Tibetan Bridge of Curzútt
This four-hour walk in the hills along the right bank of the Ticino River, in the region facing the Magadino Plain, does not only offer a beautiful scenery, but also boasts several points of interest. The thrill of crossing one of the longest Tibetan bridges in Switzerland (270 metres); the discovery of the Romanesque church of San Bernardo, featuring a number of beautiful frescoes of 14th and 15th century; a visit to the old and beautifully restored housing cluster of Curzútt, testifying to the time when daily life mainly revolved around hillside activities.
Itinerary: Curzútt (4h, see map)
The hike begins in Sementina (Via alla Serta). After having passed through the door of the "Fortini della fame" (Hunger Towers), you follow a path that further joins "Via delle Vigne". At "Mondò you leave the trail among the vineyards and go up towards San Defendente.
This first part of the walk crosses through a striking hilly landscape carpeted with sun-drenched vineyards, which are cultivated by tree small vine-growers (Pizzorin, Mondò and Gauch). All of them produce excellent wines.
Located on the beautiful upland of San Defendente is an old medieval oratory of the same name, boasting frescoes of the 16th century. From San Defendente the landscape changes: the vineyards are replaced by chestnut trees, which are to be found all along the trail.
Getting closer to the Tibetan bridge, through the thick vegetation, you can catch sight of the Bellinzona Castles, the San Bernardo Church and Curzútt.
The Tibetan bridge appears almost at the end of the path, thin and elegant. Of breath-taking, scenic impact, the bridge measures 270 metres in length and is suspended 130 metres above the creek below. A walkway with 728 larch boards, a safety wire mesh on the sides, and a handrail make crossing it much easier and safer. For those who do not feel dizzy, the middle of the bridge is the right place to admire a beautiful panorama including the Magadino Plain, the mountains and, in the distance, the Castles of Bellinzona.
After passing the Tibetan bridge the path crosses a pretty arduous area before reaching the church of San Bernardo, a monument of national value.
The church of San Bernardo
This small Romanesque church stands in a clearing in the woods. Though seemingly isolated, it was once an active part of village life. Its origins date back to the late 11th century. The interior is architecturally simple, but rich in 14th and 15th century frescoes covering virtually all of the walls. The painting of the Last Supper is especially interesting owing to the fact that the artist featured local products, including freshwater crabs and cherries, on the table.
Should the little church be closed, you will find its keys a little further, in Curzútt, either at the hostel or at the restaurant.
Curzútt's old cluster
The old cluster of Curzútt, situated at an altitude of 600 metres, lies just a short distance from the church and boasts a top-notch restaurant. In past centuries, people did not live on the Plains as they do today, but rather on the hills. This, not only because the Ticino River frequently overflowed, meaning that those living along its banks were at greater risk of contracting malaria, but also to avoid the raids of armies vying for Bellinzona, an important access route to the Alps.
In recent years the beautiful housing cluster of Curzútt, with the stone buildings, gardens, and terraces planted with fields of grain and vineyards, has been beautifully restored by the Fondazione Curzútt-S. Barnard thanks to a significant investment (6 millions Swiss Francs). The restoration was not intended to create an open-air museum, but rather a lively centre that now boasts a hostel and a top-level restaurant. Several buildings, stonewalls and the old mule path have been renovated with other on-site amenities including a delightful playground for children.
After the visit of Curzútt the walk goes on descending to Monte Carasso, crossing through a hilly area carpeted with sun-drenched vineyards, and passing by the church of SS. Trinità and the curious cylindrical constructions named "Fortini della fame" (Hunger Towers).
Another option is to descend by cable car from the intermediate station in Curzútt, but there is often a long waiting time.
Shuttle bus service and Infopoint
From April to the end of October, there is a daily shuttle bus service with departure and arrival at the Infopoint in Monte Carasso (Via el Cunvent 3). In the morning the bus takes you up to San Defendente's oratory: departure every 45 minutes between 9.15am (10am in automn) and 11.30am. In the afternoon, the shuttle bus bring you back to Monte Carasso: departure at the parking Pairolo under Curzútt, every 30 minutes between 3pm and 6pm. Ticket office for both the shuttle bus and the cable car at the Infopoint in Monte Carasso (open from 9am to 4pm, every day).
For wine lovers
For wine lovers the hilly area, lying on the right bank of the Ticino River, offers some of the most interesting wineries in the Canton. A stroll through their vineyards is strongly recommended and represents a truly enjoyable experience! However, these vineyards are very difficult to handle. Not only are they steep and difficult to access but, in recent years, there have been recurring raids by wild boars. It has been estimated that looking after these vineyards requires almost twice the amount of time needed for those found in the valley. However, their favourable position contributes to the quality of the grapes grown here, which is truly excellent. Constant exposure to sunshine and fresh mountain air means that the grapes ripen to produce several excellent cultivars.
At Curzútt’s restaurant-hostel you can taste the wines produced on site from grapes cultivated in the old restored vineyard (with vines obtained from hybrids of different species) .
In the village of Monte Carasso, just a short walk from the cable car station, don’t miss a visit to the three wine producers of note: "Cantina Settemaggio" (by the Marcionetti family), "Cantina Pizzorin" (by Giancarlo Pestoni) and "Cantina I Fracc" (managed by Christian Rigozzi, brother of the famous, former Miss Switzerland).
In Sementina, where this excursion begins, you can visit the cellars "Colli di Sementina" and "Azienda Mondò".
Those who like local products should not miss a visit to the shop "Quintorno" in Monte Carasso (near the cable car station).