Ticino is a region of Switzerland that surprises and delights travelers, as those who have taken our Swiss Ticino Untour will tell you. And the town of Bellinzona is the surprise of Ticino!
At the crossroads of the valleys leading to Italy from the Alps, Bellinzona is a natural sentinel and crossroads of trade that was coveted by the north and the south. It is the capital of Ticino, and the canton’s richest historical town, with no fewer than three castles, at least one palace, several noteworthy churches, and relatively few tourists.
One of Switzerland’s great castles, Castelgrande, occupies a hillock in the town center that has been fortified since well before Christ. The current castle is of medieval (13th-15th centuries) origin and has undergone a striking 20th century restoration. No visit to the Castelgrande is complete without a walk along the extensive wall. But the castle has more to offer: the history and archeology of the hill site, occupied for some 6,500 years, are chronicled in the castle. The art history of the region, especially that of the early Renaissance, is also featured in a castle exhibit.
Two other smaller castles, the Castello di Montebello and the Castello di Sasso Corbaro, are also found in Bellinzona. Both deserve some time to explore. All of the castles and their museums are open daily.
While in Bellinzona, be sure to stroll the historic town center with several Renaissance buildings worth visiting, like. the Ursuline Palace, the Palazzo Communale, and the Collegiate Church of Santi Pietro e Stefano.
The Civic Art Gallery features a fine collection of Swiss and Italian art from the 19th and 20th centuries. You’ll find it in the Villa dei Cedri, on the Piazza at San Biagio 9. Be sure to allow yourself time to enjoy it.
Market Day in Bellinzona is Saturday morning in the city center, offering a great chance to rub elbows with the locals and do a little shopping for food and housewares. It is always a fun and festive time.
Bellinzona is a favorite Swiss Untour day trip, easily accessible by rail! Use your Swiss Transit Pass (which we include in your Swiss Ticino Untour) to visit from Untours’ homebase in Locarno. Buon viaggio!
(Photos in this blog post are courtesy of Swiss Tourism, all rights reserved)