Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter in Bellinzona, Switzerland

Castelgrande, Bellinzona

We spent Easter in Tessin/Ticino, the Italian part of Switzerland about 2 and a half hours from Zürich, just on the border with Italy - and we even crossed into Como (Italy!) for a few days. I had wanted to take Jace to Bellinzona for awhile now (having been there for a day with my host family back in 1998 - jeez I am old) and the four day break was the perfect excuse to get out of town and take in some of the sights and eat a whole bunch of pizza and gelato! ;)

The highlight(s) of Bellinzona are the three UNESCO World Heritage Listed (one of 6 listed locations in Switzerland!) castles, built between 1250 and 1500. And being a history buff, I thought Jace would enjoy hiking around the castles and climbing the walls, and enjoy he did - he was like a kid in a candy (he would say 'lollie') store.
Castelgrande castle walls and fortifications

I am not going to try to explain the history of these buildings, the UNESCO website does that grandly, but I will say that you can easily explore Bellinzona in 1 or 2 days, hiking to all three castles (with a little deep breathing, at least on my part), and visiting the museums with ease. Get the three castle museum ticket for CHF 10 to enjoy the rest from the rigorous hikes and take in the very different exhibits at each castle - and celebrate when it is all done with a gelato in town, or two, or three. ;) There are also cafes at the Castelgrande and Sasso Corbaro (this one had a cool wine bar feel) in case you need something inbetween. I would recommend a stop over here on the way to Milan or Venice, for sure. It is a delightful little historic town.

Me on the castle walls - where are all the other tourists?
Not at Bellinzona, thank you very much for staying away ya'll!

View from Castelgrande - the central castle in Bellinzona and the easiest to get to - there is actually a lift/elevator up to this one! So I cannot take too much credit for hiking to this baby, but I walked down! And then stuffed myself with a Pizza Quatro Stagione... ;) From here you can see the Montebello and Sasso Corbaro (highest) castles.
This is Montebello castle, the second that we visited, and the next as you go upwards from the valley... it was about a 15 minute walk from the main streets of Bellinzona to this castle, but the view was worth it. This castle had two really cool draw bridges and an interesting museum full of old jewelry.

This is also Castle Montebello, the second we visited, but from the other side, the mountain side... now you can tell we are hiking. The last castle, Sasso Corbaro, is the highest up the hill, about 3.5 km from the city streets, UPHILL... but is was a nice walk. I am just not much for...well walking. ;) See map of Bellinzona highlights here.
This church and tons of vineyards are part of the great view on the way to the third castle.

An artistic shot of the church from the Sasso Corbaro castle.

This is the center of Bellinzona's city streets.
Make sure you sit on the benches outside and do some people watching!

View from Sasso Corbaro of the Castelgrande and the Montebello castles.

Enjoy Bellinzona! We sure did... more on the rest of our Easter trip with stops in Locarno and Como coming this week.


juanitatortilla said...

Ah..... Ticino....
I *heart* Ticino.

Amanda said...

I didn't know about Bellinzona - thanks for this post! I'm sure it won't be too difficult to convince Isaiah to take a drive there...


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