Bosco Gurin, in the Maggia Valley, is Ticino's highest altitude village (1500 m) and the only one where a German dialect is also spoken. In fact, a small Walser community lives here whose ancestors came from the German-speaking part of the Valais Canton in the 13th century to colonize these mountainous lands. Beyond the language, even the architecture of the wooden houses and the torbe recall the Walser origins, while evidence of this civilization, so well-adapted to the high-altitude lifestyle, can be found in the little museum. Also worth admiring are che graffiti on several houses and on the church façade.
The traces left by the Walser settlers in Bosco Gurin, who arrived in the 13th century after crossing the Guriner-Furka Pass, are identifiable in a number of buildings when walking through the village's narrow streets. To better organize your visit it is recommended to pick-up a "Bosco Gurin e i Walser" booklet available (only in Italian or German) at the tourist office in Avegno, where the entire collection of Sentieri di Pietra (Stone paths) is offered for free.
One of Bosco Gurin's main distinctive traits is the torba, of which only about fifteen remain. "The torba – so describes the booklet mentioned above - is a wooden construction built on a plinth of masonry which usually housed the stable or storage. The wooden bit is isolated by a given number of stone 'mushrooms', composed of a stem (wood or masonry), frequently topped by a roughly rounded granite plate to hinder mice from reaching the wheat stall. The stall was the safest place to preserve different products such as rye and barley, protecting them from humidity and, as mentioned earlier, from rodents."
Another distinctive trait of the Walsers are the so-called Gadumdschi, buildings with dry-laid stonewall and stone-tiled roofs, without a door and that were used as barns. Many examples can be seen at the outskirts of the village. There are numerous stables. The most ancient ones, with a wooden upper part and a stone base, are located behind the church dedicated to the Holy Saints Giacomo e Cristoforo, sanctified in 1252 and restored multiple times.
Walking through the village's little alleyways you will notice numerous graffiti-decorated buildings, works of Hans Anton Tomamichel. This artist, born in Bosco Gurin in 1899, moved to Zurich at the age of 15, where he later became a successful graphic designer.
You shouldn't leave the village without visiting the Walserhaus Museum where objects and testimonials are collected giving a glimpse into the living conditions of the past. The old house is the only one in the village still equipped with the "Seelenbalge": a small window which, according to an old Walser custom, was only opened when the patient died, thus allowing his soul to enter eternity.