This popular Swiss resort combines culture, history and a Mediterranean atmosphere
Situated at the northern tip of Lake Maggiore, the main body of which lies over the border in Italy, Switzerland's lowest city, Locarno, bathes in a climate more Mediterranean than Alpine. The warmth of its climate - Locarno enjoys an estimated 2,300 hours of sunshine each year - and the natural splendour of the city's lakeside setting long ago secured Locarno's popularity as a recreational destination.
First mentioned in records in 807AD when controlled by Italian nobility, Locarno had previously been a Roman settlement, although this area of Lake Maggiore bears evidence of inhabitation since prehistoric times. Largely an agricultural community, Locarno's prosperity as a centre of trade and commerce grew in the fourteenth century thanks to its proximity to a trading route between Italy, Switzerland and Germany.
This long and colourful history has bestowed a wealth of historic buildings upon Locarno and today the city boasts nine individual, Swiss Heritage Sites of National Significance including the twelfth century Castello Visconteo, and the Church of Saint Francesco which dates from 1538.
Besides historic architecture Locarno offers beautiful public gardens, a diversity of shops, cafes and restaurants, art galleries, museums and other attractions and is small enough to be explored enjoyably on foot. A relaxing afternoon's boat trip on Lake Maggiore, meanwhile, provides a picturesque alternative view of the city and its beautiful surroundings from the water.