A rich artistic heritage, an atmosphere of history and a summer jampacked with incomparable events. Locarno’s charm has something to offer everyone, from art and history enthusiasts to families in search of relaxation and young people keen to have fun. Peaceful and sunny, it is the ideal destination for a day trip.
We’re in Locarno, home of the Dolce Vita, so there’s only one way to start our ideal day and that’s at a table at one of the bars in Piazza Grande, with a cappuccino sprinkled with cocoa and a pastry filled with jam. Even during the cooler months, the mild temperatures and sunshine provide the opportunity to enjoy breakfast outside, admiring the hustle and bustle of the square as it wakes up. Although there are plenty of things to see, we’re going to take it easy. We are on holiday after all!
After breakfast, we head towards the Orselina funicular to visit the Sacred Mountain of the Madonna del Sasso. The trip may be short but it offers some stunning views of the landscape. Morning is the ideal time to enjoy the peace and silence that surrounds these places. The sanctuary on the promontory is one of the most important in Switzerland and is said to stand on the exact spot where Fra Bartolomeo da Ivrea saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1480. The intimate and colourful interior of the sanctuary reflects the unique character of this building and the beauty of the surrounding landscape. We come back down the hill to Locarno’s Old Town along the Via Crucis in reverse. Alternatively, you could also do the tour in the more usual direction, climbing from Piazza Grande to the sanctuary along the Via Crucis and coming back down by funicular.
The narrow streets and typical shops of the Old Town welcome us with plenty of history. Here we have the option of a spot of shopping in the boutiques between the historical palaces or a cultural tour of the museums, as far as the Pinacoteca Casa Rusca before coming back down to the Museo Casorella, the Rivellino and the Castello Visconteo, home to the civic and archaeological museum that preserves evidence of Locarno’s pre-history, the Roman period and documents relating to the Locarno Pact of 1925.
It’s time for lunch! There’s no shortage of options either in the Old Town or on Piazza Grande, whether you fancy a quick sandwich or treating yourself to a full meal. After lunch, finish your museum binge with a visit to the Fondazione Ghisla collection, where works of art from the second half of the 20th century to the present day are on display. The afternoon is also the ideal time for a stroll in the area furthest from Locarno’s historical centre. Kids will love a visit to the Falconry and its free flying show. Hugging the lake as we walk back towards the centre, we cross the beautiful Parco delle Camelie – the setting for the spring festival dedicated to these flowers, symbol of the town – and enjoy a stroll through the almost 1,000 different varieties of camellias, including some fragrant hybrids. Following the tree-lined lakefront dappled with reflections of the sun on the surface of the water, we return towards the centre and stop for a moment in Largo Zorzi, crossing the Moon&Stars Walk of Fame, where artists performing at the famous Locarno music festival have left their handprints over the years. Which is your favourite?
If you’re coming by train, take the time to visit the Church of San Vittore, very close to Locarno station. Its origins date back to the 9th-10th century and its Romanesque crypt is one of the best preserved in Switzerland.