Poschiavo sign

I stumbled upon the Valposchiavo quite by accident several years ago after a research trip to the Italian Valtellina for Piano. I was looking for buckwheat or grano saraceno. Buckwheat is the noble cereal that has fed this alpine region for centuries but sadly very little is grown here today. I’d heard one might still find some cultivated here and there on the odd mountain terrace above Teglio but I’d had no luck finding any. Giving up, I decided to leave the valley at Tirano and follow the road to St. Moritz via the Bernina pass. 

Shortly after leaving Tirano I crossed the Italian border into Switzerland’s canton Graubunden and the Valposchiavo. Tirano had been clogged with the traffic that seems to perpetually bog down the major towns in the Valtellina, situated as they are on the only highway through the narrow valley. I’d also endured quite a bad meal and it was unseasonably hot for early September so it was a breath of fresh air to begin the climb into the Valposchiavo and leave Italy behind.

The small town of Poschiavo is the heart of the Valposchiavo and is one of those very rare mountain villages that today are an endangered breed. A lack of modern resort development is usually what accounts for the preservation of towns like Poschiavo whose geography does not lend itself to alpine skiing. While there are tourists in Poschiavo, most of them are hikers who tread lightly. 

Once I arrived in Poschiavo I knew I had to spend a few days. The silence of the valley, the beautiful town and the gorgeous surroundings were an easy draw so I checked into the historic Hotel Albrici on the main square and settled in.  The Hotel is situated in a stunning old palazzo.  A restaurant and bar occupy the ground floor. 

The first floor (the piano nobile) had a huge common hall with 4 public salons off it. They were full of beautiful antique furniture, wood paneled walls adorned with gilt framed oil paintings and high vaulted ceilings. It was maintained like a museum – everything polished and shining. The guest rooms on the top floor were spotless too, but very puritan – no phones, no television, bare whitewashed walls, cosy flannelette sheets and a shared bathroom down the hall. I silently congratulated the owners for leaving the noble floor intact for all their guests to appreciate instead of converting it into luxury hotel rooms. I was more than happy to sleep in simplicity on the top floor in what would have been servant’s quarters and share a bathroom in order to make myself at home in the apartments of what once would have been one of the town’s wealthiest families.

I made my way downstairs to the restaurant for dinner where I found several specialties from the valley on the menu. I decided to order capunet e misolta. The capunet, a dish I’d never heard of before, turned out to be delicious green spatzle type dumplings coated in a rich cheesy sauce. It was accompanied by several generous slices of Misolta, the horse meat salami made in the valley. The meal was perfect and I ended up going back for lunch the next day.  

Poschiavo had many rewards for me, and one of the best one was the discovery of the preindustrial Mulino Aino, a water powered mill still in use today that grinds buckwheat and corn into flour as well as other heritage grains. Here I finally found buckwheat growing. After a couple of days in this blissful setting I moved on to the Bernino pass and the Engadine Valley. Experiencing Poschiavo was like meeting a new friend you hope to have for life. Poschiavo was a surprise for me, I hadn’t realized it would be so perfect. It was a wonderful place to retreat to, to take a deep breath of fresh mountain air, listen to the silence and appreciate the sublime perfection of nature. I’ve been back to Poschiavo many times since, most recently a couple of weeks ago with Michael to celebrate a birthday. It did not let me down. 

Take a stroll with me here through the hotel and the town…….

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The hotel’s facade on the main square of Poschiavo

interior Albrici

Antique hotel porter caps adorn a linen chest

interior Albrici (4)

The main hall of the piano nobile

interior Albrici (3)

A wood paneled common room of the piano nobile

interior Albrici (2)

A study on the piano nobile

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A light shade in the main dining hall

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Door into the restaurant

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The Piano nobile

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The porter caps detail

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The Albrici is a Historic Hotel of Europe

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Main entrance detail

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Common room, piano nobile

horse butcher in Poschiavo

A horse butcher in Poschiavo 

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This area is known for its Pietra Ollare, a soft stone almost like soap stone…

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Buckwheat groats

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The Mulino Aino

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Huge stone mortar for dehulling buckwheat at the mill’s entrance

buckwheat mill S. Carlo (5)

inside the Mulino Aino

buckwheat mill S. Carlo (3)

Mulino Aino

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The mill is located in San Carlo, a frazione of Poschiavo

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Museum in Poschiavo

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This is an artisanal textile maker in Poschiavo where traditional patterns are used to make gorgeous linens.

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The Via di Palaz is lined with mansions built by local residents who left the valley in the 18th century to make their fortune in Spain. Returning to Poschiavo they built this spectacular row of homes, each one faces its own garden just across the street.

Spanish row Poschiavo

It is also known as Spanish row.

One of the gardens. I was surprised at 1100 metros to find such an array of vegetables growing.

One of the gardens. I was surprised at 1100 meters above sea level to find such an array of vegetables growing, especially in late September.

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This resident of Spanish row let us photograph him with his morning’s harvest of beautiful blackberries. When we asked if we could take his picture he invited us into his garden and said “you can take anything you want”

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 Local products.

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The Molino & Pastificio Poschiavo exports their beautifully packaged pasta to England, France, Italy, the US and Germany.

Capunet e misolta (Poschiavo)

Capunet e misolta

Delicous buckwheat crepes or "Manfrigole" for lunch at the Hotel Albrici

Delicous buckwheat crepes or “Manfrigole” for lunch at the Hotel Albrici

Stay tuned for my next post and a recipe for Manfrigole… 

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