Our Swiss Ticino Untour offers the perfect marriage of Italian romance and Swiss efficiency, with spectacular hikes, excellent train connections, and picturesque lakeside towns.
Here are 6 reasons to fall in love with Locarno, homebase of our Swiss Ticino Untour.
Locarno was settled before Roman times and was an important glass-making center. Its continued prominence in the Middle Ages is seen in the ruins of the Visconti Castle. Then Locarno was in the hands of several noble families of Lombardi and it became an important market town.
Locarno suffered during the Protestant Reformation and in the 19th century due to severe economic conditions. When outsiders discovered Locarno at the start of the 20th century, the town begin to develop a tourist economy. Post-World War I peace conferences held at Locarno helped make its international reputation and gave it the title “Town of Peace.”
2. Great Scenery and Excellent Walking
Stroll the lakeshore promenade. Explore the alleyways of the old city and see exclusive homes, shops, cafés, and ristorantes in these 16th and 17th century buildings. Take the funicular up to Madonna del Sasso for a grand overview of the city and Lake Maggiore. There are also nice walks from Orselina offering a great view of the Swiss part of Lake Maggiore. And funiculars can take more serious hikers higher into the mountains.
There are excellent bike trails leading out of town. Consider bicycling from Locarno to Bellinzona or even further. The bike path is traffic free and practically without hills, as it follows the Ticino River across the flat plain of Magadino. You can rent a bike locally, and there are several picnic areas along the way.
4. Good Eating and Shopping on the Piazza Grande
Noted for its Italian cuisine, Locarno offers dozens of restaurants in all price ranges. There are numerous open-air cafés, romantic bistros and coffee houses, low-cost cafeterias, elegant and pricey formal restaurants, sandwich shops, pizzerias, fast-food joints, and even mountain houses.
The Piazza Grande is the main square of Locarno, home of the world-famous International Film Festival that occurs annually in early August, and shopping and dining center of the region. You’ll find dozens of shops, discount houses, vendors, boutiques, department stores, and bakeries tucked under the Lombardi arcades around the large cobbled square.
Lots of gems to discover! The Visconti Castle, built in the 14th century atop an older fortress, is perhaps the most interesting, especially because it has a museum collection of Roman glass from the region and because of the Rivellino, part of the castle’s outer fortifications that some experts attribute to da Vinci.
And if you like architecture, check out these six churches:
- the Renaissance-modified 13th century church of San Francesco
- the Romanesque church of San Vittore in Muralto
- the southern Gothic frescoes of the Locarno cemetery church of Santa Maria in Selva
- the unique combination of styles at the landmark Sanctuary of the Madonna del Sasso (of cappuccini monks) near the funicular station in Orselina
- the Baroque church of San Quirico in Minusio with its Romanesque tower
- Chiesa Nuova with its decorated stucco and elaborate inlaid and gilded wood
Locarno is also home to open-air markets of all kinds and sizes. On Thursdays, the Piazza Grande comes alive with its large weekly market (fish, salami, cheese, polenta). Fruits and vegetables can be purchased at the farmers’ market nearby, held daily in the early morning. A kind of flea market takes place daily at the Largo Zorzi. Support the local economy!
Check out all there is to see on our Swiss Ticino Untour and start planning your trip! Locarno is waiting for you.