A perfect Ticino Holiday: Ascona – Locarno – Valle Verzasca
We love the Ticino region in the south of Switzerland! We had already been to the area of Lugano, and this time we decided to discover the area of Ascona, Locarno and Valle Verzasca! We are so happy we did! Picturesque towns, impressive nature, good food and the Dolce Vita atmosphere are the ingredients of a Ticino holiday! We also discovered the most beautiful valleys with countless waterfalls, and cute, remote towns with traditional houses and without electricity that make you feel you have travelled back in time. Those valleys and villages showed us another aspect of Switzerland, in architecture, in lifestyle, and in taste! Read all about why you should definitely go on a Ticino holiday!
Ascona is a small town on the Lago Maggiore. Ascona’s colorful houses, boutique shops, narrow alleys and lake side with view on the Brissago Islands will leave every visitor at awe. The small town has plenty of good restaurants, from typical Grottos, to Pizzerias and Gelaterias for dessert. Ascona also has a Museum of Modern Art.
Locarno is equally beautiful, almost attached to Ascona and on the same lake, Lago Maggiore. We liked walking around the main Piazza, and we loved visiting Madonna del Sasso. Madonna del Sasso is a sanctuary built on the hill above the city, offering you an incredible view on the lake. Just next to Madonna del Sasso is a good Grotto restaurant, Restaurant Funicolare Orselina, serving local specialties on a terrace with a panoramic view. Madonna del Sasso can easily be reached from central Locarno by taking the cute funicular up the hill.
Valle Verzasca, the Verzasca Valley
The Verzasca Valley is so gorgeous, and was one of the main reasons for our trip. Kids will definitely like hiking and climbing on the rocks of the adventurous trails in this valley. Traditional village after village, waterfall after waterfall, there is a ‘wow-factor’ around every corner. Driving up from Locarno, you will first pass by the big Verzasca Dam which is famous for a scene in the Golden Eye James Bond movie, where 007 jumps off the dam.
Restaurant tip! Shortly after passing the Verzasca Dam, on the right hand side, you will see Osteria Paradiso, which is a very good restaurant with a cool terrace. Highly recommended! Their website: http://www.rustici-verzasca.ch/en/osteria/
Then, driving up in the valley, your first stop should be the tiny village of Corippo. Corippo is the smallest town of Switzerland, with only 13 permanent inhabitants. Corippo is on a list of protected traditional villages in Switzerland. The alleys are not even paved, and exploring the village between the small stone houses already feels like an adventure. If you go to Corippo by foot from the Postbus stop, just note that the road going up is quite steep.
The most famous village of the valley, due to the Ponte dei Salti, a bridge people jump of off in summer to swim in the river. You can cross the bridge and climb on the stones. Of course, wear good shoes and always be careful, but the site is so beautiful! The waterfall at the entrance of the town is also worth to check out.
The parking lots at Lavertezzo are not very big and we did wonder how this would be in summer or during a heat wave. We think the Postbus would really be the best option to head to Lavertezzo. We were there in Autumn, a bit at the end of the season, so we could just park close to the bridge.
Sonogno is a really good stop, for 2 reasons. First of all there is the interesting Museum of Valle Verzasca in the town center, explaining life in the valley through times and seasons. They have a new addition in an adjacent building which is a bit interactive and shows you a map with the touristic sites of the region, but also where people live according to the season.
Secondly, you can leave the village center for a 25 minutes walk and enjoy the views of a very big waterfall from close by, the Froda waterfall. This really is an impressive waterfall and a must-do in the region if you ask us!
Just before reaching the waterfall, there is a cute Grotto restaurant with a beautiful terrace called Grotto Efra.
Website of the Grotto: https://grottoefra.ch/
Transport in the Verzasca Valley, and how to explore
If you go by car, you should know that you need to buy a parking card for the day. They are on sale at local infopoints, restaurants, kiosks, camping grounds and hotels. With this card you can park in the green parking zones. Without the card, you risk a fine. Another way of transport in the Verzasca Valley is the Swiss Postauto bus system which really never fails you. It also allows you to walk from one village to another, and continue, or go back, with a Postbus.
More information on the Postauto in Valle Verzasca: https://www.postauto.ch/en/excursion-tips/verzasca-valley
Monte Tamaro and fun thermal baths
Monte Tamaro is a mountain filled with fun! You can take the cable car up to go for a cool mountain sledge run, an adventure park, or just walk and enjoy the view. There is also a real cool warm water pool with great slides for some thrills with the kids! At Splash e Spa, children of ages 6 and up can enjoy the cool slides. One slide is for 6 and up, the others as of 8 years old or 1m40 in height. The slides are called ‘the washing machine’, the ‘horror tube’, or ‘black night’, which pretty much says it all. The Mania slide for the youngest is also really cool! For smaller kids there is a water playground pool, there are warm water baths inside and out, and you can order a unicorn milkshake and other drinks at a pool bar while staying in the warm water. You can’t go wrong here!
Centovalli Express Panoramic Trains
Switzerland has plenty of panoramic train routes, and the Centovalli line is one of them, connecting Locarno to Domodossola in Italy. The Centovalli Express is 52 kilometers long, and gently takes you over 83 bridges and through 34 tunnels the Centovalli region in Switzerland and the Val Vigezzo region in Italy while you enjoy the view on countless waterfalls from your train window. There are stops to choose from on both ways. If you would like to take this panoramic train, then check out our blog post on this train trip through the valley between Locarno in Switzerland, and Domodossola in Italy.
Bavona Valley and the waterfall of Foroglio
This was the most beautiful valley with fairytale like villages! When you drive to the Bavona Valley from the direction of Ponte Brolla towards the village of Foroglio, you will probably pull over your car at several spots. We loved the village called Sabbione, which was almost surreal with the small houses built under or around enormous rocks! People who live in the Bavona Valley still practice ‘Transhumance’ which means that they move according to the season. In most towns people only live in the summer season. As in many villages there is no electricity, but only solar power, the amount of daylight in winter is not enough.
Foroglio is another cute village with the typical stone houses who are traditional in the Ticino region. The village has a very impressive waterfall dropping with all its force down from the mountain. The point where the water hits the cliff is quite spectacular! You can wander through the village and visit the only store of the small town which sells handmade items. There is one restaurant in Foroglio, which has a view on the waterfall and serves delicious traditional dishes.
Website of Restaurant ‘La Froda’ in Foroglio: http://www.lafroda.ch/
Brissago, Osteria Borei
We were told that the restaurant Osteria Borei would have the best view over Lago Maggiore, and so we decided to check it out. The winding and narrow road up was a bit of an adventure! At several spots the road was too narrow for two cars to pass, and so we had to back up in quite some difficult locations. That said, I would definitely go again tomorrow if I had the chance, because Osteria Borei really is in a breathtaking location!
Website of Osteria Borei: https://www.osteriaborei.ch/
Where to stay?
Accomodation in the Verzasca Valley
This holiday home is located in Lavertezzo in the heart of the Verzasca Valley in a charming traditional style house.
Hotel in Ascona
Since Ascona is one of the most picturesque towns on the Lago Maggiore, it also makes for a perfect base to stay. This hotel is particilarly child friendly and with lots of activities, and possibilities for parents to relax!
From the Ticino region, you can easily make a day trip to Milan in Italy! Check out our post on a day trip to Milan with kids here:
And if you would like to explore the region of Lugano, then this article could be of interest to you:
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