For members


Switzerland scraps one-franc home scheme after nobody signs up

A local council in the south of Switzerland has scrapped a scheme selling houses for ‘one franc’ after three years, with nobody signing up to buy one of the ‘rustico’ homes.

A Swiss flag against a stone house somewhere in the Swiss mountains

The Ticino village of Gambarogno, which has been selling abandoned houses — the so-called “rustici” — for one franc since 2019, will no longer do so.

Swiss tabloid Blick reported on Saturday that despite significant interest in the project, nobody has signed up due to the poor condition of the properties, the lack of infrastructure, the remoteness of the homes and the prohibitive costs. 

While some are supplied with water, they are without electricity and gas and are located far from roads or public transport. 

“We saw on the satellite images what a bad state the rustici are in”, said Thomas Kappeler, head of the Federal Office for Spatial Development, adding that many the houses can no longer be rebuilt.

For the moment at least, the sale of these properties is blocked, and the issue will be brought before the Federal Court.

Local politician Pierluigi Vaerini told Blick he doubted whether the project would ever be restarted. 

“It takes a good 45 minutes of walking to get to the hamlet. Because there is no road to go up there”, Vaerini said. 

“The reconstruction of a single rustico quickly costs 200,000 francs, rebounds the retired policeman. Frankly, I wonder if we will get there.”

Too good to be true

Rebuilding the villages has been talked about since the 1970s, with an Italian-style ‘one-franc home’ plan seen as the possible solution. 

However, as The Local has reported previously, while many of the Italian homes were in the centre of towns and connected to electricity and transport infrastructure, the isolation of the stone houses in Gambarogno is prohibitive. 

A former buyer, who wanted to remain nameless, told Swiss media once they received the paperwork on the home, they saw how much work was needed – and how difficult it would be to carry it out. 

‘Impossible’: Why Switzerland’s one franc homes are too good to be true

“We were interested in a rustico in Gambarogno two years ago and received the documentation for the project,” she said. 

She said contrary to what the council claims, the huts do not have views of the lake, while none of them have access to electricity or running water. 

“They have neither roofs nor windows, nor electricity or running water,” while regulations prevent the installation of a solar system. 

“So getting electricity up there is simply impossible at the moment.”

“The problem with the water could only be solved with a lot of effort. But there is still no sewer system.

“You could only heat (the house) with wood. “

The buyer said that the homes needed too much work and were too remote for even the most enthusiastic handyman or woman. 

“The rustici are in fact nothing more than ruins”. 

“There is no parking space in the nearest village of Indemini, and you have to walk an hour from there. How is that supposed to work with the shopping or with the disposal of waste?”

Building materials “can only be transported by helicopter and that costs 400 francs an hour” she said. 

Are you interested in the one franc homes and have you tried to get in touch with Swiss authorities? We’d love to hear from you: [email protected]. 

Contact details for the Comune di Gambarogno can be found here. 

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For members


How to keep safe and avoid problems when hiking in the Swiss Alps

Switzerland is a perfect place to go hiking with its thousands of marked trails. However, hundreds of people get into accidents while trekking every year, and some die. Here is what you need to know to be safe.

How to keep safe and avoid problems when hiking in the Swiss Alps

The Swiss mountains are one of the country’s most notable and most visited sites. There are activities to enjoy during all seasons and hiking the Swiss Alps is something that people of all ages enjoy in the winter or summer months.

However, mountain rescuers are called every year to help people in emergencies. Last year, there were 1,525 cases of hikers in distress – a number higher than in any other type of sport. In 2021, there were only 500 emergency calls from skiers and 342 made by mountain bikers.

READ ALSO: Why getting rescued in the Swiss Alps could cost you thousands

Bruno Hasler, who is responsible for mountain emergency statistics at the Swiss Alpine Club SAC, says that many people overestimate themselves and that is dangerous. “The hikers need to be better informed. The authorities must inform people as well as possible about the dangers of mountain hiking”, he told public broadcaster SRF.

What are the main recommendations when hiking?

The first recommendation is to make a realistic self-assessment. Mountain hiking is an endurance sport and people planning on doing a trek should avoid time pressure and choose their trails and times well.

In that sense, it is essential to make careful route planning and evaluate the length, altitude, difficulty and current conditions (including weather forecast) of the trek. Thunderstorms, snow, wind and cold significantly increase the risk of accidents.

Don’t forget to plan alternative routes and keep emergency rescue numbers on hand (REGA 1414 and the european emergency number 112).

READ ALSO : Should you buy supplemental health insurance in Switzerland?

Take practical equipment for your hiking conditions and the proper footwear too. In a backpack, take as little as possible but as much as necessary, aiming to keep it light but full of valuable things such as sun protection, a first aid kit, rescue blanket, water and a mobile phone.

The most common cause of accidents is falling because of slipping or tripping, so be sure to walk on marked paths (reducing the risk of getting lost) and keep a sure foot and safe pace.

Don’t forget to take regular breaks not only for eating and drinking (necessary to maintain performance and concentration) but also to enjoy the landscape.

Be responsible for the children in the group, treks that require long-lasting concentration are not suitable for children and in passages with risk of falling, and one adult can only look after one child, according to the Swiss Alpine Club. Small groups are the best for hiking because they ensure mutual assistance and flexibility at the same time.

Rega on a rescue mission in the Swiss Alps. Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The PACE checklist

The so-called PACE checklist helps hikers keep track of the most important things. PACE means plan, assess, consider, and evaluate, Swiss Alpine Club SAC says.

READ ALSO: Five beautiful Swiss villages located near Alpine lakes

Plan your route and duration and give yourself extra time and alternatives. Inform someone else about your trip. Assess if the hike is suitable for you, and do not undertake challenging trips yourself. Consider if you have what you need for the walk, like sturdy hiking shoes, protection against harsh weather and food and water supplies.

Finally, evaluate while hiking. See if you are too tired, keep eating, drinking and resting regularly and pay attention to the time you need and any changes in the weather. Do not leave the marked trail and turn back in time if necessary.

What to do in case of an accident?

If there are accidents during your hike, you should first provide life-saving help to anyone seriously injured and then call emergency services. Do not leave the wounded alone and do not put yourself at risk.

Mark the accident area clearly and give signals. The international emergency call sign consists of giving a sign (such as a flashing light or waving a cloth) six times a minute and then repeating it after one minute.

READ ALSO: Rega: What you need to know about Switzerland’s air rescue service

For helicopters, holding both your arms up (making a V shape) signals that you need help, while keeping one arm up and another down (forming a diagonal line with your arms) means you do not need help.

If you see animals, keep your distance and do not disturb them. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

What do I do if I see animals on my hike?

It’s common to find animals while hiking in the Swiss alps, especially cows in the pastures. A cow will protect their calves, so keep your distance. Do not touch the animals, and keep dogs on a leash.

Slowly and carefully move around at a distance and continue your trek.

You may occasionally find herds that dogs protect. It’s possible to inform yourself online in advance to find out where these herds are and avoid them. Still, remember that packs and their guardian dogs should be disturbed as little as possible. So stay calm and keep your distance – avoid any brisk movements.

If you are hiking with your dog, put it on a leash and slowly and calmly detour around the livestock.

If a guard dog barks and runs in your direction, try to stay calm and give the dog time to assess the situation. Stay far from the herd, don’t run or make sudden movements. You can use a stick to keep the dog at a distance by stretching them out, but don’t raise it or wave it around.

Once the dogs have accepted your presence and stopped barking, continue at a slow pace on your way.

Don’t forget: the Swiss rescue number is 1414 or you can also reach them using the European emergency number 112.