features two new granite bath tubs, a water treading and arm base basin. It is well worth the hike. There is no cost associated and no supervision, so visitors are responsible for their own safety.
Noteworthy are also the small chapels throughout the valley. An important feature in every small village, no matter how close by to each other they may be, the interiors always astound with rich woodwork and amazingly beautiful and airy frescoes. It is worth to stop and enter a chapel or two.
Intact natural and human surroundings, a fascinating history, the local people with whom you should definitely try to converse across any language barrier, and many unique customs and traditions make the Onsernone Valley a cohesive place of beauty and inspiration that you may long remember. And the regional fare is excellent!