The Hamlet of Curzútt
Society’s profound transformations have inevitably changed the relationship between humans and their territory. In recent decades interest has been particularly focused on urban areas. The “remnants” of Ticino’s territory, rich as they are in history and value, have often been abandoned to their fate as their specific economic function has waned. The following are some details pertaining to the ancient hamlet of Curzútt.
History, Architecture and Monuments
Located at an altitude of 600 m a.s.l., the Church of San Barnárd is one of only a few monuments of national importance (Category A) found in the Bellinzona area.
As it lies far away from the road network and is only accessible by the cable car (or on foot along trails that are sometimes challenging) this important monument was rather unknown and scarcely visited, even by the local residents.
This striking church (whose valuable frescos are discreetly preserved after the restoration work in recent years) was surrounded by a few scattered groups of houses where the inhabitants of Monte Carasso resided permanently until the 1700s. Of these ancient hamlets, the only one that has endured over time is that of Curzútt.
Its historical and architectural value has also been established by governmental decree: the State Council has classified it as a building complex deserving of special protection. The municipal zoning plan provides a series of regulations aimed at its preservation.
The dwellings of Puncète – another hamlet of significant size that time has almost wiped out – have been declared an archeological zone.
The trails connecting the different hamlets are included in the inventory of historical trails of regional importance which the Fondazione has been working to restore.
Nature and Landscapes
Like much of Ticino’s territory, our mountains are characterized by forests and natural environments in a relatively limited land area. They constitute an invaluable wealth that our work manages to enhance with care and balance.
The natural evolution of the woodlands in recent decades has been unable to erase the patient, centuries-long work that humans have put into transforming this territory into a hospitable place to produce essential goods for survival.
The geological and climatic conditions of this area have indeed favored the development of a community (which until 1700 had more than 700 inhabitants, permanently settled in the various hamlets) living in harmony with the landscape and nature.
The intervention we envision aims to combine the conservation of the natural spaces with targeted interventions aimed at partially restoring the woodlands, the pastures and the numerous traces rich in history and traditions that humans have left behind over the centuries.
A proper balance between these components will help foster an increased closeness to humans’ approach to nature. In this way we aim to contribute to the growth of a more widespread ecological culture.
Thanks to the efforts of a few professional farmers and many amateur farmers, certain agricultural activities still endure on our mountain.
The pastures of Piemoritt are used in early summer by an alpine farmer who also utilizes the mid-season farmstead of Mornera, while the alpine pastures in Albagno are still used in summertime for grazing sheep, goats and calves.
By creating a large area of wooded pastures, the Fondazione aims to contribute to a project with a broader scope, the goal being to ensure an adequate presence of agricultural activities on the mountain.
Near Curzútt, the Fondazione has also restored two vineyards whose wine is sold at the local restaurant. And recently, a plot of land has been cultivated to produce a small amount of saffron.
Social Life and Recreation
Through some mysterious mechanism, human beings enjoy solidarity and human connection when in pleasant natural surroundings.
In the urban hustle and bustle, people can find it hard to greet each other even when they know each other. But when surrounded by nature it becomes a pleasure to exchange a few words even with strangers.
Children can rediscover the joys of a rustic kind of play: a little hut, a few pieces of wood found in the forest, direct contact with the animal world and their own vivid imaginations are all that is needed to enjoy wonderful days in contact with nature.
The Guesthouse in Curzútt is mainly intended for the many young people who today are no longer fortunate enough to enjoy these simple pleasures which for a large part of Ticino’s population are fond memories of their youth.
The Fondazione also promotes the restoration and creation of hiking trails for both recreational and educational functions. These trails will be dedicated mainly to schools and groups with whom we hope to collaborate on forest and pasture management.
Having lost their important historic economic function, Ticino’s chestnut forests have been steadily deteriorating.
But even in this case, it would be unreasonable to propose a return to the situation of years ago.
In many cases the forest has undergone a spontaneous evolution where natural occurrences are quite significant. In such cases, species grow that have adapted to this habitat giving us clues as to how forest ecosystems develop.
In agreement with the Cantonal Forestry Division, the Foundation is focusing on restoring in excess of 100,000 square meters of wooded pasture. In this area the forest is being thinned out so that interesting plants can grow and produce fruit.
Centuries-old trees are carefully and properly pruned. The work of the forestry workers is such that some of these trees end up looking like sculptures. The restored woodland will also allow for a more efficient method of harvesting chestnuts which will eventually be given to collection centers for processing.
This area is extremely poor in water resources because the geology of the mountain causes wellspring water to be diverted into the Sementina Valley.
From one of these wellsprings located more than 700 m a.s.l., the Foundation has built a pipeline that cuts across the entire mountain and doubles as an important firefighting tool.
The final section of this pipeline services the highest section of Monte Carasso’s vineyards, most of which are at risk due to the scarcity of this important resource.
The Foundation has also carried out a hillside electrification project which provides lighting to the Church of San Barnárd.
To curb the use of polluting energy producers (such as gas-fueled generators) electricity is provided to the Guesthouse-Restaurant and the secondary residences for their basic needs (excluding heating as firewood can be found on location).
In addition, the Foundation built the intermediate stop for the Monte Carasso-Mornera cable car in part to prevent the landscape from being spoiled by the construction of a road access.
Another achievement of the Foundation is the construction of a sewage drainage channel that connects Curzútt to the municipality’s network.
And finally, the Tibetan Bridge Carasc was inaugurated in 2015 connecting Monte Carasso’s and Sementina’s neighborhoods at 600 m a.s.l., crossing high above the namesake stream.