Making my way on the stone footpath up to the church, I feel on top of the world. It’s cool inside the chapel, smells musty but I’m surprised by the vivid colors of the frescos on the walls, the sizable organ and the magnificent statue of the silver plated Saint Anna! The brochure on the wooden pews asks for much needed donations for restoration and gives a brief history. The communal event of the year 1770 was the installation of a one-handed clock which remained in operation for the next two hundred years.
From a plaque at the edge of the meadow I learn that at the beginning of the 17th century, Rasa counted two hundred inhabitants. This number dwindled rapidly after Italian count Pietro Leopoldo eliminated the monopoly for Rasa men to carry goods at the port of Genua in 1848. The result was an economic crisis. Still, onehundred-ten years later thirty people lived here, accompanied by two hundred goats and twenty cows.
Further on I find the other inevitable village feature: the Grotto Ghiridone that Maria operates, coming up from the valley to provide sustenance for hikers and visitors for the past 18 summers. She tells me that the nuns who lived here year-round left Rasa ten years ago. By now, only three year-round families remain in the village. Houses are rented to summer guests and painting and pottery courses are offered by local artists.
On the covered porch of Maria’s Grotto I’m spontaneously invited to sit at the table of Urs, Heidi and their nephew Thomas, who walked up from Bordei with their two dogs. While Urs lives in the Berner Oberland, he’s owned a home in Bordei for many years. He tells fascinating stories of how he experienced local life during these years and I’m happy to hear of the efforts that are currently under way by a private foundation to maintain and renovate this charming hamlet and some other precious old villages in this area.
Rasa provides an impressive glimpse into the life of times gone by. It is a wondrous place to spend a warm summer’s day and to re-connect with oneself, the gorgeous land all around and the few locals.