Continuing with my series on Switzerland, I had passed by Locarno previously when I was travelling to Milan during my stay in Switzerland. Reminding myself to see this city again, I found myself back here for a weekend visit. Located on the northern shore of Lake Maggiore and enjoying a warm southern climate, Locarno makes for a perfect vacation spot to get away from the colder weather up north.

Being just at the edge of the Italian border, the city is decidedly all things Italian, from it’s language to it’s food. You’d have thought that you were in Italy once you stepped out of the train. I was here only for a day trip and didn’t have much time to soak in the sights of the town. The main railway lines from Zurich and Bern pass through Locarno on the way to Italy, so getting here by train is quite easy actually. Locarno’s railway station is also within walking distance to it’s Old Town and Piazza Grande, so you don’t need to take any public transport.

The city was preparing for their famous International Film Festival when I arrived and the Piazza Grande had been converted into a giant outdoor cinema. For film fans, the Film Festival is usually held in the first 2 weeks of August every year.

Getting ready for the Lorcano Film Festival 1997 in the Piazza Grande.
Getting ready for the Locarno Film Festival 1997 in the Piazza Grande.

Many pilgrims also come to Locarno to worship at the Madonna del Sasso, a church on top of the mountain overlooking the city. The church was named after a monk who saw a vision of the Virgin Mary in 1480. A furnicular train runs from the city centre to Orselina which overlooks the Madonna del Sasso and Locarno.

Looking down on Lorcano town and the sanctuary of Madonna Del Sasso.
Looking down on Locarno and the sanctuary of Madonna Del Sasso. Lake Maggiore and the surrounding mountains are also visible.
Nice shadows from the columns at the Orselina church.
Nice shadows from the columns at the Orselina church.

The Old Town of Locarno is pretty small and you can explore it on foot easily. There are many narrow streets which all lead to the Piazza Grande.

The old narrow streets of Lorcano's Old Town.
The narrow streets of Locarno’s Old Town.
Although Lorcano is Italian, it does give me the old Spanish look with the palm trees and architecture.
Although Locarno is decidedly Italian, it does give me the old Spanish look with the palm trees and architecture.

Unfortunately, I missed out visiting the Castello Visconteo, a medieval castle built in the 12th century. Besides the city itself, Lake Maggiore offers a lot in terms of water sports and activities. Personally, I think Locarno would make a good day trip or stop over if you are going to, or coming back from Milan.

There is another smaller town called Lugano which is just further down from Lorcano. Their names sound almost the same, so make sure you tell the train ticket seller exactly which town you want to go to, as the same train goes to both towns on its journey from Switzerland to Milan.

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