When you are in Switzerland and miss the Mediterranean feel, you have few options only. Take the Concorde so it cuts the distance to the far warmer shores – oops this not possible anymore! Or pack a car full of stuff for a long way to Cote d’Azur counting half-day each way. But all the people you know or you don’t know have already raced you to there. Or head to Ticino and in particular for a weekend in Ascona and Locarno and that’s what we did (repeatedly 🙂
Ascona is Switzerland’s lowest lying town at just 196 meters above sea level on the northern shore of Lago Maggiore. It’s quite famous for its mild climate, Mediterranean style architecture- especially of its Old Town, and its lake promenade which is beautifully dotted with street cafés.
The first thing we do when we reach Ascona is …. get ice-cream! It’s simply out of this world! Never mind the waiting line, it’s worth every second! And the creativity in flavours just invites you to try new ones! Usually I am a “black or white ice-cream person”, so it’s either chocolate or coffee flavour + vanilla or stracciatella and sometimes I venture into pistachio. But here it gets more colourful: passion fruit, mango or raspberry! I never discovered this ice-cream adventurous side in me except here! 🙂
The lake side promenade was turned into a colourful market place, lined with food stalls and several children attractions. We hopped from one stand to another, tasting the amazing Ticino style sausages and the specialities of the region. And we actually ended up getting a year stock of risotto rice once we tasted the Ticino’s recipe!
If you are into architecture and culture you must visit the 16th century St. Peter and Paul Church, the museum of modern art and the hilltop Monte Verita which has a historical park and museum. It was a colony for artists and intellectuals in the early 20th century.
When in Ascona you should pass also by Porto Patriziale with its amazing location on the lake side! Here you can rent one of the boats to have an enchanting tour around the lake.
From Ascona we head to its sister city – Locarno. The city is best known for its sunny climate and its diverse nature. It’s located on Lake Maggiore too, at the base of the Alps, so within the blink of an eye you can pass from the lakeside to the mountain. The city became well known for its film festival attracting many celebrities from the world of cinema. We were lucky to visit during the festival time so the whole Piazza Grande was turned into a seated open air cinema (that was pre-COVID). Walking under the arcades surrounding the piazza makes you feel as if you are in huge Roman amphitheater. The city itself houses several cultural and historic attractions: the old town’s Castello Visconteo houses the Museo Civico, which showcases Roman antiquities. Not to miss the 15th century Santuario della Madonna del Sasso in Orselina, an art-filled pilgrimage site which overlooks the city and can be reached by funicular railway.
The trip couldn’t have ended better than having a promenade on the lake side, with an ice-cream in hand. This time back to classics: a Swiss chocolate and vanilla, can’t beat that!
Bonus for hiking lovers
At Monte Gambarogno you can enjoy a breathtaking view of Locarno and Ascona bay and the whole left side of Lake Maggiore. The peak is easily accessible by foot from the Alpe di Neggia which you can reach by public transport or by car. Heading back, go for the trail that leads to Indemini, one of the most authentic and enchanting villages in Ticino. The trail goes by the Sant’Anna oratory that showcases precious frescoes from the 14-15th centuries.