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Are you a real nature lover? Do you actually enjoy the buzz of bees and other insects? Can you spend hours just watching the grass or trees being gently caressed by the breeze? Do you find the animal kingdom fascinating? If you have answered positively to at least some of these questions, then agritourism is for you.
Agritourism is a good practice if you are interested in local culture and traditions specifically connected to farming or livestock breeding. Only here in Ticino you will immerse into nature and explore it with the help of local guides, farmers or by yourself. This wonderful region is the southernmost canton of Switzerland, although the population is mostly Italian and the official language is Italian as well. The canton lies completely to the south of the Alps and is somewhat separated from Switzerland, thus creating a confusion for its belonging. The land was part of Italy until its annex to Switzerland in the 15th century. Consider your next trip to be exactly this one, as Ticino has a lot to offer in terms of nature, culture and history, too. Ticino has undoubtedly taken the best of both worlds and turned it into a little paradise right at the foot of the Alps.
Alpine nature at its most beautiful form
The region of Ticino is very typical for Switzerland and as beautiful (if not even more) as other parts of the country like Geneva or St. Moritz. It is less visited by tourists, therefore the atmosphere is more peaceful and you have a chance to truly experience the local traditions. Of course, there is a lot of baroque architecture, numerous castles and picturesque city views, but the landscape around is what makes coming here really worth it.
The region of Ticino lays its border on the south side of the Alps, thus combining Mediterranian views and 3,000m high peaks to the other. It is known for its elevation differences – with river valleys and the Lake Maggiore and sub-sea level contrasting with the high mountains like the Saint-Gotthard Massif. The area is also renowned for the unique architecture of the local houses and farms – often built from stones and clay found locally. These farmhouses are an inseparable part of the landscape and are specifically designed in order to blend with the surrounding nature.
Of course, the most famous lakes in the area are the Lago Maggiore and Lago Lugano, however they are also very popular tourist destinations and often crowded with visitors. The region offers many possibilities for visiting other lakes and enjoying them in peace and quiet. There are also hiking tracks which pass by a few lakes. For example, scenic and beginner-friendly routes are the Ponte dei Salti – Val Verzasca Loop and the Val Verzasca – Ponte dei Salti Loop. On these trails you can dive into history while crossing a Roman bridge from the Middle Ages, enjoy and preserve nature while hiking through the protected Verzasca valley and listen to the babble of the Verzasca river and its streams.
For the more experienced hikers, take either the Alpe Cedullo – Alpe Neggia Loop or the Valletta Lake – Lago del Lucendro Loop. On the first trail you will be able to enjoy the gorgeous views of pastures and a dense forest while meeting local farmers. They often let you try their homemade cheeses and typical pies. Also make sure to pay a visit to mount Gambarogno to experience a panoramic view of Lago Maggiore.
On the second intermediate route we mentioned (Valletta Lake – Lago del Lucendro Loop), you will begin hiking from what was once one of the most important passes through the Alps – the Gotthardpass. The surrounding area of the pass is very rich in glacier lakes. From there you can hike to the Valetta, the Orsino or the Orsirora lakes. The different colors of the lake waters when watched from the trail above paint an unforgettable picture. Lastly, this route will take you to Lago del Lucendro where you can take the panoramic walk around the lake for breathtaking views of the dam, the valley and the Alps.
A unique combination of plants and animals
What is typical for Ticino is that plants from the Mediterranean and from the alpine zones coexist together due to years of evolution. It is an unusual sight to see: camellias, palm trees, magnolias and the high peaks of the Alps in the background. In reality, this part of Switzerland gets 96 days of pure sunshine per year, which allows plants and flowers to thrive.
Due to the differences in attitudes and zones, in the Ticino area there is a diversity of trees and other vegetation – chestnuts in the lower zones, oaks, limes and ashes on the hills, beech trees and red and silver firs in the mountain zones up to 1600m above sea level. If you go even higher up the peaks you will come across clumps of larches and rowans and of course green alders. The alders are famous for flourishing in disturbed areas, especially on the path of previous glaciers.
Beautiful red deer roam around here and live in peace with the mountain-loving chamois. In the forests you can spot the European wild boar, and if you have a binocular you can look for the nests of the Golden Eagles on the rocks. One of the more important representatives of the fauna in the Ticino region are the bats. As much as 30% of wild mammals living in the area are bats and there are a few different kinds present such as the pipistrellus gray and the eptesicus serotinus among others.
Weather meant to be enjoyed
The climate in the Ticino area is quite favorable for touristic endeavors. Around the lakes the temperature is always a bit lower (around 15°C throughout most of the year). On a positive note, these areas are quite refreshing during summer, especially with the Mediterranean sun always shining above you. No wonder the canton is often called the “sunny Italy in the Alps” or the “sun porch”. Temperatures rarely go over 30°C even during the hottest of summer. You can enjoy this nice weather practically throughout most of the year, as summer starts warming the lands in April and autumn is comparatively warm and stays that way until late October. During the winter, the lower parts of the canton are very different from the rest of Switzerland and there is rarely snow or negative temperatures. In the higher parts the climate is more Alpine-like and you can even go skiing in one of the 16 ski areas nearby.