WALKING AND HIKING IN TICINO
Here the sun is more intense and warm and the mountains even more red, here grow the chestnut, almond and fig trees, the vineyards, and the people are kind, courteous and gentle. Hermann Hesse
On our wonderful walking and hiking in Ticino tour, you discover the lesser known, Italian-speaking region in the south of Switzerland, and one of the country’s most spectacular, least explored areas. Once under the rule of the Dukes of Milan, this area became a Swiss district in the early 1500, and an official canton of the confederation in 1803. The result was a perfect blend of Italian atmosphere, reflected in the language and the warmth of its people, and Swiss efficiency.
Ticino enjoys a warmer climate with more sunny days, on average, than the rest of the country. Stretching from the snow-capped mountains of the northern Alps to the Mediterranean climate of Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano, it has it all: emerald-green rivers, crystal-clear alpine lakes, spectacular mountains, impressive waterfalls, remote valleys hiding and extraordinary world, colourful carpets of wildflowers, splendid panoramas. Here, one can experience the natural splendour, feel the rich history and century-old traditions, explore the culture and charming stone hamlets, and enjoy a serenity rarely found elsewhere.
Ticino is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the [Castles of Bellinzona], a fine example of medieval defensive architecture, and [Monte San Giorgio], unique in the world as the best single fossil record of Triassic marine life.
This generous land, also boasts an excellent gastronomy and fine cuisine, blending perfectly its Italian heritage with the generous local products and the typical dishes. Of course, a regular companion to each gourmet meal is the famous white or red Merlot wine, produced with grapes grown on the side of the mountains and on the rolling hills.
Extend your stay and combine this trip with our [Wilflowers of the Bernese Oberland] tour.
DAY BY DAY
Day 1 Zurich – Airolo
We take a very scenic train ride along the shores of Lake Zurich and Lake Luzern, and through the Alps to Airolo, a hiking paradise at the northern end of Ticino, the southernmost canton in Switzerland. The official language here is Italian, although several dialects are spoken throughout the area. Airolo is a small town in the northern end of the region, in Leventina Valley, a long, scenic gash in the Swiss Alps that starts in the rugged Gotthard Massif and ends near rich farmland by Lake Maggiore. Along with the historical Gotthard Pass, since ancient times the town has been a main thoroughfare, connecting southern to northern Europe. Today it is the gateway to many hiking trails in one of the most beautiful areas in the Alps. Short afternoon walk in the immediate surroundings.
Day 2 Bedretto Valley – The Serenity of Nature
The Bedretto Valley, located at the northwestern edge of Ticino is one of the most remote and pristine alpine valleys of the region. Here the Ticino River starts its forty-mile journey to Lake Maggiore. The name comes from the local dialect “bedra”, the birch tree, which indeed proliferates in the area, and it is particularly beautiful due to its wild landscape and richness of colours. Walking and hiking on beautiful paths, we meander through fir and larch forests, summer pastures filled with blueberry bushes and rhododendrons, enjoying splendid views of the surrounding mountains and the grandiose landscape.
Day 3 Piora Region – Alpine Lakes, Colourful Wildflowers
We hike in the Piora region, a spectacular alpine area and a national nature conservation area of considerable beauty and scientific interest. In fact, the region is home to a couple of dozen alpine lakes and over three hundred species of wildflowers, blooming in perfect harmony from the mid June to the end of August. The biology department of Zurich University has converted and old farmhouse into a research station on the shore of one of the alpine lakes. Walking and hiking on a circular, panoramic trail, we pass several of these lakes. Here, a huge diversity of flora and fauna thrives, and perfect vantage points will yield great views of the Alps. After a delicious lunch at a “capanna” (Swiss mountain hut), we make our way through a beautiful larch tree forest. We then transfer by private vehicle to Lake Maggiore, the largest of the Italian Lakes, partly in Swiss territory.
Day 4 Valle Bavona – Stone Hamlets, Waterfalls, Deep Culture
Valle Bavona is an integral part of the history and culture of the difficult pastoral life of Ticino. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many young and able men emigrated from this severe valley to the rolling hills of Northern and Central California, as well as to Australia, in search for work and a better life. Today, due to the harshness of its natural environment, this “living museum” is inhabited only seven months out of the year, when the old-timers still bring their few animals to graze on the miniscule plots of land. The valley has no electricity, and the stone houses, clustered together for heat retaining purposes and for safety, throw us back into a different time and place. Hiking and walking through the many beautiful stone villages, we admire the stone houses and the typical, extraordinary architecture. We pass impressive waterfalls and clever, makeshift shelters for the animals under the side of the mountain. We hike on historical paths, built by the hearty local shepherds, and venture into a glacial valley, where the water picks up momentum before plunging to the valley floor in the form of the most beautiful waterfall.
Day 5 Lake Maggiore – A bird’s Eye View
A spectacular, pleasant, panoramic hike will take us to the mountains above Lake Maggiore, and offer us an extraordinary opportunity to enjoy the unobstructed views of Lake Maggiore and the Alps. We start with a ride on the panoramic tram, designed by Mario Botta, an innovative, local architect, of high worldwide recognition. Amongst his remarkable buildings are a couple of unique churches in Ticino, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. With the lake at our feet, we make our way up to the mountain of Cardada [www.cardada.ch]. During generous winters, this area becomes a small ski resort for the local population. A stop here to take in the view is mandatory. In fact, spanning from the deltas of the Ticino and Maggia Rivers (the lowest point in Switzerland), and the Brissago Islands, to Italy and the Western Alps, the panorama is simply breath taking. We continue to a mountain “rifugio”, where we can sit outside and enjoy a light lunch. Our hike continues higher up, to the summit f nearby peak for more views. We loop back to the aeria cableway and return to the hotel.
Day 6 Above Lake Lugano
With some co-operation from the weather, today’s hike will immerse us in, to say the least, breathtaking and mesmerizing panoramas. Hiking at altitudes between 1600-1750 m/5250-5750 ft, we will follow the ridge connecting two mountains, a traverse framed by breathtaking and mesmerizing panoramas stretching across the Alps, from the peaks above Lake Como to Monte Rosa (at 4634 m/15203 ft., the second highest mountain in Western Europe) and the Appennini Liguri, by the Italian Riviera; at our feet the glittering waters of Lake Lugano and Lake Maggiore, the remote valleys and the small hamlets, whose clusters of homes cling to the side of the mountains; to the east, the city of Lugano, Along the way we admire the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, designed in 1990 by Mario Botta, the architect from Ticino who designed, among other things, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Hiking along the border with Italy, we skirt several peaks, taking in 360° views. We descend by tram to the valley fllor and return to our hotel.
Day 7 Bellinzona – UNESCO, Medieval Castles, Rich History
Seen in the past as the “key to the Alps” from the south, and the “gateway to Italy” from the north, Bellinzona is strategically positioned at the foot of the Alps, and on the crossroads between the Latin and the Germanic world. Its three castles, a [UNESCO World Heritage site], are among the finest examples of medieval fortification in the alpine region, and the testimony to centuries of history written by the Romans, the Longobards, the Swiss and the Milanese. We tour Castelgrande, sitting grandiosely on a rocky outcrop in the centre of town. Battlements, during the medieval times, ran across the valley, to close the access to a very important economical region. We stroll through the famous Saturday market, held in Bellinzona historical centre since the medieval times and today considered one of the best traditions of Ticino. Colourful stalls with fresh high-quality local products, homemade specialties, clothing, handicrafts, attract visitors from near and far. From the Castle of Montebello, the panoramic views stretch all the way to Lake Maggiore. Through the woods, we pass the Castle of Sassocorbaro, and arrive to an old settlement, a precious shrine of history and art.
Day 8 Departure
After breakfast, transfer on your own to your next destination.
PRICE & DETAILS
From SFr. 2990 per person. Prices are quoted in Swiss Francs and based on double occupancy.
SFr. 400 | Single supplement
What Is Included:
Train transfer from Zurich city centre to Airolo, Day 1.
English-speaking local guide for the duration of the trip.
Guide’s expenses (hotels and meals) while with the group.
Four nights in three-star hotels, three nights in four-star hotel.
All breakfasts, six lunches, five dinners.
Water and coffee/tea with your group meals at hotels/restaurants.
Private and public transportation, as per itinerary.
Visits to museums/points of interest and activities as specified in the itinerary.
Gratuities to porters, drivers, and at restaurants.
What Is Not Included:
Train transfer from Lugano to Zurich Airport, Day 8.
One lunch, two dinners.
Insurance of any kind, other than evacuation (cancellation and medical insurance, etc.).
Expenses due to unexpected changes to the itinerary.
Activities not specified in the itinerary.
Personal expenses (laundry, sodas or alcoholic beverages, telephone calls, etc.).
Anything else not mentioned in “What’s Included in the Price of the Trip”.
Unused transportation during the tour will not be reimbursed.
TRIP DATES & DETAILS
contact us »
Extend your stay and combine this trip with our [Wilflowers of the Bernese Oberland] tour.
Season: June – September
Trip Length: 8 days
Trip Activity [more details]:
History | Culture
Scenery | Flora | Fauna
Gastronomy | Wine
Trip Rating [more details]: moderate
The Guide [more details]:
The guide(s) will be confirmed about thirty days prior to the beginning of the trip.
ACCOMODATIONS & MEALS
Day 1, 2, – A very nice, small, family-run mountain hotel, located across from the railway station, and strategically positioned for our daily activities. Although we cannot guarantee them, we reserve rooms in the rear. They do not have a view, but they are quiet. All rooms are spacious and have all the comforts.
Day 3, 4, 5 – Beautiful, four-star hotel, positioned on the hills, with splendid views of Locarno, the mountains and Lake Maggiore. It is a few minutes’ walk from the charming historical centre and the lakeshore. Modern, sober rooms in Mediterranean colours offer utmost comfort.
Day 6, 7 – Family-run historical hotel, holding a UNESCO award by ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites). Located in the city centre, in close proximity to the lake, it is elegant and simple. It has a beautiful bar, a sitting room, a small museum housing the 106 year-old history of the establishment, a garden and swimming pool. Sober rooms with all comforts. Lake view based on availability.
Participants booked on the trip will receive a complete list and detailed descripion of the hotels.
Breakfasts – They consist of a generous spread of meats, cheeses, fruit, yogurt, juice, cereal, fresh bread, and other baked goods, accompanied by coffee or tea.
Lunches – On most days, we enjoy elaborate picnics with local meats, cheeses, chutneys, olives or dried tomatoes, at least one vegetable, fruit, and freshly baked bread. When not a picnic, we have a typical lunch at a “capanna”, Swiss mountain hut, or at a traditional, characteristic family-run restaurant. Usually meals are family-style. We order a few typical dishes and we share. It is the best way to taste the specialties of the area.
Dinners – Most dinners are at the hotels, where the cuisine is outstanding, with carefully selected and fresh ingredients. On other nights, we eat at traditional restaurants in town. All meals will consist of three- or four-course meals, and they respectfully combine the local and the Mediterranean traditions.