Last Friday evening Martin and I drove with several of his hammer throwing friends down to Tenero, a small town on Lago Maggiore in Ticino (Italian-speaking Switzerland). Tenero is home to one of Switzerland’s national sports training centers, the Centro Sportivo Tenero, which was hosting a small hammer-throwing conference sponsored by the Swiss Federation. I was a bit car sick on the drive down so I slept through my first trip thorugh the St. Gotthard auto tunnel going underneath the Alps to Ticino.
Since Martin’s conference had meetings scheduled all day Saturday and Sunday I decided to spend Saturday exploring Locarno and nearby Ascona. While I briefly visited Locarno last summer to see Martin throw in the Swiss Championships, I hadn’t yet explored any of the city. After an early breakfast, I arrived in downtown Locarno around 8:30am and began the trek up to Sanctuario della Madonna del Sasso, a pilgrimage church (Madonna of the Rock) dating from 1596 which overlooks Locarno from the summit of a rocky, forested spur. The forecast called for rain about halfway up my slippery cobblestone hike it started to pour. I took shelter several times under trees and was fairly wet by the time I reached the church. Of course the church was closed for renovation, but it was worth the trip to see the outside architecture and the view over Locarno. I did ride funicular back down the hill though.
I spent the next few hours wandering around the rest of Locarno’s arcades of shops, churches, and Roman ruins near the Castello Vinsconteo. I most enjoyed seeing a man stirring a gigantic kettle of polenta in a quiet street corner. He must have a lot of local customers because I saw very few tourists that day.
When the weather cleared I took a bus 3km to the nearby fishing village of Ascona. Ascona is now considered an artists haven and health resort, and was a refuge for many German artists who faced persecution during World War II. Now the town is just a warren of narrow pedestrian streets with art galleries, shops, and lakefront cafes.
I finished walking Ascona and Locarno around 2:00 pm and returned to Locarno’s Piazza Grande to warm and dry cafe where I enjoyed a cappuccino and waited for Martin’s group to arrive at the nearby stadium for afternoon practice.
We enjoyed a quiet, early evening in Tenero and I spent Sunday reading in the sport center’s cafe while Martin’s meetings wrapped up. It was nice to be back home in Zurich by 6:00pm.
Here are some pictures of the weekend’s sights: