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Going Into The Mountains

Going into the Mountains
Chiavenna to Maloja and the Upper Engadin

By Barry Klaas, Adventurer and Artist

Like the startling vision of a beautiful flower growing out of a crack in a rocky cliff face, the beauty marks of the Upper Engadin mountains and valleys hide from you until you emerge from the mountainside forest and enter into the realm of great vistas and illumination by la bella luce ( the beautiful light).

From the ancient village of Chiavenna, then up the deep forested valley where the Romans marched, to Maloja which hosts the top of this hanging valley from which ancient glaciers tumbled 1000 or more feet….here you find a paradise…..for the nature lover and mountain lover alike. For the gentile and for the strong, you will find your match here.

The broad valley north of Lake Como narrows at Chiavenna. Starting here the mountains rise sharply. The way directly north leads to high altitude rugged landscape of the Splugen Pass. The valley to the northeast follows a millenium old sentiero ( path or road) on which the Roman centurion soldiers and traders made their way to San Moritz and to the lands to the north. At the top of Maloja Pass they built fortifications to secure this preferred route.

In the last 500 to 1000 years villages were built along the valley and high on steep mountain sides. Places like Castasegna, Promontogno, Stampa, Vicosoprano, Casaccia and especially Soglio above Promontogno, have preserved a nearly unblemished distinctive and lasting culture. Each village is less than 10 minutes apart. These are places of profound intrinsic history. They are steeped in romantic Italian heritage. These places are best absorbed slowly, like sipping a cup of espresso at leisure.

Establish a base at Maloja or Soglio to begin this natural, historical and cultural adventure. Try the public Swiss Post buses which are available every hour or even more frequently to take you between these villages. The yellow Post busses stop at the post office in each village. Take the small tele-cabina lift found between Vicosoprano and Cassaccia up to the high dam called Albigno. Hike up from there to the Albigno Refugio for lunch and a stunning glacial view. Take your camera and hiking poles. Visit the art centers in Stampa, Maloja and San Moritz. Great Swiss-Italian artists such as the Giacometti family and Giovanni Segentini made these places their home.

Look at a trail map of the Maloja area. Pick one of the 5 to 15 trails suitable to you. These all have trail heads in Maloja. Maloja is like the cup of a hand, with fingers extending upward forming mountain peaks. Tiny villages are found around here in flower filled alpine valleys remindful of the beloved look of “Heidi’s” village.

Pack a lunch and water. As you walk you may find cheese and fresh dairy or goats milk available from the mountain farms along the many trails.

Buon viaggio!

Barry Klaas is a writer, adventurer, explorer and artist. He has been exploring the border of Switzerland and Italy for the last 8 years. He lives in San Clement, California.

Maloja, Switzerland

Soglio: Classic stone roofs and
architecture....and peaks without limits

Following the flower fields
to the Heidi village above Maloja

Classic Swiss, Sun and Streams
In the Upper Engardin




The lake district might possibly be Italy's best kept secret!


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