Around Locarno
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A medieval stone bridge in Lavertezzo spans the Verzasca river. (©_Switzerland Tourism)
The valleys around Locarno are groaning with hiking possibilities, and offer some of the most beautiful scenery in the whole canton – which means that trails can get a little overcrowded in the summer season. Val Verzasca and Valle Maggia both lead north from Locarno, while the gorgeous Centovalli runs west on one of the most scenic and dramatic train rides in the country. The small resort of Ascona lies a little southwest of Locarno, with the beautiful Isole di Brissago just offshore.

About 1.5km east of Locarno is the suburb of Tenero, standing at the head of the VAL VERZASCA, the southern end of which is blocked by the gigantic Verzasca Dam, scene of one of the world’s highest bungee-jumps (see “Listings” above). Buses run past the dam to Corippo, at the end of the lake behind, a beautiful cluster of old stone cottages crowned by a tall campanile; 3km north is Lavertezzo, whose claim to fame is perhaps the most-photographed bridge in Switzerland, a graceful seventeenth-century double arch that leaps from bank to island to bank. Many quieter trails head off into side valleys from Lavertezzo, while Verzasca itself cuts deeper and deeper for another 14km to Sonogno at the valley’s end, passing on the way through Brione, whose church boasts fourteenth-century Giotto-style frescoes.

The deeper, even more rugged gorge of the VALLE MAGGIA runs north from Locarno, very narrow in its initial stretches and only opening out further along around Gordevio. You’d do best to take a bus to Bignasco, 30km north of Locarno, where the valley divides into the Val Lavizzara leading northeast and the completely isolated Val Bavona heading northwest. Bignasco and Lavizzara link in with the walking tour of Alto Ticino described in the box on p.491. Bavona is truly wild, a strip of valley floor 10km long that rises 500m over its length and is hemmed in by sheer scarps on both sides. There are twelve rustic, crumbling hamlets in the valley, all without electricity save San Carlo, the last community of all, characterized by tall, narrow stone houses built by the valley’s sixteenth-century inhabitants.

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