A lake that was once a village: one of the settlements of the Walsers, the ancient Germanic peoples who colonised the areas around Monte Rosa in the 13th century, is now beneath the surface of the Agaro Reservoir. In 1938, a dam was built to create the reservoir, thus flooding and concealing the very old village of Agaro, which had been inhabited by small family groups for seven centuries. Stories of subsistence and resistance, of disastrous avalanches and bold rebuilding, of ancient traditions and centuries-old memories are now a heritage guarded by waters in this part of the Ossola Valley.
Another lake, and other stories and legends: let us remain in the Alpe Devero Natural Park, at the Lago delle Streghe, Witches’ Lake. A tiny lake, compared to the previous one, with clear water that encloses a legendary story. A girl, a love story, witches and a choice between fleeting and eternal love: a fascinating story to which the origin of this tarn is still linked today, and the colours and transparency of which form an authentic natural beauty spot.
The “sasso scivolone”, or slide stone, might seem like the title of a cartoon. Yet this really odd name in reality is linked to a totally different story: it is a huge soapstone glacial erratic located in Malesco, in the Vigezzo Valley, to which folk tradition has attributed the power to increase fertility over the centuries. Sliding on the hollowed surface of the stone was a popular tradition for women believing in ancient creeds: the memory of this tradition is still deep-rooted and tangible, right next to another mysterious stone covered with round incisions called cuppelle, a primitive altar for sacrificial rituals.
One of the most ancient buildings in the Ossola Valley, the only one of its kind in the entire alpine region, and still well-preserved, is a place of pure mystery. The Tempietto Lepontico in Roldo, in the territory of Montecrestese, just a few kilometres from Domodossola, dates from very long ago and amazes visitors for many reasons. The most curious of them is perhaps linked to the relationship between sunlight and the ancient stone structure. The sun’s rays are able to enter the building only from 23 September until 21 March and the brightest light coincides with a precise moment: midday on 22 December each year. Is this just chance or was it intended?
The journey through time reveals extraordinary treasures in the Lower Ossola area too. Montorfano, the “mountain separated from the others”, in the territory of Mergozzo. A place of history and fascination, like those that surround a magnificent Christian temple, the Church of San Giovanni Battista, one of the best-preserved Romanesque churches in the whole Ossola Valley. The building inspires beauty and mystery, sensations that are also easy to experience by walking around the perimeter of another previous church located beside the present one: a very ancient place of worship, that has crossed the centuries and arrived in the present times as a valuable testimony.