Locarno is one of the most picturesque towns of Switzerland under the magnificent Swiss mountains. The town has all the wonderful attractions like lake, beach, mountain and mesmerizing scenery. The town also serves as an easy access point to the mountains. The Italian speaking town of Switzerland is located on the northern shore of Lake Maggiore. Locarno is not far from Bellinzona and most of the visitors enjoy the beauty of both towns including some magnificent valleys that are located between the two towns. The town of Ascona is situated on the opposite side of the Lake Maggiore.
The Locarno town is not only famous for its amazing scenery but also for the famous festivals including the Locarno International Film Festival. There are also traces of Leonardo da Vinci’s work in the Locarno castle. Locarno is also ideal for those visitors who are looking a warmer weather in Switzerland. The town is naturally designed by the beautiful palm and lemon trees which charm the visitors as they walk around in the streets.
History of Locarno
Archaeological findings have identified that the town was inhabited since 14th Century BC. Tombs from the Roman era were also found in Locarno. Most of the ancient history of Locarno could not be preserved because of extensive construction. A Group of noble families called Capitanei emerged in the Middle Ages and were granted a fief in Locarno in 1000, by the Bishop of Como Landolfo da Carcano. The Capitanei were given rights to manage the church and rights to manage the town. Their rights were most managerial, so they were not the rulers. During the reformation period this family left Locarno and moved to Zurich, but the family remained involved in the local politics until 1798.
Locarno remained the administrative center and a marketplace for the Locarno district. The Casa della Gallinazza was the official residence of the high government officials. It was burned down in 1260 during the clashes between the Ghibellines and the Guelphs. The town was captured by Luchino and Giovanni Visconti in 1342 and they brought the town under the rule of Milan. The confederates occupied Locarno in 1503 except the Visconti castle. The castle was given to the confederates in 1513 by the French King Louis XII after the battle of Novara. There were many other castles in Locarno built by different noble and powerful families but all of them were destroyed by the Confederates except the central one which was used for official purposes.
12 Things to Do in Locarno Switzerland
If you are in Locarno, Cardada Cimetta is going to call you itself. It is the beautiful mountain at 1,670m which is named as The Pearl of Lake Maggiore by the residents. The top viewing point of the Cardada mountain is called Cimetta which offers breathtaking views of the town, its surroundings, Lake Maggiore, River Maggia and up to the Brissago Islands. Cardada is also highly famous for its refreshing outdoor activities and picnic points.
Hikers and mountain bikers love the Cardada mountain. You will also see many paragliders enjoying the mesmerizing views through the wonderful vantage points. A funicular will take you up to the Orselina which is the cable car station that will take you up to the Cardada. The chairlifts also offer beautiful panoramic views of everything around the town. The mountain has lovely flowers, forested paths and peaks. It is a wonderful place to spend a day hiking, mountain biking or simply enjoying the views. You can see the highest and lowest parts of Switzerland from the same place. The highest is the Monte Rosa and the lowest is the Lake Maggiore.
Locarno Old Town
You are going to love walking through the cobble stone and narrow streets of Locarno. The town has one of the most beautiful streets to walk which are shadowed by the palm and the lemon trees. The compact historical center is also a famous attraction for the tourists. The pastel colored houses in these lovely streets of Locarno look amazing. There are many restaurants, cafes, boutiques and museums in the surroundings of the old town.
Piazza Grande Locarno
As the name suggests, Piazza Grande is the largest square of the town. The piazza is very impressive and is famous for its beautiful arcades and architecture. It is also famous for hosting many festivals and concerts throughout the year. There are many cafes and restaurants in Piazza Grande, and you can sit and relax at any of them watching the passerby crowd of locals and tourists. It also hosts a weekly market on every Thursday. The Piazza is also a host to the most famous festivals of Locarno.
Festivals in Locarno
Locarno is extremely famous for its wonderful festivals that attract a lot of visitors every year from around the world. The Festival di Locarno or Locarno International Film Festival is the world’s famous open-air film festival that is held every year in August. Thousands of movie fan and many super stars gather here to share their love for the films.
The “Moon and Starts” festival is held every year and includes around 10 concerts that feature the top stars from the music industry. Piazza Grande is filled up with 8000 people every night and becomes a concert hall during this festival. The town enjoys the musical concerts by Swiss and international musicians and bands for several days.
Falconeria of Locarno
Falconeria of Locarno is equally loved by all ages, but children do love it the most. You can enjoy unique and spectacular bird shows featuring eagles, hawks and owls. You will experience the large birds of prey at very close range which fly freely around the area. This is a great place to observe these birds in their natural habitat conditions. The most interesting part of the visit is to learn about the wonderful interaction between humans and birds. There are also many vultures, storks, ibis and marabou in the Falconeria. You will be amazed after learning about their intelligence and abilities.
The beautiful Lake Maggiore extends from Locarno up to the Italian regions of Lombardy and Piedmont. The lake looks more beautiful because of the Mediterranean vegetation along its shore which flourishes due to the mild climate. The mesmerizing mountain landscape in the background along with the lush vegetation makes Lake Maggiore a spectacular site.
The best way to enjoy a lake is of course cruising in it and it goes the same for Lake Maggiore. There are ferries that offer different packages including dining and depart to different locations from the Locarno shore of the lake. You can also visit Ascona and Brissago by boat and many other smaller and beautiful areas around the lake. You can also enjoy boating in the lake from Locarno and cross the border into Italy and enjoy the Italian side of the lake and its surroundings.
Lido Locarno is an oasis at the shore of Lake Maggiore that offers the fun and adventure to the sports lovers and those who love to splash in the water. The place has indoor and outdoor pools including an Olympic size swimming pool. It also has a thermal pool and some water slides. One of the outdoor pools is designed in a way that it looks like merging with the Lake Maggiore. The sandy beach is a great place for relaxation which also has showers, changing rooms. Lido Locarno also has two beach volley-ball courts and 6 table tennis spots. There are also three children playgrounds, so the families also love to visit the place.
Verzasca Valley is famous for a day trip both from Locarno and Bellinzona. If you are visiting the area, staying in Locarno, or staying in Bellinzona, the valley of Verzasca is a must visit. You must start your day trip early in the morning because there is so much to see in the valley. The valley has a very impressive and world’s famous dam which was used in the shooting of the movie of James Bond “Goldeneye”. The dam has become a very hot bungee spot after the movie. The valley is very picturesque and attracts a lot of visitors every year with its beautiful environment, charming little villages and the emerald waters. The Verzasca valley is also extremely famous for the hikers and mountain bikers.
Gambarogna Botanical gardens
This botanical garden is a perfect place to indulge yourself in a beautiful colorful environment of beautiful flowers. It is located at the shores of Lake Maggiore not very far from Locarno town. This botanical garden is the hard work of Otto Eisenhut, who was an exceptionally talented and passionate gardener. He bought this land in 1955 and began cultivating thousands of flowering plants in the area. He also planted 950 types of camellias, 450 different types of magnolias, azaleas, rhododendron and peonies. The garden covers an area of around 20,000 square meters. The garden also has some rare European and exotic coniferous trees as well as ivy, juniper and pines.
Bavona valley is the most rugged and wild valley in the area of Locarno. It is a wonderful place to visit for the nature’s lovers. You will love the fresh air and the spectacular views of the valley. Not only the area but the drive towards the area is surely going to make you fall in love with this adventurous trip. The road climbs through steep cliffs in the surrounding of rivers and lovely forest and takes you through the village of stone houses. There is a marvelous water fall of 108 meters near the village which is a must-see attraction of the Bavona valley. The village is very picturesque and has some local restaurants where you can enjoy the amazing local favorite dishes including polenta, grilled sausages and veal stew.
Madonna del Sasso Locarno
Madonna del Sasso is located at Orselina in Locarno, and is one of the most famous and important places of pilgrimage in this Italian part of Switzerland. The sanctuary has eye catching frescos and remarkable ceiling decorations. You can reach here either by the funicular from the center of Locarno or you can walk up directly to this place which is going to take 20 minutes. The walking path is also very amazing and especially the balcony of the church which offers marvelous views of the surroundings.
The Castle of Locarno
It is said, but not confirmed yet, that the castle might be designed by Leonardo da Vinci. It has served as the seat of the governments that ruled Locarno. The castle has been turned into an archaeological museum which displays artifacts from the late Bronze Age up to the High Middle Ages. The museum also displays glasses from the Roman era which were excavated in Ticino. There are around 200 different objects on display that depicts the history of Locarno.