Something you would not expect in this valley in the High Alps is the Spanish district - Palazzi built in a style that you mostly find in Spain. It happened that the emigrants from Poschiavo who had become wealthy entrepreneurs in other countries - Spain e.g. - had the urge to come back to Poschiavo and retire there (see other areas in Graubünden - Sent, Bregaglia valley e.g.). So the architects Giovanni Sottovia and Tomaso Lardelli designed upscale houses for them, lined up at the southern end of the old town with cobbled street in front and gardens across that street.
Palazzi and gardens are very beautiful. The style of the Palazzi is ecclectic - one of them, IMO the most beautiful, is in Venetian neo-Gothic style. Definitely take the few minutes and have a closer look, also at the gardens with the wooden pavilions. The district is one the way from the old town (or train station) to Santa Maria Assunta.
The Historic Museum has other place beside the Palazzo Bassus-Mengotti: the Casa Tome, one of the former farmhouses right in the old town of Poschiavo and fortunately one of the few that experienced very little changes over the centuries. The core of the house dates from 1357, some minor construction works were done in 1450. It looks medieval all over - inside and outside.
The exhibit is focused on food and food production. Very interesting!
Open June - Oct, Tue - Fri, 14 - 17 h
The Historic Museum has its home in one of the most important mansions of the valley. It was built 1655 by Tommaso de Bassus, Capitano and Mayor. He chose a position outside the old borgo which was mostly overbuilt by farmhouses back then: He wanted to make clear he was one of the leaders in the region. The mansion was later sold to the Mengotti family who enlarged it by additions to the north and west in the 18th and 19th centuries. Inside it is very beautiful.
The first floor has an agricultural exhibit, the second floor is used for temporary exhibits (art). The third floor is devoted to the history of the valley.
Open: June - Oct on Tue - Fri from 14 to 17 h
Casa Console is another highlight of Poschiavo. On one hand it is an excellent example for the transformation of farmhouses into typical palazzi-like townhouse that happened in the town often in the 19th century (here in 1856). Owner was Antonio Semadeni, local coffeehouse owner who was later consul in Warsaw/Poland (hence the name of the house). The style of the Casa is classicistic: strict, symmetrical structure of the plastered facade, rich stucco decorations, the interior with beautiful wooden floors, stucco ceilings with frescos etc.
On the other hand you find a lovely art museum with wonderful works of the Romantic period of the 19th century. Featured artists are mostly Swiss and German: Spitzweg, von Lenbach, Anker, Hodler, Zünd, Segantini ...)
Open daily except Mondays 11 - 16 h.
Originally reformation was very successful in the valley. In 1589 10 out of 13 churches were protestant ones. But counter-reformation hit hard, and violently. On 25th April 1623 20 protestants were murdered by catholics. Afterward protestant service was completely forbidden. Only a arbitral verdict of the of the canton's countil ("Drei Bünde") in 1642 resulted in an understanding between the two confessions.
Right that same year the protestants started building their own church. Very typical for a protestant church after Zwingli's and Calvin's rules it is a simple rectangular hall without a separate choir. Accentuating the spoken word as essential part of the service the Baroque pulpit of carved wood dominates the room. The beautiful Baroque organ is a later addition as well as the steeple which was built 1677-85 but only decorated in 1715 - that way the protestants tried keeping up with the catholics.
The medieval (13th century) tower is *the* landmark in the centre of Poschiavo. Originally built as fortified residence of the Bishop of Como's reeve and later owned by the Ogiati family, agents of the Viscontis in Milan, the municipality bought the tower in 1438. In the 16th century the tower and the surrounding houses underwent major construction works and were turned into the town hall.
In the following centuries several renovations and additions were made. The meeting hall got a beautiful wooden ceiling in the 17th century, the tower got another storey in 1651, renovations of the facades were made in 1712, 1911 and 1976/77.
You're free to wander around inside during office hours. I had no time :(
The old convent is a result of the counter-reformation. It was built right in the centre of Poschiavo in the second half of the 17th century, incorporating several private houses from the 14th century and a medieval residential tower into the Baroque structure of the convent. First Ursuline nuns moved into the convent but in 1684 they accepted the rules of the Augustine order.
In 1972 the nuns moved to a new convent located outside the town south of Santa Maria Assunta, designed by Luigi Caccia Dominioni (from Milan). The old convent buildings were turned into a cultural centre run by the nuns. Thus you can visit Mon-Sat - upon appointment in advance - the buildings. You can apparently see the chapel and a collection of collages of German artist Wolfgang Hildesheimer who has lived in Poschiavo for a long time.
The Ossuary is part of the Oratorio Sant'Anna, it actually forms the entrance to the chapel. Unfortunately I had no time seeing the interior of the chapel (which is said to be a beautiful Baroque room) - it is open only on Wednesdays 14 -17 h in summer - so I will concentrate on the Ossuary here.
Built in 1732 as a loggia to the chapel it has been used as Ossuary since 1903. The skulls on display (and the rest of the skeletons) were found in the underground of the church San Vittore during the renovations 1902-04. While the skeletons were buried under the square the is formed by San Vittore and the Oratorio Sant'Anna the skulls were taken to the loggia and then put on display there.
San Vittore is the catholic parish church of Poschiavo. The present building overall looks Gothic but its parts are actually from different centuries: The steeple is from the first half of the 13th century, the choir dates from 1497, the nave is from 1503 - choir and nave were designed by different architects! A thorough renovation of the interior was done 1902-04: aiming for a Gothic appearance they removed not only all the stucco works of the 17th century and other Baroque interior but - oddly enough - also the original colourful Gothic stained-glass windows and frescos from about 1503. The latter disappeared under white colour but were uncovered and restored partially in the meantime.
Non-typical for Gothic architecture the main nave is more wide than tall. It is also rather dark - which is quite typical for Neo-Gothic churches. And the interior is mostly from that era, including most of the pews, frescos, the altars ...
Quite remarkable is the ornate, carved wooden door of the western facade.
Probably the architectural highlight in the whole valley is the church Santa Maria Assunta, located about 200 m south of Poschiavo's borgo. It was built 1692 - 1712. Typical for Baroque architecture it has some pathos and theatrical appearance - still somewhat isolated, slightly elevated position, cottonwoods marking each corner, wide stairs leading up to a terrace in front of the entrance.
The festive interior with excellent stucco works and frescos is dominated by the dome with the fresco by Giuseppe Brina (from Bergamo, 1719) depicting Mary's assumption. The pulpit is a late Renaissance work from San Vittore (which is nowaday catholic Parish church of Poschiavo).
Get the key from the tourist office in the train station (free, ID card as deposit).
Of all the beautiful spots in Valposchiavo (and there are many!) one of my favorites is the little church of San Romerio. It is situated on the left side of the valley, about 800 meters above the lake. If you are riding in the Bernina Express or driving down the valley, when you approach the end of the Lake Poschiavo, have a look high up to the left - suddendly you see the little church appearing from behind the cliffs.
The church is probably the oldest in the whole valley, it was constructed in the year 1055, directly on the upper edge of the cliff left by the rockfall which caused the creation of Lake Poschiavo.
If you have the time, the best way to reach San Romerio is by foot. From Poschiavo it's about a three and a half hour hike up, all along well marked mountain trails. If that is too much for you, you can also take the train to Brusio and from there the "Autopostale", a bus going up to the little village Viano, from where San Romerio is reached in about one hour. The "very lazy" variant is to take your car and drive all the way up to Predasc, but you still have to walk the last two kilometers.
There is a little restaurant in the houses behind the church, so you don't have to worry about being hungry or thirsty. You can also ask the landlord for the key to the church, so you can visit inside, go down to the crypt or pull the strings of the church bell (don't exagerate though!).
Due to economic difficulties lots of local inhabitants were forced to leave their country and find their luck elsewhere. A lot of them earned a lot in Spain as confectioners and returned after their retirement. They had houses constructed by the Italian architect Giovanni Sottovia from 1857 till 1911. It's actually one street lined with these impressive buildings.
This late gotic catholic church was first mentioned in 824 as a different church belonging to the Saint Denis monastery in Paris. But even before then a church was already in this spot. The current church has been renovated several times first in 1212. The Roman bell tower is from that time. The main entrance is made of wood in baroque style and dates around 1700. The church construction was finished in 1503. The altar carved out of wood is from the 17th century. But in 1902-04 all the baroque style has been taken out and replaced by neogotic style. Only the door is left. The pulpit can now be seen in the Santa Maria church. The gotic windows are in the vault of the Swiss National Museum in Zurich. The last renovation with major redecorations was in 1987 after the big flood which covered the whole town with dirt and rubble.
In this little building which is the entrance to a chapel (not open to the public) for silent praying lie the skulls which have been excavated during renovation in 1902/3 of the San Vittore church next door. The building with its wrought iron windows is unique and the view to the interior is therefore excellent. Already in 1439 such a bone house in the present location was mentioned as existing.
This baroque church was built between 1692 and 1712 and it is considered as one of the most beautiful in Switzerland. Already in 1209 a church was mentioned in this particular spot.
The church has 3 altars, the biggest is covered by glass roof and the other two are in the side chapels. The one to the north shows the passion of Christ and the one to the south show a beautiful picture of Maria's wedding in the background. In summer the church is very popular for weddings. The church also houses the old pulpit of the San Vittore church from 1634 by Bulgarini.
Unfortunately, it was closed but there is a notice that the key can be had in the new monastery next door from 8-12 and 13.30-17 and from 12 till 13.30 in the Casa Console.