Ticino is the region of Switzerland that is Italian-speaking and -influenced. It’s where the Alps spill into Lake Maggiore, which is shared with Italy. The valleys hold the magic, and traveling up them will leave you breathless and completely enchanted!
Arriving off the beaten path always involves some effort, and for me, the key is being in the moment, shedding the “hurry up and get there” mentality.
By the time we arrived in Locarno, our home for the next week, we had done planes, trains and automobiles.We flew into Lugano, an hour away from Locarno. While “hiking” to the train station from the airport with luggage in tow, I could only see the lake the mountains and the charming villages. Then the automobile picked us up at the train station to whisk us to our hotel. There, the beauty of the surroundings dissolved my exhaustion. With a balcony view of the lake, I didn’t feel so tired anymore — just transported.
On our first full day, we headed up, up, up. The Madonna del Sasso church and convent is perched above the town, as if it’s floating in air over the lake, and it was a good indication of just how often our breath would be taken away while we were in this magical place. The church is as gorgeous inside as it is outside. Somehow, it’s such a treat when you don’t know what to expect and you turn the corner and BAM! Such beauty, artistry and architecture.
Above the Madonna del Sasso, it turned out, was still a whole lot of up, and we kept going until we were above the clouds and shrouded in the fog that danced around the mountain peaks. Here, we spent a lazy hour watching the fog and the paragliders jumping into what could not be seen. We trusted that they had done this before, and watched their colorful parachutes drift off until they disappeared — only to re-emerge in the sunshine that glowed below us and over the lake.
Lunch, I was very happy to discover, was Italian. It is my personal belief that while the Italians have had to endure hundreds of years of corruption, they will not endure any bad food, wine, music or art, and their influence in this region was greatly appreciated by me. Little English is spoken in this area, but I can read “gnocchi” and “risotto,” and I love the lyrical sound of the the locals asking me what I might want in that gorgeous language. With a view of the lake below, I might have stayed there forever, but no: Siesta was calling, and that’s another idea I could sink my teeth into.
Is it time to eat again already? Why yes, yes, it is. My husband found a darling grotto (trattoria) for dinner, and we discovered the local wine. Ninety percent of the vines that dot these hills and valleys are Merlot, and the Ticino region is famous for both their white and red Merlot wines. I was already a fan at first sip. I think wine, like food, is never better than when consumed in the place from which it hails. It always gives me a sense of place, and I think of the people who have farmed this land and the people before them as I savor.
Night falls early on the jet lagged, and with two contented souls, we drifted off dreaming of the mountains where they meet the lake in this place between two countries.
To be continued…