Poschiavo, a Borgo with Its Lake and Its Valley

Tucked away in a south-eastern corner of Switzerland, a valley offers a rest to travellers going from the Engadin to the Valtellina Valley. The Valley is dominated by Poschiavo and its lake of the same name. If you want a holiday away from all hustle and bustle this is the place to go to. 

Poschiavo is the borgo (little town) that dominates the Pushlav Valley. The Valley is the perfect stop for travellers ascending over the Forcola di Livigno from Italy’s Valtellina Valley to Switzerland’s Engadin Valley by way of the Bernina Pass. It is also the perfect holiday place for people who like to spend time apart from crowds. In summer, the valley is a paradise for hikers. The little town will charm you, as it is a true urban settlement with only 3,000 inhabitants.

While the valley was certainly used since the Bronze Age as a connecting road between the Valtellina and the Engadin, a permanent settlement is only in evidence since early medieval times. The valley was settled by immigrants from the Valtellina and is an Italian speaking community in the canton of Grisons in Switzerland.

The valley changed hands numerous times until the population finally chucked out the Dukes of Milan in 1406; the dukes had just been the last in a long string of owners. The valley then joined the confederation led by the Bishop of Chur. By the end of the 15th century they bought market and judicial rights from him to become a full member in the confederation.

In the 17th and through the 19th century, large numbers of inhabitants emigrated from the valley. They set up coffee houses and confectionaries all over the world including France, Spain, and Portugal and in places as far away as America and Australia. Many of them returned to the valley to retire with riches earned abroad. They built virtual palace like structures that dominate the town today. A particularly large group of returnees from Spain built a complete quarter of villas called the village of the Spaniards on a street tellingly called Palace Street.

In the centre of the town, the Church of Saint Victor the Moor is a mix of a Roman style campanile from around 1200, a gothic main building from after 1500, and a baroque style interior make-over from the 1650s. The church has been completely restored after 1987 giving glimpses into all the building periods while at the same time being modernized to the tenets of the II Vatican Concilium.

One of my favourite spots in town is the Saint Anna Oratory with its bone house. The oratory dates from just after 1700, while the bone house was only opened in 1903 by converting the loggia of the oratory to its new use. The place is suitably grizzly to fascinate your children, though.

The oldest existing church in the valley is Saint Remigius. It thrones high over the rock fall that marks the end of the valley towards Italy’s Valtellina Valley. The church dates from 1050 and has not greatly been tampered with since then. The view from the church is gorgeous with the Pushlav on one hand and the Valtellina on the other. There is a little restaurant beside the church where you can also get the key for the church to go exploring inside on your own. Your children might want to ring the church bells which they may within reason. 

Further reading
History in The Alps: Bernina Pass
History in The Alps: Fluela Pass
Livia, First Empress of Rome