The weather report told us to expect rain on Friday so we decided that we would stay and explore Locarno more. We had a couple of things on our agenda, but we were unable to complete even half of them. We still had a fantastic day however. First on our list was going up to the top of Cimetta. Second was to tour the Madonna del Sasso. Third was to tour the Visconteo Castle.
As we walked through town we were able to see the mountain behind the city, and realized that Cimetta would have to wait for another trip. The clouds covered the top 1/3 of the mountain. Going to the top might have been a fun trip, but once we were up there there would not be anything to do. Sure we could hiking, but we would not be able to see anything. Not to mention being up in the clouds like that, we probably would have been wet and cold. We do. partway up the mountain though.
In the center of town is a funicular train that goes up to the Madonna. So we bought our tickets and rode the train up to the church.
According to legend the church was built on the spot where the Virgin showed herself to Father Bartolomeo Piatti da Ivrea on the eve of the Assumption in 1480. The main part of the church was consecrated seven years later. I have to admit, the size of the sanctuary is very deceptive from the outside. I was expecting the church to be 4 to 5 stories high. The inside is very beautiful, but it is small. One of things that struck me was in the main courtyard there was a clock on the wall right next to a sundial. I was very happy that we visited before DayLight Savings started! Because that way we could see the clock and the sundial were the same, or am I over thinking that? I mean they can’t adjust the sundial, because it is fixed on the wall, and once the time changes, the clock would be an hour behind the sun.
We kind of cheated the system. If we were pilgrims coming to the church we would have been expected to walk UP the hill. Along the path are the stations of the cross, and a smaller chapel about 1/2 way up from Locarno. I guess the pilgrims are expected to walk up from the town, and stop at the chapel and each station and pray before getting to the main church. We cheated by taking the train to the top, and then walking down the hill.
One thing we did learn that Ticino has more differences than simply language. In one of my last posts, I talked about how we struggled a lot, since we do not speak any Italian other than Hello, Goodbye, and Thank you. We struggled because we did not run into many people that spoke any English. The other big difference we found was the public transportation. In Zürich, and other areas we have visited the public transportation was truly on a clock. It is a rare thing if a train or bus is later than two minutes. In Locarno, we only had one bus or train leave within 5 minutes of the scheduled time. The strangest one was the Funicular train going up the mountain. The times were posted that the train left at 15 and 45 after the hour. We showed up to the train at 20 minutes past the hour. There was no one in the ticket office, so that was no problem. The train showed up at 35 minutes past the hour. We figured this would be perfect. Buy the ticket and wait about 10 minutes to head up. We wound up sitting there for another 20 minutes before we left the station. In Zürich that probably would have gotten us a free ticket. :).
The one other place we tried to visit was the castle. We struggled, because the entrance to the place was not very well marked, but we finally found it. Then in the ticket office, the language barrier showed up again. It turned out there was a castella and a castello. The castella is part of the same building, but it has been refurbished and made into a modern art museum. The castello is the part I really wanted to see. However, I tried to buy us tickets. The agent kept going on about the castella and castello, but we were NEVER able to figure out what he was trying to say. We even tried using our phones to translate, but we failed miserably. We finally got out ticket purchased, and the guard inside was very emphatic that we turned left into the art museum. We really wanted to go straight into the other part, but since we had nothing else to do, we figured we would go through the art museum and then visit the other museum. The castella was nice, but the art was not anything that excited us. After we went through the building we tried to access the castello through the courtyard. Unfortunately, the gate was blocked. We finally realized that the ticket agent was trying to tell us the Castle part was closed, and that we could only visit the art museum! :). Oh well, it is not like we flew across the Atlantic Ocean JUST to go see this one thing.
We found this little hole in the wall (literally) to buy a pizza for lunch. Seriously, the entire restaurant was maybe in a 12′ by 12′ room. There is no eating area, which was perfect for the COVID lockdown, because this place didn’t even have to change their business model. The pizza was fantastic, and what I liked even better is that it was perfect size for one person. Every other place you get a pizza, they bring out one big enough for two people, and I always feel guilty about asking for a take away container. I also had the chance to try an orange soda that I have never seen anywhere else. Lunch was great!!!! If you ever get the chance to visit, you need to hit L’Archetto for lunch. You won’t regret it.
All that aside, we had a lovely day in Locarno. Hopefully we will go back, and we visit the sites we had to skip this time. I will have one more post about Locarno. I have to edit some video, and then I want to talk about the drive back home, because the drive was OUTSTANDING. (Well I had a blast, Julie…… not so much.)
Enjoy the pictures: