Summer treats us to clear blue skies, sunny days and an unmistakeable urge to get away on holiday, even for just a few days. But the urge to spend time outdoors and enjoy the feeling of the summer sun on your skin is also accompanied by the desperation to find somewhere in the shade to escape lobster-style sunburn and catch your breath as you take in the landscape, particularly if you're with your family.
What if you could combine that with a tour of the town? What if you could visit Ascona and Locarno without having to keep an eye on tired and overheated kids who just want to eat ice cream and jump in the lake? That would be great, right?
To the delight of your kids (not to mention your feet!), Locarno and Ascona has long been home to a lovely pair of tireless little blue tourist trains that, every day from March to October, run around the town showing you its most picturesque corners and finest monuments.
The tourist train leaves the Debarcadero throughout the day and hurtles along the streets at 30 km/h to a soundtrack that is part Mississippi part folk. A friendly female voice will welcome you aboard and keep you company along the route, telling you all about the highlights of the town – in Italian, German, French and English – without irritating your eardrums. She will discreetly answer every question that springs to your mind and give you plenty of time to quietly admire the peace and tranquillity of this town with its relaxed holiday atmosphere. The most intense part is undoubtedly the section through the Old Town, where the train agilely scrambles along the narrow streets, leaving you to admire some truly beautiful views.
Jogging along over the square cobbles, the train goes up and down at walking pace along the picturesque streets that are so narrow you can almost touch the walls of the houses. As you look up, past the cool shade of the rows of homes, shops, bars and restaurants, admire the magnificent views of the hills behind the town.
The tour makes the ideal starting point for an overall view of the town: in about thirty minutes it will help you get to grips with the layout so you can return on foot at your leisure, retracing the whole route or just stopping at the spots that interested you most.
When you get off the train at the end of the tour don’t forget to stroll up to Piazza Grande along the Largo Zorzi ‘Walk of Fame’, where the famous musicians performing at Moon&Stars have literally left their mark!
Ppssst! If you want to see your children beam from ear to ear, try to travel in the last wagon. As well as being able to see the whole train at certain corners for that special photo, the ups and downs of the route will leave younger travellers with bated breath as they experience the gentle sensation of a mini rollercoaster that makes everything more fun.
Tired of long walks under the scorching sun? There’s no let up from the kids and they’ve tried all the ice cream flavours? Load your family on to the Ascona tourist train – which you can catch throughout the day from the pretty square on the lakeside as you admire the wonderful views of the Brissago Islands – and enjoy half an hour of pure relaxation. The little tourist train jogs along through the pedestrian area then takes Via Albarelle, described by the friendly (multilingual) voice that will accompany your ride as the most romantic street in Ascona. As you travel down narrow streets bordered by flower beds you can soak up the holiday atmosphere of the town, passing within a whisker of hotels and private homes.
The tour will take you to the delta of the Maggia River, along the green golf course to the Club Nautico, where you can get off to enjoy a drink in the lounge bar and catch the next train back to the square an hour later. The return journey takes in Ascona for a short panoramic section that leads you back to the square, tempting you with a visit to Monte Verità and no doubt piquing your curiosity for a more detailed stroll around the picturesque narrow streets that meander through pretty coloured houses.
It’s the perfect opportunity to see corners of Ascona that you might otherwise miss by staying in the centre, as well as to soak up the many stunning landscapes you can then take home with you in your mind’s eye at the end of your holiday. Historical information is kept to a minimum but the highlight of the tour is the feeling of being looked after in Ascona’s unique atmosphere, delighting younger visitors, who – with that fascination so typical of children – are always enthusiastic about taking the train, so much so they might even forget their next ice cream for a few minutes!
Sometimes it’s nice just to let someone else take over and relax as you visit the town on a cute little blue train, with nothing but the beautiful views all around you to occupy your mind. Fancy coming on board? Look for the signs at the Locarno Debarcadero and the Piazza di Ascona or visit www.trenino.ch. The little train is ready and waiting!