Ascona and surroundings
Ascona is often called the "Pearl of Lake Maggiore" for its cultural heritage as well as for its touristic offer. It is situated near the delta of the Maggia river, on the shores of a splendid and sunny bay. This unique position, together with a wide variety of landscapes, its mediterranean climate, its touristic tradition and the well known hospitality of the Ticinese people, make Ascona a famous holiday resort, because it is the most ideally located holiday resort on Lake Maggiore and has a wide choice of hotels including a dozen of luxury class. Ascona has a lot to offer from a touristic point of view.
Its artistic and cultural heritage, dating from the middle ages and the renaissance, is still very much alive in the old centre of the little town, called "borgo".
Many artists who lived in Ascona from the sixteenth century onwards left behind clear evidence of their talent, the most famous of their works being the baroque "Casa Serodine".
Ascona reached its cultural climax at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, when a group of idealists, whose wish was the return to a natural way of life, founded a colony on Ascona's beautiful hill, which they called then Monte Verità, "the Mountain of Truth". Among the settlers were revolutionaries, philosophers, writers, poets, dancers and painters of international fame, who intended to reach a highly cultural and spiritual ideal.
Ascona, with a population of about 4500, developed around its historical centre and offers a wide choice of exclusive shops, boutiques, museums, art galleries and antique shops.
Thanks to a newly opened tunnel under Ascona's hill, the town has grown into a little paradise with a large pedestrian zone - traffic free - in its historical centre, a splendid boardwalk along the Lake, and a magical view of the natural bay.
Ascona hosts many important cultural events, including JazzAscona, a major jazz festival renowned worldwide. Almost all tourist guides now mention the festival as the highlight of Ascona.
The twin town of Ascona is Losone, with about 5000 inhabitants, situated on the right bank of the Maggia river. It is there and also in Arcegno, the village above Losone, where you can find various hotels, pensions and numerous grottos (taverns) for lovers of the Swiss-Italian gastronomy.
Lies along the right shore of Lake Maggiore, 196 metres above sea level. The centre is situated along the lakeshore while the rest is spread over terraced hills at 400 metres. The region benefits from a mild subtropical climate with varied vegetation where camellias and mimosas grow side by side with oaks, chestnuts and gentians.
The mountain culminates in the Ghiridone, 2200 metres high. Lake and hills offer wonderful possibilities: sailing, windsurfing, swimming, tennis, boat trips, walks and many mountain hikes as well. A village with a clear tourist call, it also has a local industry in the shape of the Tobacco Factory which is world-famous for its cigars.
Monuments to be cited are the churches of Madonna di Ponte and SS. Pietro e Paolo, in pure renaissance style (Bramantine), the 17th-century Palazzo Branca, the Sacro Monte chapel, the "Bosco Sacro" or "Holy Wood" where the laburnum grows (a small tree with clusters of yellow flowers common in temperate climates). A harmonious combination of lake and mountains, Brissago brings together north and south in a perfect play of light and colour.
Ronco s/Ascona - Porto Ronco
Ronco s/Ascona extends from Porto Ronco at about 200 metres to the height of 1300 metres in the mountains. The picturesque, quaint-looking centre rests on a prominence in the mountain side at a height of 350 metres. Three main horizontal roads connect the tortuous, vertical paths.
Ronco has always been an artists' village; Antonio Ciseri painted the altar picture in S. Martino church in 1870 where 15th-century frescoes depicting the four seasons can be admired. The German writer Remarque chose the shores of Porto Ronco as his favourite residence. A mild climate and spectacular scenery invite the nature-lover to visit this remarkable corner of Lake Maggiore.
The Islands of Brissago
A visit to the botanical gardens on the Islands of Brissago is a must for anyone staying in the region. The gardens bring together a great variety of exotic, subtropical plants, cultivated in the open air and laid out according to their geographical origins.
The history of these two islands is lost in the mists of time: on the "Isola Piccola" roman remains have been found; there are ruins of a church dating back to 1250, on the walls of which roman-style frescoes are still visible. In 1885 Baroness Antonietta Saint Leger transformed the island into her residence, where painters, sculptors, musicians and writers gathered.
The "Isola Grande" became an exotic garden and the Baroness catalogued the plants cultivated on it in her diary, which was then published in London in 1913 ("The Vegetation of the Island of St.Leger in Lago Maggiore"). She lost then all her properties and in 1927 she sold the islands to a rich business man from Hamburg. Max Emden had the palace, harbour and "Roman bath" built as they can still be seen today, and also had the flowerbeds redone.
In 1949 the Islands of Brissago were purchased by the Canton of Ticino, the villages of Ascona, Brissago and Ronco s/Ascona, the Swiss Association for the Protection of Nature and the Society for the Conservation of Artistic and Natural Beauty. The islands became botanical gardens of the Canton of Ticino. The islands are open to the public from April til October.
The Borromean Islands
The Borromean Islands are a group of four small islands in the Italian part of Lago Maggiore, located in the western arm of the lake, between Verbania to the north and Stresa to the south. Together totalling just 18 hectares in area, they are a major local tourist attraction for their picturesque setting. Their name derives from the Borromeo family, which started acquiring them in the early 12th century.
At the center of interest for tourists is Isola Madre, with its splendid palace, the Isola Pescatori with its small streets and fishermen’s houses and Isola Bella, with its beautiful italian gardens. The fourth island, the Island of San Giovanni is privately and not open to the public.
Locarno and surroundings
It is known that as early as in the Imperial Roman period Locarno was a holiday resort. Of old, the name referred to the entire area and not only the present-day town.
The Castello Visconteo, inside which the Renaissance-style courtyard with its portico and loggia, a number of ceilings in wood and a fresco depicting the Virgin Mary, may still be admired; nowadays it is home to the archaeological museum which also includes one of the most beautiful and complete collections of Roman glassware. Towards the end of the 11th century, Locarno was the most important town on Lake Maggiore but in the course of the 16th century this prosperous period came to an end under the Lords of Milan and the long period of Swiss bailing began, under which the religious division occurred causing many enterprising craftsmen and merchants who had embraced the new faith to leave and plunged the town into sleepy provincialism, transforming what had once been an important town into an insignificant hamlet. Once open (it is at this time still closed), it will be very interesting zto give a look at the Rivellino, a tower.fortress build on projects of Leonardo da Vinci. It would only be with the founding of the republic and the Canton of Ticino in 1803 that Locarno would awake from its torpor. However, we would have to wait for the beginnings of tourism at the start of 1900 with its consequent building of beautiful Belle-Époque-style hotels, to return life to Piazza Grande, surely the most charming in Ticino with its string of shops and cafés.
But the fact that most greatly determined the rise of Locarno to the position of world-famous holiday resort was the meeting of the heads of a number of European governments who signed the so-called "Locarno Treaty" here which was to guarantee a system of security for Western Europe. It was the most important political event on a world scale at the time and became part of history with the name of the Locarno Peace Treaty carrying the place-name throughout the world and earning it the reputation of the "Town of Peace". Not long after the end of the Second World War the development of the region was back in full swing. The town offers a host of surprises and fascinating discoveries, from the old town with its houses, churches and narrow streets to the commune of Orselina where, on a rocky spur of the hill overlooking Locarno, stands the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Sasso, the site of many pilgrimages.
Beside the church, which was built between the 16th and 17th centuries, can be found the monastery which houses a community of Capuchin friars; over the centuries, the renaissance church was constantly decorated and now the Casa del Padre is home to a museum of sacred objects. Since 1905 a funicular railway has connected the Madonna del Sasso with Locarno. The cablecar Orselina-Cardada and the chairlift Cardada-Cimetta, completely renewed, are in operation since 2000.
Nowadays the most important event must surely be the International Film Festival, one of the Top Events of Switzerland, which manages to transform Locarno into a cultural metropolis where the young and fashionable predominate, and which converts Piazza Grande into the "most beautiful movie theatre in the world"; the first projections took place in the gardens of the Grand Hotel and with the years it developed a character of its own which makes it stand out from other larger festivals even today.
Experience a close encounter with majestic birds of prey at the Falconry in Locarno, where you will be able to observe and photograph eagles, hawks, owls and vultures. These beautiful birds, flying free, will lead you into a dimension where man and nature meet, in a natural and animal friendly place. Let yourself be carried away into another dimension, far from the stress of daily life. Enjoy the breathtaking show! Come and visit us any time. We provide sheltered seating, both for the sunny summer days or the few rainy ones! This year’s news is dedicated to the little ones!
At Orselina near the church Madonna del Sasso you found the station of the cableway to Cardada. Thanks to the cable-cars' tear shape and windows on all sides down to the floor, their overall appearance is light and transparent. They are also easily accessible to the disabled and families with baby buggies. If you want, you reach the station travelling by funicolar, starting in Locarno and arriving just nearby.
Worthwhile in Cardada the landscape promontory that forms a kind of cut, a groove, in the forest landscape. Small motifs within the promontory slabs accompany the visitors reaching the funnel-shaped, widened end of the promontory. Small explanatory boards along the parapets explain the puzzling symbols that are encountered along the path, speaking of the origins of life. The view over Lake Maggiore is overwhelming and unforgettable. All along its 1.2 km length, the play path is punctuated by play equipment, devices that are intended to appeal to children and the young at heart alike. In line with the motto "Discover in a playful way", they light-heartedly evoke the spirit of adventure, fantasy, wonder and the pleasure of movement? something that we have to some extent lost in our modern lifestyle. These are original and innovative games: for example the communicating wooden posts, which carry sounds over a distance and thus appear like precursors to the telephone. The little Indian village made up of two Indian tents, four totems and a small wooden fort. It is situated on the woods between the cable car arrival and the little church in Cardada.
A two-seater chairlift running parallel to the axis of the ropeway leads from Cardada to Cimetta, offering guests the opportunity to enjoy the breathtaking view during their ride. The highest point in Cimetta has been made into a geological observation point: a large, circular platform that merges into the layers of rock on the sides. This surface area is used to develop the theme of "The horizon of the rocks ? the clash of two continents". It is traversed by a straight line representing the Insubric line that separated the European and African plates millions of years ago. Rock hitting against rock, stone grinding against stone; some samples are presented here on the platform ground. The 360° panoramic view is from the Maggia river delta between Locarno and Ascona, the lowest point of Switzerland, to the Monte Rosa massif, the highest point of Switzerland.
Sport and leisure: 2 Helsana running walking trails, 1 orienteering for children, 1 orienteering for adults, mountain bike trail, paragliding and a foot sole massage path.
Cardada / Cimetta, just few minutes from Locarno, offers you peace, nature and wonderful walks and excursions. The restaurants and lodges are delighted to welcome you with traditional Ticino cuisine.
The Church Madonna del Sasso
Most striking of all Locarno's sights is the Franciscan Santuario della Madonna del Sasso church, an impressive ochre vision floating above the town on a wooded crag (sasso means rock) and consecrated in 1487 on the spot where, seven years earlier, the Virgin had appeared to Brother Bartholomeo da Ivrea from the San Francesco monastery in the town.
The twenty-minute walk up through the lush ravine of the Torrente Ramogno and past a handful of decaying shrines, is atmospheric enough in itself; or you could take the half-hourly funicular from just west of the station to Ticino's greatest photo-op, looking down through the palms to the sunlit arcaded main front of the church and glittering blue lake behind.
The Sanctuary is opened to the public after the renovation. Opening time: 06.30 - 18.30
The Gambarogno Riviera, with its typical Ticinese villages, extends for roughly 10 kilometres on the left shores of Lake Maggiore up to the Italian border. The area itself, though, begins in Contone, at the foot of Monte Ceneri and includes part of the Magadino Plain, as well as the famous “Bolle di Magadino” (Magadino Ponds), at the mouth of the Ticino river. This comprises the following municipalities: Contone, Magadino, Vira, Piazzogna, San Nazzaro, Gerra, Sant'Abbondio, Caviano and Indemini.
The luxuriant vegetation, the green chestnut woods, the lake’s iridescent colours – from turquoise to dark green – give a unique character to this still intact region. Given its Mediterranean climate, the average annual temperature is 15°C. In the summer months, the weather is ideal for all water sports. The Gambarogno Riviera does not only boast its lake and shores. It is also a steep mountain with a sheer drop to the lake: its boundaries span from Monte Tamaro (1961m s/m) to Monte Gambarogno (1735m s/m). Hence its name. From here there is a spectacular view on the Alps, from Monte Rosa to the west, and from the crown of the Ticinese Alps to the north. Itineraries and excursions.
The lake’s sparkling beauty, the amazing richness of the Bolle di Magadino (Magadino Ponds), the artistic and gastronomic variety of the Riviera. Practise all possible water sports, admire rich and rare flora and fauna, or simply relax. They house a particular vegetation and fauna, typical of the transition zones between water and terra firma. The present aspect of the Bolle di Magadino is basically due to the natural factors linked to the dynamics of the two rivers that have formed them and to the presence of the lake. The factors linked to the activities of man, both positive and negative, should also be kept in mind.
The garden skills of the breeder Otto Eisenhut can be admired in all their magnificence on the brow of the hill between Piazzogna and Vairano, in the Gambarogno Riviera. This botanical garden extends on a total area of more than 17,000 square metres and contains a myriad of plants: approx. 950 different qualities of camellias and nearly as many magnolias, not to mention the azaleas, peonys and rhododendrons surrounded by pine trees, junipers, ivys and fir-trees that are exotic or rare in Europe. The Foundation "Gambarogno's Botanical Garden" has been managing this garden since the beginning of the year 2000. Its aim is to guarantee the continuity of this precious landscape, both botanically and culturally. Unless you are a botanical garden expert, count on a full hour for the visit.
The Gambarogno region, due to its lake, hills and mountains, is ideal for a number of sports. It offers water sports, e.g. swimming, diving, rowing, canoeing, sailing, surfing, water skiing, wakeboarding and motor boats; horse riding, with horse centres in Quartino; tennis, with tennis courts in Vira and Contone; minigolf in Vairano, Magadino and Quartino (indoors); two hundred kilometres of footpaths, the winning card for the region's tourism.
Tenero e Verzasca valley
Tenero is a delightful and friendly little city on the shores of Lake Maggiore, with its own special brand of charm—such as the smooth, calm surface of the lake surrounded by mountains, white sandy beaches and the surrounding hillsides lush with high-quality grapevines. Visitors to the area are immediately whisked away from reality, cocooned in a carefree and relaxing environment.
Right on the lake’s shores, Tenero boasts well-known camp sites where tourists can enjoy a broad range of facilities and services of all types, including all sorts of sports, for a restful, relaxing and comfortable vacation. The renowned National Youth Centre, a true sportsman’s paradise, is in Tenero. Sports fans have a full panoply of their favourite sports available: sailing, field and track, soccer, swimming, tennis and much, much more. Tenero also boasts quite a prestigious cultural and architedtural heritage. Among the many places of interest to visit are the Fraccia oratory, the Matasci Gallery with its Wine Museum and Mario Botta’s Sports Centre.
The region of Tenero, its surroundings and the Verzasca Valley offer visitors a broad range of organised events that will make their stay even more enjoyable and unforgettable: art exhibitons, markets, wine festivals and tastings, gastronomic festivals, traditional rural ceremonies, concerts (of all types of music: Country, Jazz and blues, traditional, classic and so on), vintage-car and motorbike rallies as well as exhibitions and sales of arts and crafts and much, much more.
The Verzasca Valley is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating river valleys of the Alpine region south of the St. Gotthard Pass, and is of genuine historical interest. The valley bears witness to the harsh life of its inhabitants, who tried to eke out a living, though nature was at times very harsh and forced them to seek out sites that nowadays beguile tourists with their charms. The discerning tourist can find all this right outside the city centre. The Valley is right before your eyes, both impassable and welcoming at the same time, and capable of slaking a broad range of desires.
The territory is comprised of numerous small communes, such as Corippo, as well as towns of some considerable size, such as Tenero-Contra, nestling in a landscape that stretches from the banks of the lake through plains and hilly vineyards right up to the mountain tops. One of the particular features is that some of the communes, such as Lavertezzo and Gerra Verzasca, are made up of a number of separate settlements at considerably different altitudes. The reason for this is that, in the past, their inhabitants used to practise a form of farming known as transhumance – spending the winter down in the plain and moving higher up the valley and onto alpine pastures for the spring and summer.
The region has an extensive network of paths, with a total length of around 300 km, and they cater for the whole range of needs: from a leisurely stroll along the lake, through sporting trails and theme walks, to high-mountain walks between peaks, passes, alpine pastures and refuges, with breath-taking views to quicken the heart of any mountain walker.
Lovers of sport and open-air activities will find a large range of interesting things to do in this region. These include sports involving water (canyoning, river diving, kite surfing and others), sports in the air (bungee jumping, the adventure park and so on) and those on solid ground (tennis, go-karts, cycling and much more) and, finally, winter sports, such as cross-country skiing and ice-skating rinks.
Centovalli and Terre di Pedemonte
The Cento Valli is known as one of the most romantic valley in southern Switzerland. The Centovalli Railway connects the Gotthard and Simplon lines as well as Ticino and Valais via the shortest possible route. The railway is not just a means of transportation. It is also an excursion train, that takes visitors through the magnificent landscapes of Centovalli and Valle Vigezzo.
The nearly 60 kilometer long narrow gauge railway track of the Centovalli Railway leads across the dizzying heights of viaducts, past deep ravines and thundering waterfalls, through sunlit chestnut forests and fertile vineyards, tunnels and hairpin bends.
The train takes you straight through the Centovalli (the Hundred Valleys region), in just two hours from Locarno on Lago Maggiore to Domodossola in Italy. Centovalli is home to the the wild Melezza River. There are numerous side valleys that are densely forested and strewn with jagged rocks. The region offers a variety of hikes and excursions that begin at one of the numerous railway stops in Italy or Switzerland.
The hub of this region is Intragna: it overlooks the fertile Pedemonte countryside and stands guard over the entrance to Centovalli, the hundred valleys. Intragna's famous, majestic, 17th-century bell-tower is a prototype of the architecture favoured by the region's rustic gentry. Necessity forced many people to emigrate: they worked as chimney sweeps, grill-cooks, knife-vendors and above all as dockworkers in the port of Livorno, Italy.
Today one can still catch a pleasant hint of Tuscan Italian in the speech of the elderly; set into the iron of a balcony in Palagnedra, one can see the emblem of the Medici family - just to mention two reminders of that adventurous past. The splendid ornamentation of Palagnedra church also has its story to tell. Here a wandering, early-16th-century painter, Antonio da Tradate, lavishly decorated the choir and at the feet of the Apostles portrayed the rural activity of the months of the year.
The villages in Onsernone Valley lie on high terraces which allow a view of the wild, rugged valley floor, an ideal place for those seeking authenticity and antiquity. The rustic buildings, reminders of hardship and poverty in times past, merge with the impressive, refined houses, some from the 1500's, which were built by émigrés who made their fortunes in France or Italy.
Villages such as Auressio, Loco and Russo nestle in picturesque scenery which has fascinated and attracted artists, writers, and lovers of nature in every period. A rugged, enclosed valley some thirty kilometres (18 miles) long, from where it meets Centovalli to the border with Italy, it offers the walker an abundance of routes: from the nearby pleasant mountain hamlets to the most secluded alps and peaks ranging from 1500 to 2500 metres a.s.l., rivers and streams with the clearest of waters to fish in or simply relax alongside, not to mention the ruins of Bagni di Craveggia with their spring and thermal baths which were known about as early as the year 1200.
In Loco we find the impressive baroque church dedicated to Saint Remigius, well-documented since the 11th century, and the Museo Vallerano which affords visitors indispensable information about the history, art and culture of the valley so as to allow them to know more about it; part of the museum is the old but recently restored mill which continues to grind corn, just as it once did.
Onsernone Valley is lying from Centovalli Valley as far as thermal springs from Graveggia in Italy. At the bottom of the Valley, Isorno River is shaped by narrow and deep gorges from the rough and wild character of Onsernone Valley. Just before, the two rivers (Isorno and Melezza) meet together and flow into Centovalli Valley, which opens the Valley as far as a large bend by a big cleft among the mountain sides covered with thick forests of chestnut trees. There are some big sunny platforms in Onsernone Valley which were formed in the Ice Age are nowadays occupied by a lot of picturesque villages.
Vallemaggia extends over a fifth of Ticino canton, which is reflected in the name Vallis Madiae, which means major or principal valley. However, its residents form less than a fiftieth of the population of Ticino. The valley is enormously varied: the difference in elevation between the lowest village (Avegno, 299 m) and the highest (Bosco Gurin, 1507 m) is a good 1208 metres. Not only is Bosco Gurin Ticino’s highest community but it’s also the only Walser village in the canton.
This landscape, still mainly natural, extends from Lake Maggiore to the Alps, shaped by the impetuous River Maggia. While wandering around on the lookout for old traditions or exploring regions untouched by the frenzy of modern life, there are treasures to discover including river banks of finest sand, broad rock-pools, smooth boulders and forceful waterfalls.
The minute visitors enter the valley they discover a paradise where luxuriant vegetation and glistenging waters capture their hearts. This uncontaminated region, punctuated by small old settlements, is where and old world built of stone "Maggia valley gneiss" lives on in the everyday mores and thoughts of the inhabitants.
Lose and find yourself among inviting fountains, benches, roofs and houses. An ideal way to revive yourself after a day spent touring is to taste some of the typical local dishes, accompanied by a glass of good local wine at one of the many "grotti" (taverns), found along the countless trails and cycle paths which cover the whole valley floor.Vallemaggia is a verdant region of rich contrasts: sheer cliffs and sweet, crystal clear waters. From the Basodino glacier to the little beaches at Avegno, the River Maggia crosses a landscape in which nature thrives. Climbing up the valley, the visitor abandons the banks of Lake Maggiore and is immersed in an alpine world.
The natural world from the alluvial plain on the valley floor to the inaccessible mountains above which feed the river can be appreciated for its splendour, fascination and, in parts, grandeur. The dry stone walls, valuable evidence of an old world of peasants, are essential for biodiversity. Masters of survival among plants and animals settle in the cracks, crevices and holes, finding food and refuge there.
Bellinzona and Mescolcina
Because of its unique geographical position, Bellinzona was once seen from the south as the "key to the Alps" and from the north as the "key to taly". Today, its rich historical heritage, left from the Middle Ages, still lives on behind the austere charm of this Lombard town in the foothills of the Alps.
Bellinzona is famous for its three mighty castles Castelgrande, Castello di Montebello und Castello di Sasso Corbaro. The fortifications of Bellinzona are among the most important examples of medieval defensive architecture in the Alps, and have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since the year 2000. From the Castelgrande, Bellinzona's oldest and mightiest castle, there is a beautiful view over the Old Town and the surrounding area.
A little museum in the Castelgrande documents the history of Bellinzona's castles and town centre. There are also museums in the other two castles.
The picturesque corners and squares, the courtyards and the neo-Classical, Italian-style theatre, and the sympathetically restored old houses tell visitors the history of what is culturally a Lombardy town. In its alleyways are richly decorated patrician houses and beautiful churches. Yet behind the austere charm of the medieval town is all the dynamic life of a modern meeting-place. Numerous boutiques, cafés and specialist shops offering culinary delicacies invite you to linger and window-shop. Each Saturday there is a big weekly market on the Piazza Nosetto.
Villa dei Cedri – municipal art gallery with Swiss and Italian paintings from late 19th and early 20th century, as well as contemporary art. There is a particular focus on artists from the local area. Teatro Sociale – inspired by La Scala in Milan, the building is in the typically Italian Classical style, and is the only theatre in Switzerland to have been preserved from the 19th century.
Top-Events: Carnevale Rabadan Bellinzona – highly traditional carnival, with a big masked procession, street performers and masked balls (February) - Open-air cinema in the Castelgrande – at the castle, in a romantic setting under the stars (June) - Piazza Blues Festival – for a few days, Bellinzona becomes the blues Mecca of Switzerland, with international stars (June) - Bacchica Bellinzonese – traditional wine-growers' festival with a procession in national dress, wine-tasting, theatre and lots of music (September) - Cheese market – autumn festival with fresh produce, cheese and wine produced by Ticino farmers (October) - Castellinaria Youth Film Festival – the spotlight is on children and young people in the films shown here (November) - Christmas market - in the Old Town of Bellinzona (December).
Bellinzona is ideally located for excursions to the nearby holiday resorts of Locarno and Ascona, over Monte Ceneri to the southern Tessin with its main town, Lugano, up the romantic side valleys of the Tessin or northwards into the Leventina, with the Bedretto valley, or into the sunny Blenio valley.
Mesolcina and Calanca Valleys
The Calanca Valley is a part of the valley of the Misox. The eight communities are united in a circle Calanca and belong together with the circle Mesocco and Roveredo to the district Moësa district. The Calancatal is, like the valley of the Misox, the Puschlav, the Bergell and the village of Bivio on the Julier Pass, part of the Italian-speaking region of the canton of Graubünden.
If you drive through the valley on the motorway you can't get a true feeling of the intimate beauty of the Mesolcina and Calanca valleys. From the car, the sheer rock faces are certainly impressive and you will marvel at the waterfalls which cascade noisily down to the valley floor, but to really experience the true character of the region you should break your journey and discover the bounties that nature has blessed this area with. Dense forests clad the mountain-sides concealing networks of paths that are a veritable Alpine hiker's playground. The luxuriant vegetation also provides a beautiful setting for more relaxing walks along the river banks where the constant silvery sound of water rushing between the rocks contrasts with the silent majesty of castles, ancient ruins and lookout towers.For centuries Mesolcina and Calanca have been popular transit routes for travellers moving between north and south and an excellent way to discover them is on the old railway line which runs between the small factories that dot the valley floor or along the ancient paths used by smugglers in the past. There at the confluence of the River Moesa with the River Ticino you can start out on a journey full of contrasts: ancient chapels containing splendid art treasures and modern churches perched high up on the mountainsides seem to greet each other from ridge to ridge. A labyrinth of roads and narrow streets and numerous cableways lead up to small villages clinging tenaciously to the mountainsides, awakening the long lost emotions of rural life. Gliders sweep up from the valley floor like birds of metal, winging their way up to one of the most famous passes in Europe: the San Bernadino, where residential tourism makes for a lively atmosphere, snow-clad slopes abound for the joy of skiers and Alpine lakes provide a cool and restful spot in which to relax. This region, which has so much to offer, is also renowned for its fine foods and local specialities include cheeses, salami, wild mushrooms and game.