How come Locarno calls itself the City of Flowers? A simple explanation is first of all the many flowers that grow here. Not least because of the favourable climate, which is always mild throughout the year. But the climate on Lake Maggiore is not only mild, it is actually special for this latitude, we could say Mediterranean. For example, plants from all continents thrive on the Brissago Islands. It is therefore not surprising that the exotic blossoms of the camellia can be found here. A plant that is absolutely unique in its beauty.
This wonderful flower-laden event has its roots in the early part of the 20th century. The Festa delle Camelie (Camellia Festival) was first held in Locarno in 1923. An event held in honour of this fascinating plant that included concerts, talks and fireworks. In record years visitor numbers swelled to 25,000. In 1924, the organisers sent out a call to the locals to help accommodate the visitors. Every household was required to make at least one bed available. They could charge CHF 4 per bed per night. The event was held under the name Festa delle Camelie until 1940 (with breaks). After a pause of 12 years, the city relaunched the event. A new name appeared in 1952: Festa dei Fiori (Flower Festival). The event lasted three days and nights and involved demonstrations of folk dancing in the traditional costumes of the neighbouring valleys, displays of 12,000-plus flowers – and visitors numbering 15,000. It all culminated in a parade on the Sunday. Large effusively decorated carts passed through the Piazza Grande and majorettes showed off their marching skills to the beat of marching music. The Flower Festival in that particular form last took place in 1984.