After leaves have already drop elsewhere in Switzerland’s mountain regions, it is time to head south—as far south as you can go without leaving the country. The Mendrisiotto region of Canton Ticino offers a mix of experiences, from hiking trails to wine trails and tastings, to seasonal festivals. When Tom and I traveled through the canton to Mendrisio, a sharp left turn off the main highway through the city brought us to Ticino’s Valle di Muggio (Muggio Valley in Italian). What a discovery!
Into Valle di Muggio
The Muggio Valley lies in Mendrisiotto, cradled between Monte Generoso and the woodsy Italian border. The valley is a walker’s paradise in spring and summer. In autumn, the pace seems slower, with time to gander. The valley’s roads are lightly traveled in the fall, dappled with shadows and spots of color. Soon, hardy souls will venture up from Mendrisio to walk solitary paths in winter, snow clods crunching beneath their boots, crisp air filling their lungs. In early November, though, the vibrant yellows and rusty oranges of the season.
The Muggio Valley is the southernmost valley in Switzerland. Its pristine landscape, dotted with nine rustic villages, features chestnut forests, meadows and orchards. We visited the Valle di Muggio on a late fall weekend, and found that our brief stay in this enchanting valley was good for the soul. Near a roundabout at the entrance to the valley, the aptly named Chiesa Rossa (Red Church) and its 14th-century frescoes welcomed us for a photo op.
Cabbio, a spot of Ticino magic
Our base in Mendrisiotto was Cabbio, a twenty-minute drive up the valley from Mendrisio. This blip on the Swiss map is a tiny village with year-round appeal. In autumn, Cabbio offers magical views each morning as the autumn fog lifts through the valley. Tom and I stayed in a charming bed and breakfast. At the recommendation of our host, we spent a wonderful evening in a family-owned taverna around the corner.
Bruzella’s historic mill
The Mulino di Bruzella (Bruzella Mill) sits in a charming hollow carved by the river Breggia. The 700-year-old mill is just twenty minutes’ walk form Cabbio, Bruzella, or Casima. The ancient millstone, restored in 1996, grinds rare red corn into polenta flour. Products of the traditional milling are also for sale. Our autumn visit was too late for the annual Bruzella Mill Festival, held at the end of August, but we were delighted when miller Irene Petraglio demonstrated the millstone in action.
Solarino, home to Zincarlin
In little Solarino we tasted a cheese like no other, Zincarlin della Valle di Muggio. Switzerland’s first Slow Food Presidium is a bell-shaped raw cow and goat’s milk cheese with an intense flavor. This heritage cheese is made with justifiable pride according to methods handed down from mother to daughter. Now, the daughter, cheesemaker Marialuce Valtulini, is the only person producing it. Tom and I visited her cellar, tucked into the side of Mount Generoso, for an introduction to the heritage cheese. Later, we enjoyed Zincarlin in several Mendrisiotto restaurants, where it featured in risottos and drizzled with honey, a cheese course.
Scudellate for an exquisite meal
Our last stop, in Scudellate, was a highlight in every way. The buildings of the village sidle around a sharp bend in the road up Monte Generoso. Its population of 25 more than doubles in summer, but year-round, the hamlet boasts one of the best meals in the region. When we visited Mendrisiotto, we had lunch in Scudellate at Osteria Manciana and met Piera Piffaretti, long-time director of the kitchen here. Her infectious laugh invited is to linger over the wooden tables in the cozy dining room-with-a-view and her fabulous food made it impossible to do anything else. Piera’s daughter-in-law Simona has now taken over management of the Osteria. Happily, still on the menu: “Ossobuco” from Piera with polenta from “Mulino di Bruzella”.
Note: An autumn day in Muggio Valley, Ticino, Switzerland originally appeared on Anita’s Feast on 23 November 2012, updated 15 October 2022.