Locarno, German Luggarus town, Ticino canton, southern Switzerland. It is situated at the northern end of Lago Maggiore, near the mouth of the Maggia River, west of Bellinzona. The site was settled in prehistoric times, and the town was first mentioned in 789. A possession of the dukes of Milan from 1342, it was taken by the Swiss in 1513. It became part of the newly formed Ticino canton in 1803 and, with Lugano and Bellinzona, was one of the three capitals of that canton until 1878. An Italianate town, it counts among its landmarks the 14th-century castle of the dukes of Milan, now a museum; the Pretorio, or law court, in which the Pact of Locarno, an attempt to guarantee the peace in western Europe, was initiated in 1925; and several old churches, including the pilgrimage church of Madonna del Sasso (founded 1480, extended 1616). It is a noted health and tourist resort with a warm Mediterranean climate and numerous hotels and other tourist facilities. There are machinery and electrochemical factories. The population is Italian-speaking and Roman Catholic.
At the northern tip of Lake Maggiore in the canton of Ticino, situated on the delta of the River Maggia, is Locarno, the city with the mildest climate in Switzerland, enjoying 2300 hours of sunshine every year. The “Lady of the Camellias” lures the visitors with its southern charm, Mediterranean climate and sub-tropical vegetation. Often the camellias, mimosa and magnolias begin to bloom here even in February.
You can wander through the narrow alleyways of the Città Vecchia, the Old Town, admire all the bright flower displays in the parks and watch the hustle and bustle on the busy Piazza Grande while you sup a cappuccino – Locarno is above all a city for those who know how to enjoy themselves.
In summer people meet up on the Piazza Grande, especially at open-air concerts or during the famous International Film Festival in August, when thousands of visitors come to the square. The Piazza Grande, the heart of the city, is framed by houses with elegant facades, leafy walkways and pavement cafés.
Towering over Locarno is the famous pilgrimage church of Madonna del Sasso. The founding of this holy place dates back to a vision of the Virgin Mary which appeared to a Franciscan monk during the night of 15 August (Feast of the Assumption). From the rocky spur of Orselina there is a fantastic view of the city and the lake with the mountains in the background.
Further up, on Locarno’s nearest mountain (1670 m), a cable-car designed by the world-famous architect Mario Botta leads up to Cardada-Cimetta. In summer, Cardada is a popular meeting place for hang-gliders and hikers, while in winter you can even go skiing or sledging.
It is particularly worth a visit to the mighty Castello Visconteo with its impressive tower and the archaeological museum inside the castle walls. It is also worth visiting the ancient churches and noble manor houses in and around Locarno.
Locarno is the ideal starting point for numerous excursions, whether a boat trip on Lake Maggiore or a diversion into the romantic and remote valleys in Locarno’s hinterland.
- Pilgrimage church of Madonna del Sasso – a holy place above Locarno with fantastic views over the town, lake and mountains.
- Locarno’s nearest mountain, the Cardada-Cimetta – the cable-car designed by leading architect Mario Botta takes visitors up to the hiking, skiing and sledging paradise above Locarno.
- Old Town with Castello Visconteo – wander through the picturesque Old Town behind the Piazza Grande to the medieval castle with its archaeological museum.
- Verzasca valley & Maggia valley – romantic and largely unspoilt valleys in Locarno’s hinterland. Bus connections from Tenero and Locarno.
- Lago Maggiore – swimming, water sports and excursions in, on and round the lake, e.g. to the Brissago Islands.
- International Film Festival in Locarno – for eleven days every year, thousands of film fans enjoy the magnificent setting of the Piazza Grande (August).
- International Film Festival in Locarno – each year the best productions are awarded the coveted “Golden Leopard”. Special focus on new film talent (August).
- Moon and Stars – a one-week open-air festival with world-famous musical stars – the concerts take place in the evenings on the Piazza Grande (July).
How to get there
- from north: line St. Gotthard: 3 hrs from Zürich, 7 hrs from Frankfurt a. M., 10 hrs from Paris.
- from south: line Milano 2 hrs. 7 hrs from Rome
- Centovallina: ( Domodossola – Locarno ): 5 hrs. from Geneva, 2 hrs from Domodossola
- The Lago Maggiore area can be reached easily in summer and winter by the excellent highway A2 Basel Chiasso, exit Bellinzona south, accessible via Simplon, and via Centovalli
- from Northern Italy along the Lake Maggiore
Madrid: 1800 Km; London: 1150 Km; Berne: 270 Km; Berlin: 930 Km
- direct flights from the bigger Swiss and international cities to Lugano-Agno airport (40 Km)
- Shuttle-bus Lugano – Milan/Malpensa (100 Km)
- International airport Zürich/Kloten (212 Km)