4 Ticino Destinations You Need to Visit
The Ticino Canton
Switzerland's Little Italy
Switzerland’s Ticino canton lies in the southernmost region of the country and is filled with awe-inspiring destinations. Although this country is home to the world-renowned cities of Geneva, Zurich, and Basal, its Ticonese region in the south is starkly different in character. The Ticino region is heavily influenced by its Italian neighbor, and as a result, has the best of both Swiss and Italian culture. Here you’ll find Italy’s language, cuisine, and la dolce vita lifestyle, mixed with Switzerland’s enchanting vernacular architecture. From hill towns to castles, there is a timelessness in every corner of these Ticino destinations. In short, these are four travel destinations you don’t want to miss.
Italy Away From Italy
Meaning “Italy away from Italy,” Bellinzona is a gem of a city nestled in the Lepontine Alps. This is a Ticino destination I have visited twice now and undoubtedly will be returning for more. Bellinzona is distinctly elegant, and filled with remarkably well-preserved historic landmarks and architecture.
You’ll quickly find that this city is a blend of old and new. There is a plethora of beautiful homes and churches, and an enchanting medieval quality. In contrast, many of the streets in the city center are lined with contemporary street furnishings and plantings that give it a refreshed and lively feel. You’ll also have no trouble finding lots of chic restaurants, shops, and little town squares to explore. Also, if you visit over a weekend, be sure to check out the market in Piazza Nosetto!
But beyond its charming city center, the most intriguing part of Bellinzona is its hillside fortresses. This Ticino destination is famed for its complex of three medieval castles. These UNESCO World Heritage sites are the best-preserved fortresses in all of Switzerland. These castles and their accompanying museums are fascinating, and it is certainly worth exploring all three – Castelgrande, Montebello, and Sasso Corbaro.
A Hilltop Mystery
In a few words, I’m convinced that there is no place in the world like Corripo. This Ticino destination is a hillside village filled with stone homes that have stood for hundreds of years. While it is an independent municipality, Corripo is home to only 12 people. How crazy is that? In addition, it is so remote you can’t reach it by car. A short hike is required to reach the town, but the views of the Alps are well worth the trek.
You’ll find there is something soul-stirring about Corripo. It is eerie, yet intriguing and charismatic. Something about the stacked granite rooflines and impossibly narrow streets; the tiny church and the single restaurant in town… They all seem to whisper stories from a bygone era.
Moreover, there is a serene connectedness to the landscapes that surround this town. This tranquility is made possible by its remoteness and tiny population. Come witness this village’s stunning views of the Alps, and discover the intriguing stories of the people who live here. Simply put, Corripo is an otherworldly experience.
Life on the Lake
Lugano is a city that exudes wealth and elegance. In fact, George Clooney owns a vacation property in Lugano, and after spending a day here, I certainly understood why… Located on the banks of Lake Lugano, this is a tasteful and well-kept Ticino destination. There is lots to see and do both on the water and in the heart of the city. Plus, if you’re spending any time in northern Italy, Lugano is just a half hour drive from Lake Como, and makes a wonderful weekend destination.
There are beautiful, Ritz-y homes, hotels, and fountains everywhere you look in Lugano. From the exquisite lakeside Parco Ciani to the beautiful collection of renaissance and modernist churches in town, there is so much to discover here. Striking modern buildings populate the financial district, and the historic center holds a multitude of piazzas, landmarks, and shops to discover.
And for fellow lovers of modern architecture – the University of Lugano is an intriguing campus to explore. There are loads of remarkable buildings here designed by renowned Swiss architect Mario Botta. Some of my favorite buildings on this campus include the library and the subterranean lecture hall adjacent to it.
An Otherworldly Stop
Embedded in a rich landscape, and filled with historic architecture, Giornico is one of the most enigmatic Ticino destinations I have visited. The village is both alluring and mysterious – surrounded by vineyards and split by the Ticino River. Although Giornico is a half-day stop at most, it will sweep you away to the 16th-century era when pilgrims used to frequent this little town.
The Romanesque churches and stone homes here are hauntingly stoic, especially on an overcast day. Here, stone bridges span rushing currents and the Alps rise up on either side of the town. For a dose of art and architecture, stop at the Chiesa di San Nicola, and La Congiunta museum.
Chiesa di San Nicola is one of the best examples of pure Romanesque architecture you will find in Switzerland. Beautiful frescoes adorn the interior and the weathered stone exterior is a testament to the longevity of stone masonry. And if you’re craving a sublime and slightly eerie experience, La Congiunta is a cast in place concrete museum that houses the sculptures of Hans Josephson. While it is open all year round, be sure to contact the city ahead of time for the key. You most likely will have the entire building to yourself during your visit!
Switzerland's Sublime South
Words Don't Do it Justice
A diversity of regions with a rich blend of culture and history fills every corner of Switzerland. Particularly in the Ticonese south, you’ll find a world of medieval history, Italian influence, and the elegance and efficiency of Swiss culture. As a result, these towns and cities are otherworldly pockets of life with remarkable architecture, moving landscapes, and fascinating history. These four Ticino destinations are well worth the visit and with any luck – they’ll find their way into one of your future trips! I for one, can’t wait to return!