A memorable summer hike in Switzerland’s Valposchiavo region led me and my family to a landmark church and a mountain restaurant with hearty Swiss-Italian specialties.
In Valposchiavo, one of four Italian-speaking valleys in the canton of Graubünden, I pointed to the church on the cover of the brochure. “We want to go there.” To help my family on this journey, our host Nicolò Paganni, generously offered to drive us up to the tiny hamlet of Viano. Paganni owns the agricultural guesthouse on his berry farm in Valposchiavo where we were staying. He also told us about a small mountain restaurant near the church, where we decided to have our lunch.
San Romerio Church
From Viano, it takes about two hours to hike to Alpe San Romerio. Perched dramatically on the hillside, the San Romerio church sits at about 1,800 meters (5,900 feet) above sea level. Remarkably, portions of the church date back to the 12th century. Adjacent to this historic church lies the Ristoro San Romerio, a mountain restaurant and hostel owned by the same family for generations.
A Ristoro to Remember
The Bongulielmi family has owned the hostel and restaurant at Alpe San Romerio since 1829. The current owner, Gino Bongulielmi, has managed this property for about three decades. Sitting outside in the warm sun, we enjoyed a lunch of barley soup and polenta with lüganiga (pork sausage). Cooked over a wood fire for over an hour, this polenta has a darker color because it also contains buckwheat flour. To drink, I had a cold beer from Birreria Pacific, a brewery in the town of Poschiavo.
For dessert, my son ordered a slice of carrot cake. We watched as one of the servers took it out of a domed stone structure. These primitive refrigerators keep cool because of the fresh mountain air or water. You can also see them down in the valley near the village center of Brusio. Known locally as grotti, they are considered to be one of Switzerland’s living traditions.
After we finished our meal, and before we began our descent to the village of Le Prese, our server convinced us to try some homemade grappa. The bottles line the outside walls of the hostel and restaurant. They typically age there for about 90 days. The strong sweet drink had a subtle taste of the pine cones that soak in the sun-drenched bottles.
For more information:
- Where we ate: The Ristoro at Alpe San Romerio, Gino Bongulielmi, 7743 Brusio, +41 (0)81 846 54 50, firstname.lastname@example.org
How to get there: The hostel and restaurant are open from the beginning of May until the end of October. You must arrive at the Alpe San Romerio on foot. Detailed information about how to reach the primary hiking routes for this destination by car or public transportation can be found online.
- San Romerio Church: To enter the church, you can ask for the key at the Ristoro San Romerio.
- Where we stayed: Coltiviamo Sogni, c/o Piccoli Frutti Valposchiavo, Via Cantonale 225, 7748 Campascio, +41 (0)79 610 27 77, email@example.com