Ticino: Italian Switzerland – The Best of Both Worlds
The southern Swiss canton of Ticino is the only canton that is entirely Italian-speaking. Often dubbed “where Swiss efficiency speaks Italian” Ticino Turismo’s current strap-line “The Sunny Side of Switzerland”, Ticino is a glorious blend of everything that is good about Italy and the clean, orderly Swiss modus operandi. Its Mediterranean temperatures and southern European outlook give it a unique feel – it really is the best of both worlds.
Have a look at our 11-day, flight-free Discover Ticino holiday suggestion
When you check into your hotel in Ticino, you will be presented with your Ticino Ticket. This is valid for travel on all trains and buses within the canton, so you can visit a whole array of attractions quickly and easily on the excellent and efficient public transport network and receive a 30% discount on entrance fees when you get there. There are also 25% discounts on the boat networks of Lake Lugano and the Swiss portion of Lake Maggiore.
Lugano and its Lake
Lugano, Ticino’s largest town, is not only Switzerland’s third most important financial centre but also a town of parks and flowers, villas and sacred buildings. With its Mediterranean flair, Lugano combines the personal touch of a small town with the buzz of an international city.
With its Mediterranean-style piazzas and arcades, and numerous parks with sub-tropical plants such as the Parco Civico on the shores of the lake invite you to laze around, Lugano offers a great wealth of diversity. The Belvedere Gardens are situated alongside the lake, where you can find numerous sub-tropical plants and examples of modern art.
Monte San Salvatore and Monte Brè, overlooking the city, offer an outstanding view of the town, the lake and the alpine scenery. From Monte Brè there is a footpath down to the village of Brè, which has maintained its typical Ticinese village centre, which has been enhanced by works of art. From the San Salvatore mountain another popular hike leads through the beautifully positioned Carona to Lake Lugano at the village of Morcote. Taking a boat trip back to Lugano is a splendid way to round off the day. Other excursions are to the fishing village of Gandria, up the Monte San Giorgio or the Monte Generoso.
Bellinzona’s picturesque piazzas, the courtyards and the neo-Classical, Italian-style theatre, and the beautifully-restored old houses narrate the story of what is culturally a Lombardian town. In its alleyways you will find richly-decorated houses and stunning churches. However, behind the austere charm of the medieval town is all the effervescent life of a modern hangout. A number of boutiques and cafés offering delicacies invite you to linger, taste and window-shop. Each Saturday there is a large market on the Piazza Nosetto square.
Bellinzona’s fortifications are among the most relevant examples of medieval defensive architecture in the Alps, – they have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. From Castelgrande, Bellinzona’s oldest and mightiest castle, there is a beautiful view over the Old Town and the surrounding area. A small museum in the Castelgrande charts the history of Bellinzona’s castles and town centre.
Locarno and Lake Maggiore
Southern plants such as palm trees or lemon trees flourish in Locarno and give the city its special charm. The heart of the city is the Piazza Grande, well-known for its annual film festival. The narrow lanes of the Old Town all lead to the Piazza. Castello Visconteo, a castle dating back to the 12th century, lies at the edge of the Old Town.
The pilgrimage church of Madonna del Sasso is located above Locarno, in Orselina. The church
is said to have been established as a result of an appearance of the Virgin Mary. It is the most notable sight in Locarno, and boasts an extraordinary view of the city, the lake and the mountains.
Five reasons to visit Ticino in 2017
1. Gotthard Base Tunnel – this 35-mile tunnel opened in December 2016 and cuts through the Alps shaving an hour off the journey from northern Switzerland. Don’t worry about missing out on the views – you can use your Ticino Ticket to explore the upper regions of the Gotthard on local trains once you get to Ticino.
2. Best-value region of Switzerland – due in part to competition from neighbouring Italy, prices in Ticino are markedly lower than in other regions of Switzerland such as Lucerne or Interlaken, so its not as expensive as you might think.
3. Alternative to the Italian Lakes – at Lakes such as Como and Garda, prices can be exceptionally high and the best places are often fully-booked at peak times. Switch your plans to equally-beautiful Lake Lugano and you will enjoy more space, not quite so many tourists and a more authentic holiday experience.
4. Great travel connections – if you are travelling to or from Italy, Ticino is the ideal stopover to “bookend” your Italian experience. You can travel from London to Bellinzona or Lugano on three trains in one comfortable day of travel. Milan is a short hop away, where you can change to reach pretty much anywhere in Italy.
5. Ticino Ticket – nowhere else in Switzerland offers such a generous deal. Complimentary travel pass for the entire region on trains and buses for the duration of your stay. You also receive a 50% discount on many attractions and 25% on boats on Lake Lugano and the Swiss portion of Maggiore.
Ticino on video (courtesy of Ticino Turismo)
Our suggested holiday itinerary:
This holiday takes in the three main centres of Ticino: Bellinzona, Lugano and Locarno. It has the added bonus of a complimentary Ticino Ticket for the duration of your stay giving you freedom to explore the canton on the excellent public transport system.