When going off the beaten track in Switzerland, the border regions deserve a special mention. They are often a sort of melting pot of culture and language. Neighboring customs are naturally a part of Swiss life as both regions share a common history.
Mendrisiotto e Basso Ceresio on the border with Italy might just pack the most personality of all. This triangle on the border with Italy hides seven treasure troves waiting to be uncovered.
Immerse yourself in the tranquillity of Lake Ceresio. Step back in time and explore the history of the earth at Monte San Giorgio, the history of wild animals at the Grotta dell’Orso bear cave, and the history of humanity at the Tremona Archaeological Park.
Let the human ingenuity of the Nevère snow caves and the Cement Trail captivate you. And finally, admire the majestic Monte Generoso from different vantage points.
Discover the highlights of Mendrisiotto e Basso Ceresio Monte San Giorgio
The best way to discover Monte San Giorgio is by hiking one of its many trails. Use one of the many small villages dotted along the trails as your starting point.
Monte San Giorgio has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. For hikers, its trail network is laid out to provide breathtaking views around every bend. Some trails are inside cool chestnut forests, others cross vineyards. (Our tip: stop by the marble caves, an ancient red gravel quarry.)
To reach the peak, hop onto the oldest funicular railway in Switzerland. Once on the top, have a look across the lagoon that the mountain emerged from, teeming with fossils of marine life and rare terrestrial species.
Enjoy excursions in the cool of chestnut tree forests, visit the marble caves and relax on trails amidst vineyards.
Go virtual at the Tremona - Castello Archaeological Park
Imagine a bustling medieval village. It's almost as if you can hear the blacksmith's workshop as you walk through its streets… In reality, no evidence of its rich history remains at the Tremona - Castello Archaeological Park. But it is clear from excavations that this village was once home to a variety of other crafts; agriculture and farming were undoubtedly present.
The Tremona - Castello Archaeological Park offers an augmented reality experience that will take you right back to the Middle Ages when it was a hive of activity. Do you have what it takes to uncover the unsolved mysteries of this place?
Lake Ceresio in the autumn
Lake Ceresio is another name for Lake Lugano, the glacial lake with arms that reach into Mendrisiotto. Culture, tradition, and fun are reflected in the vivid blue waters that are surrounded by lush green mountains.
The many lido beaches are havens for relaxation and sports. Yet from the vantage point of a boat ride, the views are vastly different than from the lake shores. Not to miss is Bissone, the birthplace of renowned architect Francesco Borromini, as well as Riva San Vitale's lovely baptistery.
Monte Generoso: have you seen the Fiore di pietra yet?
Did you know that the oldest steam train service in Switzerland still runs on the tracks going to Monte Generoso? For 130 years, the legendary rack railway with its beautiful panoramic coaches has been departing from Capolago. It proceeds to travel for ten kilometers to the summit at 1704 meters above sea. Little by little, the scenery will unfold as you choo choo through the spectacular Monte Generoso natural park.
Dare to enter the Grotta dell'Orso bear cave
Imagine a time when cave bears called Monte Generoso their home. This was the case in ancient times, around 30’000 to 50’000 years ago. As time has passed, these cave bears went extinct and their remains were discovered on the Italian side of the summit. Enter the Grotta dell'Orso, the legendary bear cave!
On the inside, see rock footprints in the ancient Tethys Sea, locate the numerous fossil traces, and learn about the fascinating flora and wildlife.
Hike to the historic Nevère ice huts
Strap on your hiking boots and embark on a quest to discover Nevère, the precursor to the modern refrigerator. Shepherds invented the Nevère to deal with the lack of water on the mountain, allowing milk to be stored before being processed into butter and cheese. These historic ice huts represent a significant part of the region's cultural history.
Explore the Cement trail
Those passionate about industrial archaeology will find their calling at the former cement factory. Here in the heart of Parco delle Gole della Breggia, a decommissioned factory building creates a stark contrast with the lush natural surroundings.
The impressive structure has since been renovated to allow enthusiasts to visit its halls and workshops. The Cement trail is a fascinating itinerary that starts from the underground quarries and crosses the enormous industrial facilities where you can learn about the process of rock transformation into cement.
Where to stay in Mendrisiotto
Places to stay in the Mendrisiotto region are as diverse as its activities: there are hotels, vacation apartments, B&Bs, hostels, campgrounds, and even farms.
In this border region, hospitality is part of the local DNA. Regardless of which type of accommodation you pick, the only choice you have to make is about the setting. Do you prefer the sunny lakeshores over a picturesque village in the cooler mountains?
We have already inspired you about all the highlights in Mendrisiotto. This is your opportunity to go off the beaten path, so why not select a place to stay and make it happen?
(This article is in cooperation with Mendrisiotto Turismo)