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Home to rich Alpine culinary traditions, the Canton Valais also preserves an agriculture still based on family farming that has remained mostly unchanged over time. Countless tourist attractions and natural treasures include the largest Alpine glacier and the biggest baroque castle in the country, not to mention Europe’s highest vineyard.
It’s well worth taking the time to discover the many facets of this fascinating corner of Switzerland.
In collaboration with Valais Wallis Promotion, Slow Food Switzerland is working to define and propose nine Slow Food Travel destinations in the Canton of Valais over the next 3 years.
The first ones to go live, and which we present to you, are the Fully and Grand Entremont regions.
The Grand Entremont
A historic crossroads between the northern and southern Alps, the Grand Entremont region has been a favored place of transit since Roman times. Already millennia ago, Hannibal crossed here with his elephants, with Napoleon later following in his footsteps.
Today the Great St Bernard Pass continues to serve as a link between the Canton Valais and the Valle d’Aosta in Italy. Nestled at the feet of Mont Blanc and the Combins, its valleys preserve ancient agricultural traditions that are still very much alive today.
Every summer, livestock continue to be taken up to the many high-altitude pastures, where they are left to graze freely, and where cheeses are made following ancestral recipes. The homeland of raclette and the famed Alpine rescue dogs offers endless new experiences and sites of international interest to visitors who can take the time to discover it.
Spread across a granite slope, the fertile winemaking region of Fully is divided into seven lowland communes and eight low mountain villages. Below chestnut woods, the vine-planted terraces paint the hillsides with beautiful colors that change with the seasons.
This is the land of Petite Arvine, a grape variety that gives its best here in the exceptional climate, halfway between the lowlands and the mountains. This is an area that keeps a host of new delights in store for both residents and visitors.
Region Dents du Midi
Seven steep alpine peaks make up the Dents du Midi, facing the verdant Val d’Illiez and its rich pastures. Six villages dot this land, which is steeped in a cheese-making tradition that is still alive and well. Straddling the border between France (Haute-Savoie) and Switzerland, the Portes du Soleil offers a vast area of relaxation throughout the seasons, where you can enjoy delightful hikes as well as magnificent cycling and skiing routes.
Part of the region’s heritage, the Val d’Illiez Salée is a leavened pastry covered with a filling – sablé – which is made of butter, flour and cinnamon, while apples, pears, rhubarb or white wine may commonly be added to the basic recipe. This Ark of Taste product is served at breakfast for a trial by all Slow Food Travel stakeholders.
Gastronomic itineraries in Canton Valais
Wild plants and bread
In Sarreyer, a classic Swiss village perched on the southern slope of the Val de Bagnes, you’ll learn about how wild plants are harvested and processed and follow how bread is made, from the fields to the communal oven. Along the way you’ll visit a mill that uniquely combines a sawmill, a system for pressing fruit and a grindstone for grains, all powered by the same waterwheel.
Then at the local restaurant you’ll sample delicious dishes made entirely using regional products.
Discover the gastronomic heritage of Bruson, the world capital of raclette. Here you’ll learn the secrets of making quality cheese, from how the livestock are reared to the aging of the final product. And, of course, there will be plenty of time dedicated to the pleasures of tasting.
Water, cultivated plants and fondue
Close to Sembrancher you’ll visit the spring, whose water is renowned for its sensory qualities and health benefits, as well as admiring the fields planted with medicinal plants and aromatic herbs that are harvested and dried here to use in many popular local products, including cosmetics, sweets, and herbal teas.
At lunchtime, you can sample fondue from within a horse-drawn carriage while enjoying the passing villages and scenery.
From the shore of Lake Champex you can try your hand at catching brown trout, brook trout and lake trout, before sampling dishes that make the most of the local lake fish in one of the commune’s restaurants.
Many footpaths offering breathtaking scenery branch off from the main road between the Great St Bernard Pass and the floor of the Val de Bagnes. You can spend the night in mountain huts, chalets or campsites in the midst of ibex, chamois and marmot territory, where herds of cows and flocks of sheep are brought up to find the best pastures.
Itineraries are punctuated by visits to Alpine dairies where you can see how mountain cheeses are made following ancient tradition.
In Region Dents du Midi you may scroll the alpine farms and discover the diversity of local products on an e-bike tour.
In Le Châble, a hamlet outside Bagnes, the president of Slow Food Valais will offer a culinary tour of the products and traditional wisdom safeguarded thanks to Slow Food’s Ark of Taste project.
Then, in local towns like Bonatchiesse, Bourg-St-Pierre and Champex, you can discover the authentic flavors of the Canton Valais. It would be a shame to leave without a classic basket of typical local products.
Around Fully you will have the chance to taste refined wines made from particularly emblematic or rare varieties. Winemakers will welcome you to their wineries to show you how they work, sharing the long history of vine growing in the Valais region.
And much more…
Season after season, Slow Food Travel can’t wait to help you discover its regions from a local perspective.
For more information and individual or group bookings, contact email@example.com or visit www.slowfood-travel.ch