For a country as small as Switzerland, it is quite stunning to have all these climate zones. Compared to the parts north of the Alps, Ticino in Switzerland’s south is a world of its own.
Perched in between the Alps and Italy, Ticino is often referred to as Switzerland’s “sunroom.” And there is a good reason for this as Ticino enjoys lots of sun exposure during times when the weather in the north can be cold and rainy. (On the flip side and to paint a full picture, it is only fair to state that Ticino gets lots of rain during winter months.)
Thanks to ingenious railway tunnels as part of the Ceneri line, Ticino’s hotspots are now closer than ever before. Bellinzona, Locarno, and Lugano can easily be reached by train, and new time-saving connections within Ticino make it easy to transfer from one town to another.
Without further ado, here are 10 definitive reasons to love Ticino in Switzerland’s south:
Sun sun sun
There is an old wisdom that the success of a business depends on “location location location.” To prove the point, Ticino’s southern location with lots of sun exposure makes up a large part of its appeal.
In an average year, Ticino clocks 2170 hours of sun exposure. Compare this to Zürich’s 1693 hours and you would understand why everyone flocks south. According to Meteo Schweiz, the top two sunniest places in Switzerland in 2020 are located in Ticino:
We need to talk about Ascona
Whether at day or at night, Ascona is sure to wrap you around its little finger with all that southern charm. On a given weekday, this lakeside town is calm and quiet. But on weekends, Ascona fills with life as it hosts various festivals and events throughout the year. One of our favorites is Jazz Ascona which regularly attracts live bands from around the world.
Insider tip: at Osteria Grotto Baldoria in Ascona, there is no menu because the cook decides on the menu each night. This may sound scary, but we would skip the posh luxury eateries down at the lake any minute and come back here again. When we visited years ago, 16 francs bought us no less than seven courses! Think salami, salad, pasta, polenta, risotto, stew, cheese, and apricot pie…
Another reason: the stunning views of Lago Maggiore
From Cimetta/Cardada, the mountain right above Locarno, the views are simply stunning. The Brissago Islands can clearly be seen, and the lake narrows where it enters Italian territory.
With vistas like these, Cimetta/Cardada is the perfect hiking spot. Also, it is a popular launch site for paragliders – an unbeatable Ticino experience in and of itself.
The Landscape Promontory at Cimetta/Cardads is a suspended viewing platform. From this hawk’s nest, you will the best vistas of the entire Ascona – Locarno region.
Boat rides to write home about
Undoubtedly, Ticino in the south of Switzerland has a Mediterranean vibe. Apart from palm trees swaying in the breeze, the glittering lakes contribute to the charming atmosphere. As such, Ticino has two major lakes:
Boat rides are plentiful on both lakes, from scheduled commuter boats to dining cruises. Since the Swiss-Italian border cuts across these lakes, boating services are offered by both countries. As you will see, some vessels operate under the Swiss flag and others under the Italian flag. In the end, the type of flag does not matter as long as you have a valid ticket.
One of our favorite Ticino boat experiences is the Grotto Cruise on Lake Lugano. This special boat departs from the main dock with hungry diners on board. The itinerary stops at various lakeside grotto restaurants. A couple of hours later, the same boat will return in order to collect everyone. Our advice: make a reservation at the grotto of your choice.
Ticino is like Little Italy – with Swiss order and punctuality
Mediterranean food, Italian language, and dolc’è vita joy of life – yet with reliable public transportation, a familiar road system, and a healthy dose of Swiss order. What’s not to love about this combination?
It is Italy when you get lost in the mountains!
It’s all fun and games hiking in the lush mountains of Ticino until you realize that the hiking trails are no longer marked with bright yellow signs. At first, you would simply ignore this and keep on walking until you are surrounded by cars with Italian license plates…
At this point, you would try to communicate with a local and get them to give you a lift to the next town 20 minutes away. Then, if luck is on your side, the newsstand owner’s brother has a car to give you a ride back to Switzerland.
This very scenario has actually happened to us, unlikely as it sounds! We tried to do the roundtrip hike on top of Monte Generoso, but we must have missed a marker somewhere…
Did anyone say gelato?
Given the proximity to Italy, gelati in all flavors imaginable are an added benefit to staying in Ticino…
UNESCO World Heritage sites for your bucket list
Out of Switzerland’s 12 UNESCO World Heritage sites, two are located in Ticino. Start by visiting the three castles of Bellinzona: Castelgrande, Castello Montebello and Castello Sasso Corbaro.
Further south, the region of Monte San Giorgio offers a unique look into the earth’s past. A marine basin some 240 million years ago, this region has unearthed various fossils, including dinosaur remains. We can highly recommend the Museum of Fossils in Meride. On three floors, the museum highlights the significance of Monte San Giorgio. It is also the home of Ticinosuchus, a dinosaur that once roamed this area…
The tropical Brissago Islands
The Brissago Islands are two tropical islands just a stone’s throw from Ascona on Lago Maggiore. Here at the lowest altitude in Switzerland, there is a magnificent botanical garden which we highly recommend visiting.
We could not believe that it is possible for such a variety of palm trees and tropical plants to thrive in Switzerland. So, we propose a nickname for the Isole di Brissago: Switzerland’s Hawai’i!
Ticino has lots of cool architecture
With a homegrown master architect, does it surprise you that Ticino features lots of cool architecture? Known the world over, Mario Botta has dedicated some truly remarkable structures to his home canton. The Fiore di petra on top of Monte Generoso is just one prominent example where Botta has left his mark: