Ticino

Ticino - Bellinzona Castle

Ticino is a canton (like a state) in Southern Switzerland.  It is an area of Italian speaking Swiss people.  The area is very beautiful with many lakes surrounded by mountains.  Although it is still a proud Swiss canton, it is very different from other areas of Switzerland because it is south of most other regions and because of its Italian influence. 

Things you MUST see/do:

Lake Maggiore

Ascona – This is a wonderful little town along the water of Lake Maggiore.  Ascona has a long stretch of beach that is a favourite location for locals and tourists to lounge around and enjoy some sun and swimming.  They also have a great walkway along the water to walk along and it is lined with great little cafes and restaurants, which are perfect for a meal or a coffee break.

Locarno – Right next to Ascona on the shores of Lake Maggiore, Locarno is another small Swiss town with a lot of character.  It is known in Europe for its international film festival that occurs in August each year, but it has much more to offer.  It has its own lakefront walkway that is mostly park area, so it is a nice setting for a stroll!  The main piazza has many stores and cafes to enjoy.

Isole di Brissago – Isole di Brissago is an island of botanical gardens.  It is a great idea to take a lake cruise (by ferry or otherwise) and spend some time in the botanical gardens (fee for entry).

Lugano

City Park – The largest green space in Lugano and the home of the fine art museum, the City Park is a wonderful place to stroll along the edge of the lake or sit and enjoy the surroundings.  We recommend this as a picnic spot, as it is very pretty with many different coloured flowers all year round and good people watching.

Waterfront –There is a nice walkway right along the lake, the length of the whole town.  Take a stroll along it, by many mulberry bushes and see all the action out on the water.  There are many paddle boats lining the shore to go on the water or get a boat tour from the marina.

Piazza della Riforma – Considered to be the cultural hub of the town, Piazza della Riforma is a beautiful square in the heart of Lugano.  It is surrounded by Italian influenced buildings with Swiss flare.  There are plenty of cafés in the square with patios to sit at and people watch.  Check out the city hall (yellow building), located in this square.

Church of San Rocco – Originally built in the 17th century, the Church of San Rocco is named after the saint (St. Rocco) who protected the people of Lugano from the plague.  The creamy coloured façade was added around 1910.  The church is worth checking out for its frescos and altar.

Piazza Indipendenza – A nice grass square, but worth checking out simply because of the strange head on its side statue by polish sculptor Igor Mitoraj.

Church of St. Mary of the Angels – The Church of St. Mary of the Angels was originally part of a monastery, but is now separated.  The church was built in the late 15th and early 16th centuries in a Romanesque style.  It is most famous for being the home of works by Bernardino Luini (the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ and the Last Supper).  They are said to be some of the best frescoes in Switzerland.

Giardino Belvedere – A garden located on the waterfront of Lugano, Giardino Belvedere melds art and nature together in a wonderful display.  The gardens are set up with great grassy areas and flowers interspersed with sculptures from mostly local artists.  What a great idea!

Grand Café al Porto – A great and popular café in Lugano that has been around since the early 19th century.  Walk into the café (even if not ordering anything) and check out the spot above the fireplace that says 1803, this is the date the café opened!

Bellinzona

The Medieval Castles – Throughout history, Bellinzona has been an important traveling route past the Alpine areas of Switzerland, so there was much conflict to control the area.  Therefore, three castles of different sizes were built to help protect the town from invasions.  The current buildings are from the middle ages.  The largest, the appropriately named Castelgrande, is in the heart of the town up on a rock hill.  The middle castle sits perched a little up the hill surrounding Bellinzona and the smallest is even further up the same hill.  All three are medieval castles, being built in the 15th century.  They are spectacular fortifications that are a must see for those in the area.  Make sure to go up to the Castelgrande.  It has many interesting parts, including a lookout tower with great views of the town, a nice pond, a museum of the history of the castle and a restaurant.  The most spectacular part to see is the “city wall” called the Murata.  It is a cement structure with double walls and a walkway between them.  The walkway is made up of well-maintained grass that runs for a long distance along the Murata.

Old Town – As Bellinzona has been such an important travel byway through the mountains, it is filled with many classic buildings.  The Old Town is a walk-only section of the town and contains many old middle age and more recent buildings.  It is a quaint town and worth strolling around.  The Piazza del Sole is a nice open square to relax in at the base of Castelgrande.

Travels4Couples highly recommended EXPERIENCES:

Eat Pizza and Pasta – Being the Italian-speaking section of Switzerland, there are lots of traditional Italian restaurants in Ticino as well.  The food served in Ticino is as good as any other Italian city that comes to mind.  Any traditional Italian food would be worth trying, but our two favourites are the pizza and pasta dishes and we were not disappointed by these in Ticino!

Try some Gelato – Again being in the Italian region of Switzerland, their specialties are Italian.  Therefore, it is essential to have some gelato while there.  We particularly recommend the gelateria right on the water in Lugano.

Lake Maggiore

Cruise on the Lake – There are many different ways to travel along the lake.  The easiest is to take a ferry.  The ferry stops at many different places along the lake, so take some time to tour around the other towns.  There are some great views from the boats on the water to the surrounding cities.

Drive up Verzasca Valley – The amazingly scenic Verzasca Valley follows one of Lake Maggiore’s tributaries, the Verzasca River, up into the mountains.  There are many small towns to drive through and the water of the river is a beautiful green colour.  The dam at the entrance to the valley is the dam that James Bond jumps off of in Golden Eye and there may be an opportunity to glimpse daredevil’s bungee jumping off the dam.

Lugano

Travel up a funicular – There are two different mountains around Lugano, San Salvatore and Mont Bre.  There are funicular railways up both of these mountains that can be taken from the town.  Both will give very nice views of the city and lake, however, we did not have time to climb either so we don’t know which one gives the best view.

Picnic in City Park – It is very nice to sit at the water’s edge, surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens and watch the happenings of the water while enjoying lunch.  This was the setting for our lunch in the City Park in Lugano.  It is definitely a favourite activity of ours.

Travels4Couples #1 ROMANTIC thing to do in Ticino:

Stay in accommodation with a view of Lake Maggiore – We stayed in a small village called San Nazzaro that is located on the opposite side of the lake from Locarno and Ascona and is up on the surrounding hills.  From the balcony of our condo, the views over the lake were magnificent.  We loved sitting out on the balcony in the evenings with a glass of wine taking in the amazing view.  It is definitely a must while in Ticino.