Swiss Vacations

The Ticino (in French and German "Tessin") is Switzerland's Italian-speaking Canton situated south of the Alps. The areas around its two lakes, Lago di Lugano and Lago Maggiore, enjoy a distinct Mediterranean climate where palms and citrus trees grow, figs, olives and vineyards are cultivated, and other tropical vegetation flourishes - all contributing to a very Italian atmosphere.

The Ticino is divided by Mount Ceneri: the area to the north is the Sopraceneri (Above Ceneri), that to the south is called Sottoceneri (Below Ceneri). The main tourist destinations of the Sottoceneri are the lakeside resorts and towns of Ascona, Locarno and Lugano, where mountain scenery merges with the subtropical flora encouraged by the warm climate. Ascona and Locarno are situated on Lake Maggiore, a holiday playground blessed with magnificent mountain scenery, exotic vegetation and the mildest climate in the country. The Lake Maggiore region is exceptionally rich in contrasts, packed with variety: from the palm-lined lakeshores to the glaciers, from chic shopping to the ancient traditions of the unspoilt valleys, from extreme sports to enjoying the dolce vita. Lugano, situated on the shores of Lake Lugano is a high-class city surrounded by relaxation of the surrounding green valleys. Lugano itself is a place of entertainment and rest, leisurely walks and seductive shopping, gastronomy and art, while the surrounding region has attractions to suit all tastes. 300 km of cycle routes and mountain bike trails, golf clubs, lidos and beaches are just some of the many attractions of the Lake Lugano region.

The capital city of the Ticino: Bellinzona
But also the Sopraceneri or Alto Ticino (Upper Ticino) holds a great deal of charm offering wide stretches of unspoiled nature, comprising a network of wild, pre-Alpine valleys and mountain-top lakelets glittering in clear, crystalline sunshine for some of the best walking excursions in the country. Tradition and history are waiting to be discovered at every turn. Cable cars and funiculars carry you up to landscapes that you can explore on foot, along delightful paths past alpine lakes, through enchanting forests and up to spectacular viewpoints. The cantonal capital Bellinzona, situated on the Ticino River, offers fascinating art, is home to a rich gastronomy, and is famous for its three castles (Castelgrande, Montebello, Sasso Corbaro) that have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

San Martino Church in Monti di Ditto with a sixteenth-century fresco depicting Saint ChristopherAround the two lakes, several picturesque medieval fishing villages are attracting visitors from around the world: Morcote on Lake Lugano with its landmark, the prominent belltower of the Santa Maria del Sasso Church, or Gandria, an unspoiled lakeside village at the foot of Monte Brè. Perched on the steep mountainside it is a community of narrow streets, inaccessible to cars, with a delightful surprise round every corner. The Ticino region provides for interesting excursions through its numerous valleys such as the Verzasca and the Maggia Valleys near Ascona and Locarno, as well as to hamlets and mountain villages offering fantastic views of the lakes and surrounding mountains - such as Ronco sopra Ascona. The Ticino also is known for its ancient churches across the canton. Many of them are Romanesque and contain medieval frescoes, and most featuring huge external murals of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers. And finally, Melide near Lugano is home to the Swiss Miniature Park with 130 models of Swiss landmarks such as houses, castles and monuments. The models have been built with great attention to details allowing visitors to get a perfect overview of Switzerland's attractions.

Botanical Parc San Grato above Lugano in the Ticino, Switzerland
Ticino means mild climate, unique natural contrasts and varied landscapes. The Ticino River, which gives its name to the Canton, begins in the Gotthard Region amid steep gorges and deeply carved valleys. The Ticino is divided into four regions: Bellinzona, Lake Maggiore, Lake Lugano and the Mendrisiotto in the very south. Each region offers different and special scenery, and deserves to be explored. Ticino's flora is typified by the coexistence of plants of both Alpine and Mediterranean origin. It is the most interesting botanical region in Switzerland, for its subtropical climate. 2,300 hours of sunshine per year promote the growth of cypress, palm trees, camellias, mimosas and magnolias and chestnuts (just to list a few). Spring arrives earlier in Ticino and autumn lingers longer than in the rest of Switzerland.

Mt. San Salvatore and Lago Lugano in the Ticino, SwitzerlandThe Ticino lakes are the work of gigantic receding glaciers. Both, Lake Lugano and Lake Maggiore are shared with Italy. The sharp blue winter sky seems bigger through the lake's reflection; the early morning mists of spring which swirl above the lake are chased by the summer breezes, and in the autumn evenings, the explosive red of the setting sun mixes in the water with its pastel reflection. Ticino's mountains are characterized by steep ascents and sharp angles. Granite and, in some places, marble are quarried out of the cliffs. The alpine pastures are a special treat; mostly accessible only during the summer months. Water is an important element especially in the northern valleys where alpine springs and lakes are the source of great waterfalls and torrents.

Santa Maria Degli Angeli Chapel on Mt. Tamaro in the Ticino, Switzerland; designed by the local star architect Mario Botta
The architecture throughout the Ticino is Renaissance and Baroque, and Ticinese architects are internationally recognized and many contemporary objects can be seen in the urban as well as in the more rural areas. Some explain the high quality of many contemporary buildings in Ticino through the epic work of the migrant workers who already in 643 AD traveled all over Europe designing and constructing great buildings and whole cities. After World War II, the building boom enabled a new generation of Ticino architects to make a name for themselves. Ticino has made itself a recognized name in the architectural world, lead by names such as Mario Botta and Aurelio Galfetti. In 1996 the Academy of Architecture opened its doors in Mendrisio, as part of Ticino's new university.

For more detailed descriptions of the resorts in the Ticino, including a section with attractions and activities, and a list of recommended hotels, click on the respective destination:
Ascona / Locarno / Lugano