I have been to Switzerland many times, always visiting family over there and always staying in the same region close to the famous city Zurich, which is often mistaken for the capital city. However, this year we took a day trip to the Italian region and visited a beautiful town called Locarno.
We travelled by train, which from Zurich took about 3 hours each way, although it is definitely not a wasted three hours as the scenery is absolutely stunning as you pass mountains upon mountains and huge lakes. You also have the option to travel through the longest tunnel in the world called the Gotthard which surprisingly took less than 20 minutes to travel through. If you want to avoid this, there are alternative bus options where you can go over the tunnel along mountain roads but train and bus changes would obviously eat up some of your day. The trains in Switzerland are very well kept and comfortable so do not fear if this is the mode of transport that you have no alternative but to take.
Once in Locarno, make sure you take a wander down the high street, if not to buy something then just to embrace the culture. The vibe is very Italian and all of the shops are lovely and while there are a lot of designer shops, there are also some great bargains and a small market.
If you decide to go in August you will be able to catch the annual outdoor film festival! Unfortunately, we didn’t do our research so we missed the opportunity to see this, but it is definitely something worth scheduling in if you can as it is very famous.
A day in Locarno wouldn’t be complete without a trip the Madonna del Sasso church. You get up there with a funicular which is similar to a tram and it only takes about 5 minutes. The ticket was only a few Swiss-Francs (almost equal to pounds at current exchange rate), although if you prefer to walk up, it’s about one hour uphill and obviously free. Once you’re at the drop-off point make sure you stop off in a restaurant called ‘Ristorante della Stazione’. It is a little pricy but the view is worth it and the opportunity is once in a life time. I didn’t get food although I have heard the food is amazing. However, I would definitely recommend the Aperol Spritz (or two) which is just about affordable.
After this take a walk down the stone and marble steps (so maybe not too many Aperol Spritz!) which is very traditional to Dessin which is the larger Italian-Swiss region where Locarno located. The walk down is really beautiful as you are surrounded by greenery. You can also take a look in the monastery and light a candle on your way down if this is something you are interested in.
After this, I took a stroll to the lake and bought a gelato which you must try if you like ice-cream as they are proper Italian ones so you would be missing out otherwise.
If you are visiting the Italian region of Switzerland, although it is one of the smaller towns, Locarno is definitely a beautiful historical town worth stopping by and perhaps even spending a night there.
By Katie Sharman
All Images courtesy of Katie Sharman