The Best of Italy's Lakes
14/07/2020 · By Katie Shaw
Italy's landscapes are truly spectacular; endless glittering coastline, ancient cities, rural regions filled with vineyards and olive groves, and of course, the lakes.Read more
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.
Built in the nineteen-sixties, the Verzasca Dam's claim to fame is that it was the location for the reputed 'greatest stunt in film history', when James Bond leapt from it in the opening sequence of the film 'Goldeneye'. Brave visitors can recreate the stunt for themselves by bungee-jumping from the dam, but the location is sufficiently awe-inspiring for those who only wish to spectate.
Locarno's foremost contemporary art museum is housed in a magnificent eighteenth-century building, itself a listed Swiss Heritage Site. The collection includes paintings, sculptures and drawings dating from the end of the nineteenth century to the modern-day.
Founded in 1480 by a Franciscan monk following the appearance to him of the Virgin Mary, Locarno's historic monastery is a key visitor attraction and stands on a promontory overlooking the town. Renowned for the beauty of its internal decoration, the monastery also occupies a vantage point that offers unparalleled views of Lake Maggiore and the mountains beyond.
Locarno's impressive central square is surrounded by historic buildings and is both the city's main shopping area and the gateway to theCittà Vecchia(Old City).