Friday, October 6, 2017

Millions of Years of History in the Breggia Gorge

This 2 and 1/2 hour tour to Switzerland’s first geopark and one of the most important geotopes in this country starts with a walk through the vineyards of the Ticino, along the Wine Trail with the theme “Man and the Grapevine”. The stretch between Mendrisio and Castel San Pietro is the area with the most vineyards in the Canton of Ticino. Allow for extra time to take detours through Mendrisio and Castel San Pietro.

Before heading into the Breggia Gorge at the eastern edge of Castel San Pietro, you can also take a short detour to the Chiesa Rossa (The Red Church), with its 14th century frescoes and red façade colouring, a dictate of the Bishop of Como for churches in the Ticino in the late 1500’s. The Red Church was also the site of a bloody family feud on Christmas Eve of 1390.

To visit the park there are two suggested paths: one starts from the Mulino del Ghitello to the Mulin del Canaa and the second one form the Mulin del Canaa to Ghitello.

From the junction of the trails near the Red Church, the tour continues into the Gorge along the leftmost trail (not directly downwards) in order to reach the Gorge at the bridge over the River Breggia at the oldest part of the park. Thanks to the river's natural excavation process, rocks from geological periods across several hundreds of millions of years have been exposed. All along the trail through the park are information boards explaining the history and geology of the area (also in English).

At this point of the park, the top 100m of a 4km thick layer of the Earth's crust called Moltrasio Limestone is visible, dating back 190 million years. The diagonal rocks are divided by a fault, showing evidence of the movement of the Earth's crust. A few minutes further along the path is the site of a very old mill called the “Mulin da Canaa”. After reaching the picnic area in the center of the park, an old wood and steel bridge crosses the river again and the zigzag path takes you out of the gorge along the cliffs below the “Red Church” and past an old cement works.

Before heading to the train station in Balerna, a detour to the old Ghitello Mill offers some additional historical insights. The mill complex dates from 1600 and has been recently restored into perfect running order.

Info about the park (in Italian):
More info:

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