Known as the sunniest town in Switzerland, Locarno has a subtropical climate that nourishes palm trees and aloe vera, offering a slice of paradise to visitors. Locarno is at the northern tip of Lake Maggiore in the canton of Ticino and home to one of the world’s biggest concerts — the Moon and Stars Festival.
For the past 12 years, international artists have played to thousands of fans at night in the Piazza Grande, the heart of Locarno. This year’s festival will be held July 8-18 and features diverse musical acts such as Santana, Lenny Kravitz, Roxette, Bob Dylan and John Legend.
The music is the centerpiece of the festival, but Locarno offers a variety of other attractions.
During the day, explore Castello Visconteo, which was started in 1210. The Renaissance-style castle was home to the Visconti Dukes of Milan. Don’t miss a fresco depicting the Virgin Mary or the beautiful collection of Roman glassware.
Although only a fifth of the original castle is intact today, it’s worth a visit. Famed artist Leonardo da Vinci might have helped design parts of the building during its many renovations.
Adventure seekers should take time to explore the region’s beauty. Hop on a cable car to the breathtaking Cardada-Cimetta mountain peaks that overlook the city, a perfect spot for hiking or skiing. Or ride a boat on the flawless Lake Maggiore and stop by the isolated Brissago Islands.
For a romantic night, stay at a Belle Époque-style hotel near Piazza Grande, a charming spot with plenty of shops and cafés.
For a quick escape, go to Ascona, a quaint and elegant town that is a close neighbor of Locarno. The local Ticinese people are well-known for their hospitality, making this a popular holiday destination.
Often called the “Pearl of Lake Maggiore,” Ascona has drawn artists since the Middle Ages. The most famous example of their impact is the baroque Casa Serodine, built in in 1620.
At the beginning of the 20th century on top of a hill, a group of idealists — revolutionaries, philosophers, writers, poets, dancers and painters — founded a colony known as Monte Verita, “The Mountain of Truth.” Several Utopian communities have occupied the site and it now welcomes visitors.
Whether it’s music, food, shopping or attractions, the area around Locarno offers plenty to keep you busy.