A little-known yet intriguing place to visit in Canton Ticino is Bosco Gurin. Before the roads were built, people from the other side of the mountain came here through the alps. They were German-speaking inhabitants of Valais (Walser in German). They came from Goms in the north through the alps instead of the roads.
These days, Bosco Gurin remains a German-speaking part of the (essentially) Italian-speaking Canton Ticino. At 1,506 meters above sea level, it is the highest mountain village in Ticino.
What is the history of Bosco Gurin?
In the 9th century, after the glaciers receded, the high valleys turned green. Passes became accessible to locals. The people started discovering other areas to live in the alpine region. This included Bosco Gurin.
In Goms, upper Rhône Valley, the first important rural settlement area arose. It was in the high mountains. Here they had a hard life: clearing, plowing, sowing, and harvesting. Those from Goms began to move further and further away from their alp into unknown valleys.
So, why did the people of Valais move away from their residence?
The simple answer is that the families had so many children. And not all children could feed their own families. And so, lots of young men started to fight for other landowners to support themselves. They worked as mercenaries for the Lombardy rulers and Capitanei of Locarno. In turn, they received protection from the rich landowners and of course, land.
This was probably around 1240 when they moved to one of the side valleys of Maggia. It was known as “Buscho de Quarino“.
In 1244, the Losone government leased the pastures around the village. They made a contract with the people of Valais. They were to pay taxes and in turn, they could use the land in Bosco Gurin. It was in 1404 that the locals in Bosco Gurin could pay out Losone all the remaining interest rates.
In short, they had purchased their freedom.
Finally – freedom! They did not have to pay high taxes. And they could choose where they wanted to live and who they wanted to marry. They received the land their forefathers tended to, cultivate it, and live off of it.
Unfortunately, due to the hard life here, the population has started to dwindle. Firstly, the village is geographically isolated. And the town has been frequently buried by avalanches. In 1858, there were 420 residents. Nowadays, it is said to have less than one hundred residents.
Where is Bosco Gurin located?
Bosco Gurin is located in the Vallemagia district of Ticino canton. In particular, it is in Val di Bosco, 35 kilometers northwest of Locarno. Italy lies to its west.
How can I get to Bosco Gurin?
Bosco Gurin is around one hour away from Locarno by car. The streets are open to cars the whole year-round. From Locarno, the drive takes you to the mountains starting Ponte Brolla. From there, the street goes further into the Maggia Valley. From Cevio, the drive goes west through Val di Bosco. The street goes higher and higher until the Bosco Gurin village. It lies 1,506 above sea level. It is the highest local community in the whole canton of Ticino. Cars should be parked in the parking lot before entering the village.
Several buses from Cevio, Centro go to Bosco/Gurin daily. Travel time is 47 minutes one way.
Is Bosco Gurin worth visiting?
Bosco Gurin is a one-of-a-kind, cultural landscape in the middle of the alps. It is definitely worth visiting.
The village is special because it is one of the few places in Switzerland where:
- The village remains unchanged from how it was in the past
- The residents speak the old German language from the Middle Ages Gurinerdeutsch
- The traditions and place names from the past remain (Rossboda, Grossalp)
- The architecture remains special thanks to Hans Anton Tomamichel
Hans Anton Tomamichel made Sgraffiti in Bosco Gurin popular. These are the white engravings on the house facades. The construction of the houses is also striking. These are wooden houses on stone plinths. The village has around a hundred houses, barns, and stables.
What are the Things To Do in Bosco Gurin?
Visit the Walser Museum in Bosco Gurin
Bosco Gurin is geographically in the Italian-speaking side of Switzerland. Yet, it is linguistically and culturally not. Despite several attempts to make the village closer to its Italian-speaking neighbors, it retains its own culture. Until to date, this little village has its own unique language – Gurinerdeutsch.
The Walser Museum in Bosco Gurin is located in one of the oldest houses in the village. It was built in 1386, making it one of the oldest farmhouses in the entire alpine region. Furthermore, it is the oldest ethnographic museum in the Canton Ticino.
The address is Museo Walserhaus 6685 Bosco Gurin. Tickets cost CHF 28.- for adults and CHF 12.- for children. It is open normally from July 1 until October 31, Tuesdays – Sundays.
The Walser Museum helps maintain and preserve the village’s unique history. It shows the culture and language of the Walser people. It talks about the life of the locals. How simple or hard is their life? What is their culture like?
Visit Rossboda and Grossalp Mountains
Tourism is one of the key ways for locals to earn their living. There are ski lifts open during winter and summer. You can go up to Rossboda at 2,000 meters.
In summer, they have the following options:
- Hiking in the mountains – A popular trail is the three lakes trail from Grossalp to Bosco Gurin
- Renting Monster Rollers – Available from 8 years up!
- Transporting mountain bikes to ride it going down
- Climbing wall at 2,300 meters above sea level
In winter, they have the following options:
- Ski tours
After enjoying your day in the mountain, there is also a small ice rink in the village. It is open from December until March during winter.
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Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.
Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.