During the Middle Ages, a number of movements pushed by a significant demographic increase in population and united together by the desire to take new lands to cultivate and possess were established in Europe. Part of this context is the exodus of the Walser population, a German-speaking people coming from the northern areas of Valais and most likely the origin of the Walser name. The ethnic group moved from its native settlement gradually and extremely peacefully in the direction of the Alps and the areas of Grisons, Liechtenstein, Vorarlberg and Tyrol.

at the beginning of the 13th century, the first settlements even in the Valsesia, more specifically Rimella, Rima and Alagna are noted.

The community, made up of shepherds, settled themselves in cottages scattered along side the mountain and with hard work the woods were transformed into productive pastures. Land was turned over and even the highest slopes were cultivated and aqueducts for the retrieval of water thaw were also built. Work tools and techniques, unknown until then, were refined and widespread even beyond the boundaries of the valley for generations and generations.

This economy created new grounds for personal freedom and community autonomy, unusual for a time when taxes and servitude were part of everyday life.

The houses were examples of extraordinary architecture. Even today they are engineering masterpieces, studied and structured in minute detail in order to gain maximum functionality because of the harsh environmental conditions. Normally arranged on three storeys, there is a stone basement, generally dry with an upper area made out of wood and divided up depending on the use. The sloping roof is made out of local stone slabs, whose noteworthy weight is supported by a brilliant structure of roof beams. Not to be overlooked are the roof gutters, made from partial, dug out larch logs.

Even the division of the rooms is of considerable ingenuity: the basement and stables is equipped with drainage canals for the manure and there is also a living room and kitchen as well as an area for processing milk and for the preparation of yarn and hemp fabrics. Above the stall, on the ground floor, is the bedroom and next to this is the storage room for the carpentry tools. The first floor consists of the barn, where agricultural tools are stored and a closed area with shelves and racks used as a pantry for grains and other food goods. Outside, running completely around the structure, is a large and elegant balcony made out of horizontal poles used for drying hay, rye and hemp.

Alagna, over the years, has been able to preserve the heritage of the Walser cultural - the characteristics of the homes, fountains and bread ovens that can be used again today, old mills, the renewed sawmill and water wheel, the Tittschu language and with this, the traditions and customs of these people, a priceless treasure, which has always been protected and passed down through the generations.

For more information, contact the town of Alagna – “Walzer Information Desk” at ufficiowalseralagna@libero.it

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