Story: A sparkle in the Alps

Nepal in miniature, with crystals, biscuits and snowshoes

The Bedretto Valley hidden treasures, along with a wild, uncontaminated nature. The perfect place for a day out with the family, where you can even try the famous pastries.

Glittering treasures hidden away in the heart of Europe, amidst impenetrable rocky walls and rugged passes, concealed among majestic and awe-inspiring mountains where eagles and ibexes reign supreme. Clear or coloured, pointy and solid, they have always symbolised strength and resistance. The Bedretto Valley has all this to offer, along with a wild, uncontaminated nature. The perfect place for a day out with the family, where you can even try the famous pastries.

THE CHARACTER

Agnese and Marco Leonardi, Impianti Turistici Cioss Prato

Agnese and Marco Leonardi, Impianti Turistici Cioss Prato
Sometimes you don’t find anything for days, then suddenly you see a crystal. It’s like the first time all over again.

Agnese, tell us how everything started?

Marco is originally from the Bedretto Valley. His parents ran a restaurant and he was a carpenter. I moved to the Leventina Valley when I was a teenager. I was born in Valchiavenna, near Lake Como. When Marco and I got married we decided to move to Villa Bedretto, in this amazingly quiet and peaceful valley. I’ve always loved mountains. I went to Nepal when I was 21 and I’ve found Nepal in miniature here. One day we said to each other “Why don’t we run a ski lift in the valley?” and we took over the Cioss Prato lift.

So do people mostly come here in winter?

The Bedretto Valley is amazing all year round. We started with that activity because new operators were needed for the small lift, established in the 1970s by a group of friends. We took it over in 2004. Various crosscountry skiing pistes and a number of snowshoe routes pass nearby. These routes have been part of SwitzerlandMobility since 2018, attracting people from all over Switzerland.

Despite being an open valley offering access at both ends, those who choose this route know that it’s neither the most convenient nor the quickest. Just a few minutes after entering the gateway to Ticino or the last stop before the vast expanses of the Alps, you feel as though you’re in a place outside this world, as relaxing and calm as a restorative holiday ought to be.

In Cioss Prato there’s a play park with towers and castles, a ski lift in winter, trails dotted with fascinating objects, tasty desserts and a cave full of crystals. All this has been developed by Agnese and Marco Leonardi, a young couple who decided to live in this idyllic valley with their two children. 

Snow is part of its identity. In the winter the road is sometimes closed due to the risk of avalanches and the valley has been completely cut off in the past. However, when everything is covered in a thick white blanket it’s like being in a fairy tale.

One day there were two women outside who had left Argovia early in the day to explore the Bedretto Valley with their snowshoes.

Marco’s like a volcano, thinking of lots of ideas at the same time.

From glistening snow to sparkling crystals: Marco, as well as catering for children here in Cioss Prato, you’ve also provided visibility for some hidden treasures. Why is that?

“We’d always wanted to create a play park, but we started out gradually, one step at a time. We decided to develop an additional attraction for our guests, who want to enjoy nature and the landscape. And so we made room for crystals too: a family passion that has been handed down over the generations.”

Pro tip
Gold and Crystals. There’s an old gold mine in Malcantone that was used to extract the precious metal until 1952. It’s open to visitors today, revealing the secrets of this activity.
The Bedretto Valley is the starting point for numerous hiking trails that even lead as far as the Saint Gotthard Pass and the Maggia Valley.
The crystal cave is the perfect place to discover real hidden gems.

People have always been fascinated by crystals, attributing them with inexplicable powers. These objects are also a symbol of power and are still used today for special gifts. These crystals come from the depths of the Gotthard, a very important mountain in Switzerland. My father Gilberto has always loved looking for crystals and I often accompany him.

He’s found some stunning ones over the years and we decided to put the best examples on display in the cave of crystals we’ve developed here. It’s a real immersive experience for visitors. 

What’s it like when you make your way into the very heart of the rock?

“The mountain conceals some beautiful treasures. It’s a really moving experience when you come across these sparkling rocks that are 15 million years old. You might not find anything for days and then suddenly there’s a crystal. It’s like the first time all over again. Sparkling crystals raise some deep questions. They’re more than just a stone. Looking for crystals is a real passion.”

As well as crystals from the heart of the Alps, you also offer sugar crystals: you make some excellent pastries here. What’s the secret recipe Agnese?

“Everyone has their own recipe. These pastries have been made throughout the Bedretto Valley since the late 1800s. Our recipe was handed down to us by Marco’s aunt. I’m always happy to see satisfaction sparkling on the faces of those who eat them, especially children.”

“This pastry recipe was handed down to us by Marco’s aunt.”

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