Sunday, August 10, 2014

More about Corippo

The village of Corippo in the Canton of Ticino, Southern Switzerland, was the home of my Scettrini ancestors. I was fortunate to explore the village and valley in 1998 and 2006. The photos included here were taken on those visits, but have been scanned from prints. 

After the 1998 visit I wrote:

"As the train swept northwards into Switzerland, mountains began enclosing us in a dramatic landscape. I was heading into the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, to find the small mountain village of Corippo. There I hoped to walk in the paths of my Swiss ancestors.

The next day dawned fine and sunny and at 9am I joined a regular "Postbus" service headed up the steep, winding road into Val Verzasca. After thirty minutes there was a breath-taking sight of the village of Corippo, with its stone houses perched steeply against a mountainside. Corippo lies at an altitude of 560m, with mountains 2500m high around it. It was founded in the fourteenth century, and is one of the few mountain villages in Ticino where the building structure has stayed the same over several centuries. I approached, very conscious of the link that I was making with my family's past.

The first place I reached was the village cemetery, set on a small flat terrace, slightly apart from the rest of the village. I pushed open the gate and entered. The names of my ancestors seemed to present themselves on the headstones in front of me: - Giovanni Scettrini, Giuseppe Gambetta, Abbondio Scettrini. Yet these were all more recent burials, as in this part of the world, the same land has been re-used for burials many times over the centuries.
cemetery, Corippo
 I soon reached the village itself, and there was much to explore in every part of it. The narrow winding streets of Corippo are steep, and only suitable for humans and animals.

Most of the houses are built close together, and only the cemetery, bakeries, and two mills near the river, were slightly separate.
mill by stream, slightly separate from main part of village

All the houses in Corippo are made of mountain granite, with slate roofs, in a design that is specific to Ticino. The house fronts all look out across the valley, built to face the prevailing rain direction. The buildings tend to have two or three floors with small rooms, plus an attic. Because of the steepness of the terrain, hay and wood were often placed in the attic at the top, from the upper side of the house. Chestnut wood from the valley provides a framework for the roof, and is also used in furniture and joinery.

A climb up behind the village gave me a view down the valley to where the Verzasca River began forming the lake that now stands behind the Vogorno dam. Many wayside shrines, some with old painted frescoes, stood near the paths, evidence of the long Catholic history of this place.

uphill behind main part of village

shrine and footbridge near village of Corippo
A downhill path, once probably an old mule track, led across the stone bridge in the rugged Corippo side-valley, then climbed upwards towards the village of Mergoscia. Around lunchtime I found a picnic spot on this path, that gave me a perfect view back across the whole village of Corippo. At midday, chimes rang out from the bell-tower opposite: in past centuries, the devout villagers would have stopped, hearing this, to say the Angelus.
view back to Corippo from the track to Mergoscia
Switzerland is well organised for tourists, and there was an excellent map near the church in Corippo, detailing walks in the surrounding area. The next track I chose led to the nearby village of Lavertezzo. There were some superb mountain views along the way, and sheep with spring lambs ventured out of their old stone hut onto some grassy knolls.
on the track leading to Lavertezzo
 The riverside track passed through forest, still with just the sparse beginnings of spring leaves. Many small waterfalls along the way rushed down to join the Verzasca River. At Lavertezzo the track up the valley could be followed no further because of the current avalanche danger. But the attractive village of Lavertezzo had wonders of its own to explore, most notably the double-humped stone bridge that spanned the river. Great views of this bridge could be had from the middle of the river itself, as there were several safe ways to climb out onto the huge mountain rocks that lay there.

bridge at Lavertezzo
Locals in Corippo have always had a hard life with the rough alpine climate, poor soil quality, and steep terrain of the pastures. In past centuries, inhabitants only got enough from the fields for their own needs and there has often been a high degree of emigration. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, men from Corippo went to Italy as chimney sweeps from November to Easter. In the nineteenth century, the goldfields lured many men away. Marginal agricultural land has since been increasingly reclaimed by forest.

window- Corippo
 Getting there:
Ticino is the southern, Italian-speaking canton of Switzerland.
Locarno lies close to the main Gotthard railway line that links Milan and Zurich.
There are frequent train connections at Bellinzona for Locarno.
Locarno can also be reached via Domodossola on the dramatic Centovalli Mountain Railway. (Eurailpass valid.)
Several Postbus services leave Locarno each day for Corippo and Val Verzasca.

Footnote: Switzerland has a very well developed system of transport that makes it possible to reach many remote villages, and maps and information are readily available. But transport is expensive in Switzerland, so before travelling there it is well worth investigating which of the various discount schemes available might suit your needs.

Margaret, the writer, is a descendant of Giuseppe Scettrini, born in Corippo in 1835,
the first son of John Scettrini and Maria Johanna Scilacci.

There's a bit of info in an earlier post here - but I am expanding on it in this new post. (Originally most of this text was on my homepages, but I expect to 'retire' them soon.)


  1. Thank you for this information. I'm helping a friend with his genealogy. I am trying to connect his family to Francis Davis Payn and Johanna Scetrini Payn. The pictures you have taken are beautiful. My friend is the grandson of Arthur Thomas Payn and Ann Hunter Payn. My email is

    1. I am a great-grand-daughter of Francis Davis Payn and Johanna Scettrini. The two names you give don't ring any immediate bells, but I will look at what I have...

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