A festive atmosphere in Ticino.

Locarno is “On Ice” again from 24 November 2016 to 8 January 2017: the town, situated on the shores of Lake Maggiore, invites you to enjoy the festive period with mulled wine, a lap of the ice rink and lots of live music.

Although the Christmas market does not open until the next day, there is already an overpowering festive atmosphere in Locarno. I smell the smoke curling out of the chimneys, the scent of burning wood and soak up the anticipation of this important event. My hotel is situated on the Piazza Grande and I can see from my window that everything is ready for the big day tomorrow.

The next morning I wake up early; the shutters are shut and I suddenly have huge doubts – what on earth am I to do if it rains all day? I spring out of bed and rummage through my suitcase for the travel guide. What alternatives does Locarno offer for rainy days?

Rivellino Art Gallery.
Rivellino Art Gallery.

There is a lot of culture here – the Ghisla Art Collection, the Rivellino Art Gallery and the Monte Verità, to name a few examples. There are restaurants, “grotti” and wine bars, and the Splash and Spa lets you relax and have fun. I have put together a number of other suggestions for the Locarno region for you Pinterest.

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Ghisla Art Gallery.

Now I open the shutters. All good! The sun is shining and it draws me out to the lakeside promenade to sunbathe. The adverse-weather programme has to be put on hold.

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Back to the Piazza Grande, where the first stalls are offering their delicacies. Since I haven’t yet eaten anything, I succumb to temptation and buy myself Ticinese polenta with fried fish.

Polenta auf der Piazza Grande.

This also marks the start of my food marathon, as the Christmas market offers countless Ticinese, Swiss and Italian specialities, including sweets and genuine delicacies as well. I feel like I’m in a Christmas wonderland for foodies.

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I now head further on to the igloos and allow myself to be carried away by Christmas lights, shining stars and the light show while I sip on an espresso.

Iglus.

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Before I venture out onto the ice, I stock up on a combination of Swiss and Italian cuisine: I order a hearty platter with salami, olives and cheese and fight off the increasing chill with a mulled wine.

The ice rink becomes an illuminated ice disco in the evening, where the youngest learn to skate to the beat of the music and the most experienced perform pirouettes and daring axel jumps.

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After returning my skates, I hurry straight to the stage so I can experience the upcoming concert from the front row. Every evening here at 9.30 p.m., the curtain rises for young bands – and there is no way that I want to miss tonight’s band.

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The concert also brings the evening to an end and, since I was very positively surprised by Locarno’s Christmas market, I decided to visit the other Christmas markets in Ticino: Lugano and Bellinzona. I did all of this year’s Christmas shopping at markets, with culinary experiences, local specialities and plenty of entertainment!

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My return trip to Bern is enjoyable – not just because I have tasty food with me, but also because I’m travelling on the Centovalli Express and I can treat myself to a final cup of coffee and digestif at the last stop in Domodossola (those of you who are coffee enthusiasts like me will understand how excited I am about this!). Now there is just one thing left to say: Arrivederci, dear Ticino. See you again soon!

 

Christmas time in Ticino.

Locarno on Ice is just one of the many Christmas markets that is casting a spell over Ticino this winter. Visit www.sbb.ch/en/advent for more ideas for winter excursions to Ticino and all the information you need on how to get there.

The opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel to scheduled services on 11 December 2016 will cut your journey time from German-speaking Switzerland to the markets in Lugano or Bellinzona by 30 minutes.

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