Val Bregaglia
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The Engadine continues to rise gently for 16km beyond St Moritz, past the little resort villages of Silvaplana and Sils on their own lakes, to the Maloja Pass (1815m). Tough hiking trails to the north climb into the mountains up to the Lunghin Pass, a rare triple watershed: from this point, the Inn flows to the Danube, and from there to the Black Sea; the Julier flows via the Rhine to the North Sea; and the Maira flows into the Po, and then into the Mediterranean.

From Maloja, the road suddenly tumbles off the cliff edge and down in a series of concertina switchbacks into the beautiful Val Bregaglia (Bergell in German), one of Graubünden’s three Italian-speaking valleys – the others are Mesolcina and Poschiavo. Suddenly, everything is different: the crisp air of the Alps is replaced by the warm breezes of the south, pine forests and rocky, snowy crags by lush, green vegetation, and sgraffitied bungalows by flinty, slate-roofed cottages.

Roughly 14km from the pass is the main village of the valley, Vicosoprano, an attractive, quiet place bypassed by the main road which heads on south through tiny Stampa, birthplace of the painter Augusto Giacometti and his son, the sculptor Alberto, and home to the valley’s tourist office (Mon–Fri 9–11.30am & 3–5.30pm; July–Sept also Sat 9–11.30am; 081/822 15 55). The road shadows the river, coiling on down the valley past ruined hilltop castles and isolated, crumbling roadside churches.

From the hamlet of Promontogno, 3km west of Stampa and about the same distance east of the border village Castasegna, postbuses follow a narrow branch road which climbs the north wall of the valley to SOGLIO. This eyrie of a hamlet, narrow, cobbled alleys lined with close-set stone buildings, offers tremendous panoramic views over the valley: its lofty terrace sits opposite the 3300-metre Pizzo Badile, and is backed by the equally lofty Piz dal Märc and Piz Duan. The village is the focus of a wealth of mountain walks, easy ones following a valley-side route down to Stampa (2hr), as well as longer high-level hikes back to Vicosoprano, or up through the treeline behind the village. But there are lazier reasons to spend a day or three in Soglio: the Palazzo Salis in the village (081/822 12 08, fax 822 16 00; Easter–Oct) is one of Switzerland’s more extraordinary hotels. Soglio was the seat of the Von Salis family long before 1630, when the palazzo was constructed, and the hotelis still owned by the same family today. The whole place is an eye-opening experience, from the echoing vaulted hall, crammed with antique furniture, chaise longues, open fireplaces and suits of armour, to its grand guest rooms (none en suite), stone-floored down below, wood-floored above, complete with four-poster beds and antique stoves.

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