A Little Slice of Switzerland
Here at Helvetia and Sons, we’re all about sharing with you the best things about Switzerland. In our new category, A Little Slice of Switzerland, we share our best picks for destinations, culture, and cuisine in our homeland
Valle Verzasca: The Verdant Heart of Ticino
The southernmost canton of Switzerland, the Italian speaking region of Ticino is considered the country’s most popular destination whenever springtime rolls around. Indeed, it seems like everyone is excited to make their way South to what is referred to as die Sonnenstube (sun room or atrium) of Switzerland.
But while Ticino is spread over a wide area, there is one particular place in the canton where everyone from nature lovers and artists to sportsmen and explorers revel in the fresh, green beauty of the season: the Valle Verzasca.
A Cinema-worthy Location
If you’re a James Bond fan who hasn’t missed a single film in the series, the massive dam in the opening sequence of the 1995 release Goldeneye may have caught your attention. It’s actually one of the biggest points of interest in the Valle Verzasca: the Contra Dam.
But while the Dam, the fourth largest facility of its kind in Switzerland, appeals to film buffs and thrill seekers who can book a bungee jumping session on it, the Valle Verzasca has other reasons why it is such a desirable destination.
Because of the forest-covered mountainous terrain around it, this valley is considered an ideal location for hiking, up-mountain cycling, and simply basking in its natural beauty.
Right at the very heart of the valley is the famed Verzasca River, referred to in a tongue-in-cheek fashion as the Maldives of Switzerland. But why not? While not in as grand a scale as that island paradise, the river and its tributaries entice visitors with their fresh and clean waters, gorges that invite exploration, natural bridges for climbing, and deep pools for swimming and diving into.
For those who want a restful stay in nearby Locarno one particular hotel that we love is the Villa Novecento.
The Swiss Heritage Society regards the Villa Novecento in Locarno as one of the 100 most beautiful hotels in Switzerland. Villa Novocento has been welcoming guests for over a century, and is still housed in its charming original structure. Thanks to several renovations, it is a warm and friendly mix of age-old traditions, Old World charm, and modern comforts.
It’s a hotel that offers something for everyone. Gardening enthusiasts will love the romantic old gardens surrounding the hotel, while history buffs will learn more about the region’s history in the house library. Meanwhile, more active guests can book walking tours and other activities within the surrounding environs.
For a stay in the nearby Maggia valley, we also recommend the Albergo Centovalli which offers beautiful, whimsical accommodations that are simple yet absolutely comfortable. For a delicious Risotto dish (some may say it is the best in the area!) and amazing ambiente make sure to book a table in the adjacent Ristorante Centovalli.
All that fun and exploration in the great outdoors is bound to whet your appetite, and the Valle Verzasca’s surrounding towns have excellent restaurants where you can sample and enjoy authentic local fare.
Ristorante da Enzo in Ponte Brolla is where the gourmets dine: a beautiful jewel of a restaurant that mixes the modern with the ancient. Depending on the season, you may enjoy a rustic salad made with fresh asparagus, cress, sous-vide eggs, and black truffles; Swiss Prime veal cutlets crusted with fresh herbs; poached Atlantic Sole with baby spinach and pureed carrots; or a sumptuous chocolate fondant served with champagne-macerated strawberries and ice cream.
If you like it more down-to-earth, the Grotto America, also in Ponte Brolla, is also an excellent choice. Don’t let the name fool you: it is so called because relatives of the restaurant’s founders made their fortune in the United States; otherwise, the cuisine is pure Ticinese. Also, it is a key destination for artists thanks to its annual summer program where actors, musicians, and visual artists can share their creative endeavours with the community.
Speaking of the visual arts, no trip to the area would be complete for art enthusiasts without visiting the Ghisla Art Collection in Locarno.
Established by the Ghisla Foundation for Modern and Contemporary Art, the gallery features an extensive selection of works from the 20th and 21st centuries.
Here, one may find exquisite pieces from the portfolios of legendary artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Fernando Botero, Keith Haring, and Roy Lichtenstein hanging alongside the works of up and coming artists from around the globe.
Pictures: MySwitzerland, Ticino Tourism, ghisla-art.ch, Villa Novecento, Da Enzo (IG), Grotto America (IG)