Giornico is a village of Leventina Valley, famous for having been scenery to the Battle of Giornico (“Battaglia dei Sassi Grossi”) in 1478. This battle represents an important chapter for Swiss history, as it saw the Confederates prevail against the Milanesi and conquer the control over St. Gotthard. Crossed by a river that is divided in two, forming, this way, a bizarre islet, Giornico hides his most valuable treasure in what is the San Nicola Church, an important Roman testimony. Interesting to visit is also the Modern Ethnographic Museum, where the visitor, supported by interactive games, historic documentaries, and photographs is lead to ponder over the valley’s past.
The important Battle of Giornico (“Battaglia dei Sassi Grossi”) is honoured with a monument of Ticino sculptor Apollonio Pessina and found at the northern entrance of the village. Divided in two by the cantonal road, the historic center of this town still preserves several medieval structures. The section at the top develops around the squared Tower Attone, from the fourteenth-century, that is boxed-in since many years, waiting to be restored. In the lower section of Giornico, between the road and the left riverbank, evidences of the ancient road are still visible.
Itinerary: Giornico (2h, see map)
Our itinerary develops in this section of the village and begins right in front of Casa Stanga and the adjacent Casa Clemente. Both are location to the Leventina Museum, where the valley’s history is presented through its objects and by putting the focus on man. These buildings represent an architectural complex of great historical and artistic interest.
Some coats of arms of distinguished travellers coming from all-over Europe are represented on the facades of Casa Stanga, that for centuries played the role of residence and tavern. These foreign travellers used to stay in Giornico during their wandering along the Via delle Genti (name given to the Gotthard Route in the past).
At the exit from the museum, take a turn on the left. Little further away you can find two ancient humpback bridges from where to enjoy a nice view over the home islet (also location to a picturesque grotto) formed by the ramification of the river in two branches.
Turn left once again and take the gracious little street – defined by the river on one side and by the vineyards on the other – that brings you in front of the church of San Nicola (12th century). Of an essential and rigorous architecture, among the most representative Roman testimonies on the Ticino soil, it stands out in the vineyards with its strong, simple and noble stone presence. Notable are also the door of the southern facade, with little sculptures, the main facade, the crypt with mysterious capitals, frescoes of the apse and the baptismal font at the entrance.
From the churchyard on a hill to the left beyond the railway you can see the striking church of Santa Maria del Castello (the keys to visit it can be picked up from the house at the foot of the hill towards the church, Via Altirolo 1, or from the parish priest). An important thing to look at is the northern chancel that was entirely frescoed in 1448. Only a few ruins of an ancient fortress, that once dominated the hill, are left next to the church.
Past San Nicola is the parish church dedicated to San Michele that preserves an interesting 16th century altar with door flaps of Nordic origin.
The region of Giornico is also known for its vineyards and its excellent wines. We recommend taking a short break in Rodai, at the southern entrance of the village (follow the street sign), where at the foot of the mountain rises a charming conglomeration of private grottos with beautiful arbours.
Museum of Leventina Valley
The permanent exhibit is located on the first floor and part of the second floor. It is characterised by its anthropological approach to the presented topics that lead the visitor along an interactive course. In the exhibit the topics of identity and rituals are covered through objects, videos and reproductions.
Listening to old vocal testimonials in half-darkness, to find oneself in Faido's Belle Epoque, to go through the amulets used for traveling, to read about the role of women in the old statute, as well as walking through a narrow corridor that opens onto a room dedicated to the arrival of the railway and, this way, gain consciousness about the economic restrictions of the Valley, are only some of the cues that bring back to life the historic course that shaped the Leventina Valley. The itinerary of the exhibit leads the visitor through questions whose answers are given by the presented objects of the museum's collection, all from Leventina Valley.
The visit ends on a panoramic terrace, where a beautiful view opens onto the valley, the river, the churches of San Michele and San Nicola. Following the visit of the museum this lookout-point offers you the opportunity to look at Leventina’s reality today with more awareness.
Of particular interest in the conference hall is a station, developed in collaboration with the Swiss-Italian Broadcasting Company (RSI) and with the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI) for research and visualization of audio-visual documents preserved in the RSI's archives and other digital material produced by the Leventina Museum. It is an innovative and quality offer, perfectly in line with the concept of interactive mediation that the museum wishes to offer to the public. In the museum shop you may buy local traditional products or you may sign-up for workshops or courses offered by the museum.