Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Posts Tagged ‘Locarno

Swiss Sun Parlor Has Latin Lilt

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By Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features

LOCARNO — While the scenery in the Swiss “sun parlor,” the country’s southern­most canton of Ticino, may not overwhelm you with dramatic alpine vis­tas as some more-rugged sec­tions of the coun­try do, it carries a lingering charm. Life in this polenta-pasta-and-palm-tree finger of land poking into northern Italy has a leisurely Latin lilt.

Conversation is punctuated with ges­tures not seen in the more sedate sec­tions of Swit­zer­land. Grappa, a po­tent Italian li­quor, is the tradi­tional after-dinner Ticino tipple.

Lake Lucerne

Not only do Ital­ian, French and Swiss cultures min­gle here, it’s also the geographical point at which the great plate of the African continent shoulders its way into the European conti­nent, rumpling the land­scape into what we call the Alps.

We rolled into this vista of val­leys, vineyards and vil­las, fol­lowing a couple of days in the magnificent Ho­tel Dolder Grand in Zurich. A lei­surely day-long boat-and-train trip carried us almost the entire width of this nation.

A short walk from the Locarno’ train terminal is the Grand Ho­tel Locarno, overlook­ing the crisp, cool waters of Lago Maggiore. We took the time to sip a satis­fying local merlot in the wine cellar of this historic hostelry, where the fragile treaties de­signed to keep a lasting peace in Europe following World War I were drafted.

Then we boarded a bus to neighboring Ascona, a lakeside town that peers up at the border vil­lage of Brissago, renowned for its hand-rolled cigars.

 A 30-minute train trip through Centovalli (Hundred Valleys) and a ca­ble car took us to a grotto (country ca­fe) in the pocket community of Raza. There we energized ourselves with a hearty meal of beef stew, polenta, red wine, salad and espresso, all washed down with a healthy belt of grappa.

It’s only a one-hour drive from Locarno to Lugano, Ticino’s largest city, but we took a bit lon­ger by stop­ping for lunch in the canton’s capi­tal, Bellinzona. Three medieval cas­tles here still guard the Magadino Plain, his­torically a ma­jor entrance to Europe’s heart­land.

Lugano, the third major Swiss finan­cial center after Zurich and Geneva because of its perch on Italy’s northern border, embraces its name­sake lake. Along its shores are a choco­late museum, curi­ously the only one in this country, and a smuggler’s museum.

This resort city is within a couple of hours by auto, bus or train from Milan, Genoa, Geneva, Lucerne and Lausanne.

Menus in many Ticino restau­rants are fixed and feature the freshest mixture available of hearty peasant cuisines.

Polenta, mentioned earlier, is a regional favorite. This traditional Italian corn-meal dish is served in endless ways: as a side dish like rice or potatoes, sliced cold and re-fried with an entree, or as a dessert swimming in syrups and sauces. Its distinct smoky fla­vor results from slow stirring as it simmers over an open fire.

Via Nassa is Lugano’s Fifth Ave­nue. As in Locarno, there are ex­cellent boutiques and inexpen­sive stalls sprinkled throughout the town offering local crafts and items toted over the border from Italy.

When we went shopping we looked for the Migros stores.

Three large Ms across the front of the building means a full-service and full-variety de­part­ment store; two Ms, a su­per­market, and one M, a conve­nience shop.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

September 12, 2021 at 8:00 pm

Posted in Travel

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