"CORIPPO - POPULATION 12." This welcome sign might as well be posted at the entrance of this tiny hemlet in Switzerland.
Tucked away on the lush green slopes of Ticino's Verzasca Valley, the picturesque village of Corippo holds tons of character, history, and local flavor. When we recently stopped by Corippo, a handful of residents waved at us. We explored the cobblestone alleys, took pictures of the granite covered houses, marveled at the church tower and: we fell in love!
Meet Corippo, Switzerland's smallest commune
Without a doubt, this tiny mountain village has managed to maintain its rustic charm from centuries past. But unfortunately, the once thriving farming community of 300 inhabitants is now shuffling towards extinction. Like in other places, younger generations have moved to bigger towns in order to pursue a modern lifestyle.
Consequently, the population of Corippo has dwindled to only 12 residents. They are mostly retired singles with a median age of 75 years. At 55, Claudio Scettrini is the youngest inhabitant of Corippo - and the only one who still works. (The former mayor now focuses on forestry and sheep herding.)
A master plan for a scattered hotel: Albergo diffuso
To save this 300-year-old Ticino village from turning into a ghost town, the Fondazione Corippo 1975 has plans to convert it into a comprehensive hotel complex with rooms scattered about the village.
Fabio Giacomazzi, an architect and the president of the foundation, has presented the following concept: the only restaurant in the village will be the hotel's reception area, the square will be the lobby, the 30 unoccupied houses the hotel rooms and the streets will be the corridors!
Sustainable agriculture for a digital detox
There are also plans for goat farming, landscaping, as well as the planting of chestnut, hemp and rye trees. Using available resources, the project wants to revive the surrounding areas in a sustainable way. Given the steep terrain, our Ticino friend lets us in on a legend: the locals will attach a sack to their hens to prevent the eggs from rolling downhill...
Giacomazzi says that the village-turned-hotel will give tourists an opportunity for a digital detox. Tourists will immerse themselves in the untouched, centuries-old rustic beauty of the hamlet. They will also be able to explore cultural sites, hike the scenic Verzasca Valley and savor the local restaurants.
What's next in store for Corippo?
The full three-stage restoration plan comes with a price tag of $6.5 million. The foundation has raised only $2.7 million so far, through bank loans and public funding. In June 2017, the project won the Swiss hotel and restaurant association's Hotel Innovation Award. However, there are still many problems to overcome, like fixing issues related to infrastructure, water supply, road access to the village and fundraising.
Once these issues are solved, Giacomazzi believes this tourism concept will save the village and bring it back to life. If all goes according to plan, Switzerland's first scattered hotel with up to 25 beds is set to open in summer 2019.
But in case you want to take a look at Corippo in the meantime, simply hop off the postal bus 321 at "Corippo, Bivio" and walk the remaining 20 minutes up the slope.
You will know you have arrived when a handful of kind residents wave at you!
(Feature photograph copyright Ester Abate/Wikimedia)