Ticino through a child’s eye
The Valle Verzasca is situated in the southern Alps. It is a place of magical lakes, stunning valleys, unspoilt nature and home to a unique climate. To grow up in this region of the Ticino is a truly unforgettable experience. Many members of the Hotel Eden Roc staff, like Maddalena Mora, had the good fortune of spending their childhood here. Maddalena is officially the hotel’s florist, but her free time is spent creating art; something she has been passionate about since she was young. Her colourful drawings adorn the pages of the Eden News, the weekly hotel newspaper that is displayed in our guest rooms.
Maddalena is also working on something special for our younger guests: a book of experiences from her childhood that portrays Ticino through a child’s eyes and brings it to life in a fun and playful fashion.
Maddalena talks to us about how this project came about and what it means to her.
The children’s book project was all your idea. How did it come about?
The idea materialised over the course of a few conversations with our hotel director Simon Spiller. I had asked myself what we could offer younger guests at the hotel. As a child, I was interested in so many aspects of my surroundings, and nothing inspired my imagination more than reading with my parents.
What’s the book about? What kind of stories do you tell?
The story is about a brother and sister who have an encounter with a magical fairy. Thanks to this, they have the chance to cross the Valle Verzasca and discover its wonders.
The valley is a place that’s very dear to my heart – I grew up there and spent many magical winters and summers there. It’s a wonderful place for a child to play. You savour it; you enjoy being outdoors; you get to know and appreciate nature. Later, you also realise how incredibly beautiful this area is. Nature can be so incredible, and it gives me great pleasure to share my love for this very special place with children.
What does it mean to grow up in this region?
Ticino is known as Switzerland’s suntrap. For me, every day is like a holiday: I’m constantly reliving memories from my childhood. The beauty of Lake Maggiore and the mountains, the sun that almost always shines and the many places to discover… Children will find that they’ll always return here, even once they’re grown up.
What are your most treasured childhood memories?
I‘ve always dreamt of flying. As soon as I had the chance, I jumped off walls or out of trees and tried to fly. I even tied balloons to my hands and feet! We had a high wall in our garden at home and my father, much to my amusement, told me to jump off the wall like a crazy person and spread out my arms and legs like a starfish. Of course, his arms were waiting to catch me safely at the bottom.
The book won’t be printed like ordinary books – in fact, it will look quite different. How can we picture it?
The book is screen printed – one of the earliest printing techniques still used today, particularly for works with short print runs.
The quality of the paper is quite unusual: it’s rough and porous like writing paper, and the print is slightly raised. You can see the colour characteristics. The page almost vibrates under the fingers when you touch it.
It’s not perfect, and that’s what makes it each copy unique. There are 400 copies, which is already quite a high number for this type of printing. It won’t be possible to make any more once the print run is finished, since the frames will be washed for a new order. Today, especially, I think it’s nice to try to create something irreplaceable.
So the books aren’t just for reading, but for colouring in?
Exactly. I chose the paper because I wanted it to be perfect even for the youngest children, to allow them to interact with the story by drawing.
Up until now you’ve always been an artist; now you’re a writer, too. How did you find it? Do you want to do more writing in the future?
Writing has always been an outlet for me. I often write at home, but I’ve never attempted a children’s book before. It was fun – even though it’s not at all easy, because it’s very abstract. We think with an adult’s mind. Writing for children is a unique challenge.
As for your second question, I don’t yet have an answer; whatever will be will be. I know for certain, however, that I’ll continue to draw.
Tell us a bit about the art scene in Ascona and the surrounding area.
It’s a fallacy that there are no more artists – on the contrary, there are many. But places for them to show their art are increasingly hard to find. Art needs space to express itself, so I’d say this isn’t a very favourable state of affairs.
I know many young artists who want and need to express themselves – in music, in theatre, in painting and in sculpture. Unfortunately, there are very few places where they can do so freely.
Over the last few months, I and two other young artists – a painter and a caricaturist – have worked together to set up a space in Locarno where we can give courses and create. We also offer live music events, dance events and workshops.
We can’t talk about spaces for art without mentioning Casa Epper, which has fantastic potential following its renovation. It would be great if it could be used to lend a new face to art in Ascona and the surrounding region. The building is the former home of the artist Ignaz Epper, who is the leading exponent of Swiss expressionism. The Hotel Eden Roc bought Casa Epper with the intention to create a meeting place for artists and art lovers, to revive the art scene in Ascona. The town has such a great cultural heritage, and the hotel is proud to help preserve it. But that’s all I’m going to say for now. I’m sure I’ll be able to share more in the next blog post.
When can we expect to see the books?
If everything goes as planned, the books will be available to read in the hotel from September. I’m really looking forward to it!