Without a doubt, Ticino is a favorite destination for music and film lovers.
The warm climate and Mediterranean atmosphere add that little extra to any concert or film screening. Picture the Locarno Film Festival under the open sky on the main square, its cobblestones still warm from a sunny summer day. Or the concert series Moon&Stars which takes place every July on the same Piazza Grande.
As we are heading into autumn, other types of events are coming center stage: harvest festivals and sporting events. Here are 10 unmissable events that you can enjoy in Ascona and Locarno in 2019:
Luci e Ombre in Locarno-Muralto, July 25 - 27
There is nothing better than watching a fireworks display on a warm summer night. This is the premise of Luci e Ombre in Locarno, a mid-summer festival running from July 25 to 27.
During the day, Locarno will be filled with entertainment and food stalls. On Saturday, July 27, starting around 10:30 PM, there will be a big fireworks display in Locarno. (In the case of bad weather, it will be postponed to Sunday.) And the best way to enjoy it is by embarking on a fireworks cruise.
Either online in advance or at the boat docks in Tenero, secure a seat on the special cruise to see the reflections of the fireworks in Lago Maggiore.
For the best experience, hop on in Tenero at 8:45 PM. But if you are staying in Ascona, the boat will pick you up there at 10 PM and return you once the fireworks are over. (25 francs per adult, 11 francs per child.)
Fireworks in Ascona, July 31 - Aug 1
This year’s Swiss National Day starts a day early in Ascona. On July 31, a summer festival will wrap around the harbor of Ascona. One of the highlights is the concert by the One Night Band at 9 PM.
Then on August 1, the celebrations will continue with more musical guests. For instance at 6:30 PM, there is a concert by 22-year old pianist and composer, Nicola Tenini. As has become tradition, the Ascona Big Band will perform at 9 PM.
And at 10:30 PM, a big fireworks display will light up the beautiful Ascona bay! Similar to the Luci e Ombre festival, a special boat cruise will take you out on the lake for the best views. It departs from Locarno at 8:45 PM and will return there immediately after the spectacle.
Verzasca Country Festival in Sognogno, Aug 3
Country road, take me... to Sognogno in the Verzasca Valley! On August 3, this idyllic town will be host to the popular Verzasca Country Festival.
For once, the sports center will be filled with locals and tourists wearing cowboy hats and country attire. All activities and concerts are free of charge.
(Photograph copyright Verzasca Country Festival)
From 2:30 PM, there will be activities and performances. Look out for the Country Street Dancers at 5 PM as they take on the stage! From 6:30 PM until way past midnight, there will be concerts by Wickers, Rosewood and Steelrider. (The latter two are Swiss bands.)
Download the program of the day (And why not take advantage of the free shuttle bus between Tenero and Sognogno?)
Locarno Film Festival from Aug 7 to 17
It would not be summer in Ticino without the Locarno Film Festival. The 72nd edition will be under the helm of a new artistic director, Lili Hinstin. She has curated 19 screenings from all over the world, including the latest Quentin Tarantino flick, "Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood". It is those nightly screenings under the open sky that make the Locarno Film Festival so unique.
(Photograph copyright Locarno Festival/Massimo Pedrazzini)
Concurrent to the film festival is laRotonda, a sort of festival within a festival. Just a few steps from Locarno's Piazza Grande, this is a lively place to spend a perfect evening in Locarno.
Settimane Musicali in Ascona, Sept 4 - 11
Two local churches will be the backdrop for a week of classical music. Some of the world’s most renowned artists will perform at Collegio Papio in Ascona and San Francesco in Locarno. This year, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and the young Italian pianist, Filippo Gorini, are among our personal highlights.
From symphony concerts to chamber music events and individual performances, the Settimane Musicali di Ascona has established itself as the most important music festival in Ticino.
Advance tickets at Ticketcorner
The Locarno Triathlon, Sept 7 - 8
Here is a sports event for the entire family! From a Kids Triathlon to an Olympic Triathlon, this weekend-long event will be all about running, swimming and bicycling at Lake Maggiore.
The Ascona-Locarno region offers a scenic playground for hobby athletes or those competing for a team. Near the start and finish line, there will be a small village offering food and children’s activities.
More information and registration
Autunno Gastronomico Lago Maggiore, Sept 10 - Oct 20
Autumn in Ticino brings out some of the best flavors. When the trees are changing color and the scent of roasted chestnuts fills the alleys, the chefs of Ticino’s grotti start to get busy… They will be preparing tradition dishes out of locally sourced ingredients - for you to try!
The concept of Autunno Gastronomico is that more than 50 restaurants in the Ascona - Locarno region offer their seasonal dishes. It is an opportunity for you and me to savour these special Ticino dishes at some of the top restaurants.
Ascona Chestnut Festival, Oct 12
If you are nuts about chestnuts, this is one festival you should not miss. The Ascona Chestnut Festival showcases the skills that generations of Ticinese have passed on to their offspring.
Once a meal of the poor, the sweet chestnut is now considered a delicacy with lots of nutritional and health benefits. (Not only to they reduce cholesterol, but the vitamin rich nuts are beneficial for the brain.)
Every second Saturday of October, Ascona's lakefront will turn into Chestnut Heaven. Some two tons of chestnuts will be roasted on the open fire by local maronatts. And visitors are invited to taste them! During lunchtime, try polenta and listen to a concert. Finally, stop by at the market with its chestnut products ranging from honey to cakes. It’s your chance to get the Christmas shopping done early for once!
Ascona - Locarno Run, Oct 12 - 13
How about a grand tour of Ascona and Locarno on foot? The annual Ascona - Locarno Run is a unique occasion for seeing many of the sights at Lake Maggiore.
The start and finish lines are located at Piazza Grande in Locarno. It is up to you whether to sign up for the Half Marathon, the 10K or the 5-kilometer City Run. For the little ones, there is a special 300-meter “KidsRun” on October 12 at 5 PM. This allows all ages to enjoy this weekend of running.
Locarno on Ice, Nov 21 through Jan 6, 2020
During winter season, the Piazza Grande of Locarno turns into a magical place. And at the center of all the igloo bars and restaurant chalets is the ice rink. (It is open daily from 10 AM until 1 AM.)
Here's a blueprint for an unforgettable night: invite your family or friends to a glass of mulled wine, then strap on a pair of (rental) ice-skates and slide back and forth underneath the Christmas lights. Those who are not into ice-skating can still enjoy Locarno on Ice by listening to a concert or watching the evening unfold from the heated terrace.
(Photograph copyright Locarno on Ice.)