Saturday we toured castles and a mountain. . Erin Boynton, her daughter Hannah Atkinson and I decided to tour the Bellinzona castles and take the cable car up to Monte Tamaro. So we did! if I were to do it again my itinerary would be different, but we had a good day.
There are three ancient castles in Bellinzona. We took the bus and train to Bellanzona (about 30 minutes from Lugano) and visited them all. It was market day there and the streets around the church were filled with vendors of cheese, polenta, polenta gnocchi, meats, eggs, clothes, wooden items and more. It was vibrant and fun.
We visited the castle next to the center first. There were beautiful views and we climbed up the tower to even more nice views. It was cooler in the morning which was nice ( due to an overnight thunderstorm).
After returning to the center we wandered to the market a bit and Hannah and Erin got some gnocchi and some filled gnocchi before we attacked the second castle. It was much of the same, but higher (more flights of stairs), and had a good view of the first castle. But we did not stop there ( we should have). We climbed to the third castle, which was 25 minutes further, pretty much straight up. There were more lovely views though, and a party was going on in the center of the castle under a grape arbor.
We were hungry by then, the polenta a distant memory. It was 2 pm by the time we arrived back to Bellanzona and the market was finished. I went to the eyeglass store where I had spied a pair of frames I liked, and Erin ordered what she thought were two slices of pizza. (They turned out to be two pies, but not huge ones fortunately).
We dashed off to the train station to catch the train to Monte Tamaro. And I was able to pick up some carrot salad and bread at a grocery store. I love European carrot salad ( more about that later), so bought 2 sealed containers and ate one as we walked to the gondola. Monte Tamaro is an area that has lots of stuff for kids at the top, zip lines, a long slide into the play area, and a luge on wheels amongst them. There is also on interesting very modern church and a restaurant. It took 2 gondolas to reach it (about $25 round trip), and when we arrived at the top the bells from the Swiss cows could be heard. There were goats cavorting about too (I kid you not.)
We did a short hike to the top of the hill and admired the views which were beautiful even on a hazy day. We couldn’t hike too long since the last gondola down was at 6pm, and after hiking uphill so much we were tired and warm. About midway through the hike I realized my sealed carrot salad was no longer sealed and had dripped all over my shorts…so I had Erin rinse off the orange..looked funny but no stains. And the salad was ok still. The pizza was history though, all but 2 of 16 slices devoured!
So what to know?
- Visit the Saturday Bellinzona market and try some of the food, and check out the handicrafts
- Castelgrande is close to the town and the views are great. Entrance is free as is entrance to the tower
- There are two more castles: Castelgrande, Montebello and Sasso Corbaro. Montebello is fairly close but quite an uphill climb nonetheless. Sasso Corbaro is a hike. Plan accordingly. Entrance is free to both.
- Monte Tabaro is close via train and has lots of hiking but some hikes are 3-5 hours. Again plan accordingly and check the times of the last descent of the day. The round trip is about 24 francs.
- If we did it again we would have allowed more time to view the farmer market and less to hiking to Sasso Corbaro (or drive up or take a bus).
All in all it was a fabulous last day in the Ticino region.
Next up, Mallorca!