“From palm trees to glaciers. The opposites in Ticino are a big attraction.
Sandy beaches and year-round snow, green hills and remote valleys. All within a stone's throw.”
We're standing at the window of our favourite gelateria on the shores of Lake Maggiore and looking forward to a little sweet temptation followed by an espresso. It's a warm afternoon in June. For the last few hours, we've been having a fantastic time stand-up paddle-boarding on the lake. You stand on a surfboard and paddle with a single-blade paddle – so instead of the wind in a sail propelling you along, it's your strength with the paddle. It's tremendous fun and we'll definitely be doing it again soon!
For years, we have kept being magically drawn back here, to sun-soaked Ticino. The Italian language, Mediterranean joie de vivre, enchanting scenery, combined with idyllic views of glittering Lake Maggiore and busy comings and goings on the lakeside promenade: they're all factors that give us a real feeling of "dolce far niente" – enjoying life to the full and, just for a while, simply "being". Our favourite place to stay is the Sunstar Hotel Brissago. We simply love this stylish hotel on the lakeside promenade. It's also the ideal starting point for exploring the local area.
The village of Brissago itself is worth a visit. It's in a splendid location between the shores of Lake Maggiore and the steep mountainsides, at the lowest point in Switzerland, 197 metres above sea level. The lower, oldest part of the village is grouped round the Renaissance church of San Pietro e Paolo, surrounded by centuries-old cypress trees. The path down to the lake leads you through narrow alleyways with picturesque twists and turns. You pass some impressively grand houses with gardens where orange and lemon trees and cedars flourish outdoors. What a lovely sight!
One of the most delightful places to visit in Ticino are the Brissago Islands, a little sub-tropical paradise in Lake Maggiore. The islands are covered in exotic plants and rise out of the deep blue of the lake like green specks. Because of their location, they enjoy an especially mild climate which enables this lush vegetation to grow. Magnificent rare trees, luxuriant bushes and ferns and sweet-smelling flowers hold
visitors spellbound. You reach the islands by shuttle boat.
Other places to visit include Locarno, Cannobio and Verbania with their well-preserved historic town centres. As you wander along the narrow alleyways, you come across numerous beautiful buildings dating back to the Middle Ages.
Lovely spacious squares with their street cafés and restaurants provide everything you could wish for in the way of food and drink. In Ascona there is a festival of street artists every year: when the artists and professional touring groups travel here from all over the world to delight visitors with their artistry on the promenade, the atmosphere is simply fantastic.
Another popular excursion for a very special shopping experience is to the weekly markets in the little Italian towns on the shores of Lake Maggiore. A really nice way to get there is by boat from Ascona or Locarno.
What shall we do tomorrow? Try waterskiing, wakeboarding or windsurfing at high speed on the lake, or enjoy the soothing silence of nature from a pedalo or by going for a swim or a picnic? Another fun alternative would be a dive in Lake Maggiore... Or perhaps hitting a few balls on one of the amazing golf courses in the area?
For hikers and bikers there are 326 varied hiking tours and 168 MTB routes. If you're looking for (somewhat) more adrenalin-fuelled activities, head for the Adventure Park or have a go at paragliding, climbing, bungee jumping, canyoning, parachuting or fun rafting or go for a balloon ride or an excursion by canoe.
To discover the fascination of Ticino, all you have to do is spend an evening in a snug grotto, with a piece of local cheese and a glass of Merlot. More sophisticated culinary highlights are also a real treat. For this evening we have booked a cosy corner for ourselves in Caesar’s Grottino – what could be more enjoyable than to be treated with fresh seasonal products and a drop of fine wine in your own hotel?