Fresh air, shaken not stirred

If you’re looking for fresh air (and stunning natural beauty) this autumn, look no further than Val Verzasca, in Ticino, Switzerland. And no, you don’t have to take a flying leap off a dam (like James Bond did) to enjoy it.

The Verzasca river itself starts near Pizzo Barone, at 2864m the highest mountain peak looming over the valley, and zigzags south to end 30km later in Lake Maggiore. Just before hitting the massive lake, the river backs up at the base of the Contra Dam, better known as the Verzasca Dam. It’s there in 1995 that James Bond – or rather, a very talented stunt double – took a leap off the 220m high dam to land, thoroughly refreshed and ready to take on the baddies, at the bottom.

But Val Verzasca’s real gem lies slightly further upriver, just north of the dammed Lake Vogorno. Near the town of Lavertezzo, the Verzasca river cuts through the rock to form pools of beautiful crystal clear water. The colours are stunning, the water great for swimming, and the current swift and continually fresh. In summer the pools attract swimmers and even scuba divers, but their beauty isn’t confined to any one season.

The best view to be had of the pools is from the Ponte dei Salti, the 17th century double arch bridge that spans the river, restored in the mid-1960s. You can enjoy the breeze blowing down the valley, admire sparkling waters, and – if you’re really in the mood for excitement – take a leap (without James Bond’s bungee cord) into the swiftly flowing river below.

Numerous trails lead from the valley to the peaks, and changes in altitude from 500 to nearly 3000m guarantee any hike will introduce you to a variety of local flora (especially chestnut trees, introduced by the Romans) and fauna (including the medieval Nera Verzasca goat).

As Bond and many excursionists have helped spread the fame of Val Verzasca as a summer destination, now might be the perfect time to go. Of course, it’ll take the cold-resistance of a polar bear to take a leap from the Ponte dei Salti. But it takes nothing to enjoy the cool, clean, refreshing, mountain valley air, not even a license to kill.

Photo credits:
© Ascona-Locarno Tourism – photo Alessio Pizzicannella
© Ticino Turismo – photo Ferrara