Four Ways to Enjoy a Go-Slow Tour of Ticino

While its palm trees and lemon groves are more reminiscent of the Med than the Alps, multi-faceted Ticino’s farm-to-fork cuisine, art-filled mountain paths and home-grown wines are among Switzerland’s best. Read on for our suggestions on how to make the most of it

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Thought la dolce vita was just for Italians? Think again. Small but mighty Ticino, the Italian-speaking canton in Switzerland's balmy south, crams a lot of go-slow appeal between its lakeside lowlands and alpine peaks. Whether it's getting lost on purpose in storied, culture-rich towns such as Locarno, dining on traditional local delicacies at a sustainability-driven farm-to-fork restaurant, or simply admiring the sparkling, cerulean waters of Lake Maggiore from the cabin of a cable car, there's plenty to keep you busy. It's little wonder the region is a favourite getaway spot for the Swiss. Here are a few suggestions to help you discover it for yourself.

Four pocket-sized itinerary ideas for exploring Ticino, Switzerland

Locarno, Cardada
Photo credit: / Ivo Scholz

Take a ride on the Cardada-Cimetta Cable Car

It's just a short walk from the Madonna del Sasso church to the base station of the Cardada-Cimetta cable car, whose modern "teardrop" glass-walled cabins offer some of the most captivating views of the region. You'll be able to admire Switzerland's lowest point, the Lake Maggiore delta, and its highest, Dufourspitze, the tallest peak in the Monte Rosa massif simultaneously as you climb to 1,670m above sea level in just a few minutes. Look hard enough and you'll even be able to see the fault line where the alpine chain separates the European Continental Plate and the African Plate. Packed your hiking boots? Exceptional views of the Alps await on trails setting off from Cima della Trosa (1,869m) and il Madone (2,039m). There are also paths leading down to the Maggia and Verzasca valleys. Of the five mountain restaurants in the area, Capanna Cardada (+41 79 287 73 53) gets our vote. Around a 20-minute walk from either Cardada or Cimetta, its 40-seater terrace makes a great place to rest tired legs and linger over traditional Ticinese dishes with a side serving of panoramic views.

Locarno, Ticino, Switzerland

Explore the historic centre of Locarno

The beating heart of Locarno, and hotbed of activity come August, when the world-famous Locarno Film Festival hosts open-air screenings here, the Piazza Grande is the ideal place to begin any self-guided stroll - ideally over a chocolate-dusted cappuccino and a jam-filled pastry at one of its characterful cafés. Look down to spot the pavement's cobblestones, set on edge in typical Ticino style, before continuing to nearby Castello Visconteo, a 12th-century fortress and former HQ of the city's bailiffs that now houses an archaeological museum and dazzling array of Roman glass excavated locally. Walk uphill, on steep, narrow streets, to the città vecchia, the oldest part of town, peppered with relics of times gone by: think intricately shaped window sills, ancient frescoes, the odd arch embellished with a coat of arms, patrician houses with courtyards, small gardens and sun-flooded arcades. No tour of Locarno would be complete without a visit to the Madonna del Sasso, built on the spot where, in 1480, Brother Bartholomeo da Ivrea from the town's San Francesco monastery was visited by an apparition of the Virgin Mary. Ascend on foot to drink in far-reaching views of the glittering Lake Maggiore and the shoreline villages that surround it, before stepping inside the cool sanctuary of the church. There, admire artworks including stuccoes, frescoes, ex votos (offerings to saints) and canvases by Bramantino and Ciseri, many of which were revitalised by a restoration project completed in 2013.

Terreni alla Maggia, Ticino

Savour farm-to-fork Swiss cuisine

A visit to Ascona's 150-hectare Terreni alla Maggia agricultural estate makes it instantly clear why Ticino is so special: namely, slow food, spectacular landscapes and a close connection between people and the land. Home to vineyards, orchards and fields of crops including the only rice grown 100 per cent in Switzerland, the estate has been championing sustainable, centuries-old farming practices since it was founded in 1930. Join a two-hour cellar tasting tour to sample a diverse array of reds, whites and rosés made from grapes grown on the vines outside, then visit the farm shop to fill your basket with the likes of polenta flour, chestnut honey and Ticinese grappa. For the full farm-to-fork experience, head for dinner to the neighbouring resort of Castello del Sole, on the western shores of Lake Maggiore. A member of The Living Circle, a group of luxury hotels and restaurants whose food and drink are sourced directly from their own farms, its menus are bursting with picked-that-day Terreni alla Maggia produce. If you're lucky enough to visit in autumn or winter, the truffle risotto is a must-try, but a glass of merlot, kerner or bondola from the estate's vineyard is a good idea at any time of the year.

Verzasca River
Photo credit: / Jan Geerk

Reconnect with nature in the Verzasca Valley

Switzerland doesn't lack contenders for the title of most beautiful valley, but this one, carved by the emerald-green Verzasca River, is definitely among them. For a gentle introduction to the area, we suggest lacing up your hiking boots and heading for the Val Porta Forest Reserve, accessed from Vogorno. Situated in a side valley of the Verzasca, the reserve is reached via a historical trail that winds through sun-dappled larch and beech groves, across open areas of meadows dotted with orchids and tiger lilies, and past the bubbling natural springs of Mosciöi and Morasc. Looking for a bigger rush? Head to the Verzasca dam on Lago di Vogorno. This is where James Bond famously bungee-jumped in the opening scenes of Goldeneye, and if you can handle 7.5 seconds of pure adrenaline, then you can do it, too.

Swiss TB

The Lowdown

How to Get There

Fly from London airports to Zurich Airport with SWISS. From the airport, Locarno is a three-hour train journey with Swiss Federal Railways.

Get unlimited travel on public transport across the canton with the Ticino Ticket, a free digital travel pass available to visitors staying overnight in hotels, youth hostels and campsites in the region.

Pick up more tips on exploring the Ticino region at

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