More towns clicked off: Passo, Chiesa, Valdo, Formazza.
Gianni pointed out how the signs stated not only the current Italian names of the towns, but below those were also posted the old Swiss/German names.
It was entertaining comparing the two: Valdo/Wald, Chiesa/Andermatt, Canza/Frutwald, Grovella/Gurfelu, San Michele/Tuffald. During the Middle Ages, this Val Formazza was settled by German-speaking Walsers. As evidenced by the double-named signs, the Walser-German dialect is still spoken here.
Passing through a long tunnel, we emerged to more picturesque alpine vistas dotted with tiny glacial lakes and finally, the crowning jewel of this day’s excursion: La Cascata del Toce (Toce Falls).
This waterfall, purportedly the second highest in Italy, lies in the hamlet of Frua. Since the water flow is now regulated for hydroelectricity, the falls are only at full capacity at certain times. This time wasn’t one of them. No matter, they were still beautiful.
As we approached the falls, we pulled over beside a meadow below them to look up. Gianni and I wandered further in to get a better vantage point. Then, back in the car, we continued up the remaining switchbacked road to the top.
A wooden viewing platform reached out over the lip of the falls providing a gasping view of the frothy water that plummeted down the rugged rock cliff and into the Toce River below. The wind whipped our faces and hair while we took turns taking pictures of each other.
A hotel with restaurant and cafe’ (built in 1863 for the convenience of alpine hikers) stood on the other side of the bridge.
Just to the side of the hotel was a little chapel dedicated to the Madonna of the Neve (Madonna of the Snow). Of course, I couldn’t resist a look.
The chapel, built in 1621, was a tiny treasure of white, blue, and gold. A wooden tryptich hung above the small altar and two vibrant stained glass windows glowed from either wall. Colorful frescoes covered the curved ceiling.
My favorite piece was a vivid blue explosion of cloud with a dove flying across its face. I lit a candle for Jan, adding to the orange twinkles already glowing in rows before the altar. I felt like I was inside an ornate music box.
Ready for a refreshment, we entered the restaurant. No one else was inside as we strode up to the bar. In honor of nearby Crodo, I ordered Crodino, which the barista poured for us into short flute-shaped glasses sporting the word “Crodino.” Gianni had ordered something else, but when he heard me ordering Crodino, he thought it was a great idea and changed his order to the same.
Sitting next to a sun-dappled window overlooking the breathtaking Val di Formazza far below, we basked in this alpine beauty as we sipped our Crodino.