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The Castle of Sasso Corbaro stands elegant 230 meters above Bellinzona, Switzerland towering over the entire city. This location makes Sasso Corbaro a fantastic vantage point with magnificent views taking in the Riviera valley and the Pizzo di Claro to the north and Lago Maggiore to the South.A typical Sforza castle, because it is very geometrical in shape. It is in the square courtyard surrounded by high walls which are 4.70 meters thick. In the South there is the lookout tower. Together with the castles of Castelgrande and Montebello, it was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites which constitutes the main attraction of the capital of the Canton of Ticino.
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10 Magnificent Castles Of Switzerland That Will Make You Feel Like A Time Traveler
The very mention of a holiday in Switzerland is enough to send many into deliriums of ecstasy with the flurry of panoramic images that comes with it. Be it the craft beer and castles, new-age restaurants and waterfront bars, swimming in the Rhine or Limmat, and hiking on the snow-clad peaks, things to do in Switzerland are endless. But nothing gives you more insight into the grandeur of the country’s history and culture like the castles of Switzerland.
The Towered City of Bellinzona
LOOK up from almost any point in the small, vineyard-girded capital of Switzerland's Italian-speaking region, and you are likely to glimpse one of its medieval castles. In many places you can see all three of them. Those strongholds with their grim towers and battlemented ramparts are enduring reminders of Bellinzona's strategic position. The prosperous town of 17,000 on the Ticino River straddles major European north-south routes across the Alps -- the approaches to the St. Gotthard Pass and the lofty gateways to the two headstreams of the Rhine River. Small wonder that through the centuries mighty neighbors coveted possession of Bellinzona.
Today 200 passenger and freight trains to and from northern Italy roll every 24 hours over the railroad tracks that skirt Bellinzona on the east, while a stream of autos and long-haul trucks pass the town on the highway on the western outskirts. Relatively few travelers stop for a look at La Turrita (the Towered One), as Bellinzona calls itself.
"We get foreign visitors mainly when it rains in Lugano or Locarno," a Bellinzona official said. The two resorts are, respectively, 19 and 12 miles from Bellinzona they look out on two different lakes and are known for their mild climate and lush gardens.
During an occasional spell of bad weather guests staying in Lugano or Locarno may decide to take a trip to the historic center of the Canton Ticino for a pizza or for some of the local red Merlot wine served in one of the taverns.
They won't be disappointed: they will experience a less cosmopolitan and more authentic Ticino than is represented by the clusters of hotels and boutiques in the elegant lakeside places.
Actually, Bellinzona deserves better than being regarded as a rain check. John Ruskin, for one, with all his passion for Venice and other northern Italian cities, found the capital of the Ticino so congenial that he spent a month there in the summer of 1858. Bellinzona's quaint core has little changed since then.
A good time for a visit is any Saturday morning when people from the nearby valleys mingle with residents between the stalls of the weekly outdoor market in the squares and the narrow, cobblestone streets in the town's heart. Shoppers choose among peasant sausages, a dozen different mountain cheeses and various kinds of breads, white and dark, or inspect kitchenware and articles of clothing.
All around are old burghers' houses, some of them frescoed, with arcades, wrought-iron balconies and marble portals. Particularly noteworthy is the Ca Rossa (Red House) with terra cotta ornaments on its facade, the work of a master from Campione, the Italian enclave on Lake Lugano that was once the home of a clan of stonecutters and sculptors.
From the Ca Rossa, on the east side of the short Via Nosetto, it's only a few steps to the ancient Town Hall on Piazza Nosetto, the heart of Bellinzona. With its elegant clocktower, the building is the town's pride. Its courtyard, enclosed by ground-floor arcades and two rows of loggias above them, has the grace and rhythm of Italian Renaissance architecture. A 19th-century Swiss cannon in one corner recalls the town's military history. Modern frescoes visible through the arches reproduce old views of Bellinzona. (The Town Hall was restored and redecorated in the 1920's.)
The Collegiate Church, a few steps north of the Town Hall, is an imposing Renaissance edifice with a large rose window. Inside it is adorned with works by various Baroque painters and has a masterly sculptured 15th-century font.
Another church, Santa Maria delle Grazie, on Via Lugano, a 10-minute walk from the Town Hall to the south, is remarkable for a broad frescoed wall in the interior, showing a Crucifixion surrounded by 15 panels with scenes from the life of Jesus. It was done by an unknown painter from Lombardy (circa 1500).
The government of what is officially known as the Republic and Canton of Ticino, administering a population of about 250,000, has its seat in a 250-year-old former nuns' convent and in a vast modern office annex. A giant old oak tree, which may be taken as a symbol of the region's sturdiness, stands in front of the cantonal complex west of the Town Hall.
Bellinzona is dominated by the Castel Grande, the oldest of its fortresses. It rises starkly on a 150-foot-high rocky hill in the middle of town, the supposed exact geographical center of the Canton of Ticino. The claim is hard to prove: the region forms a triangle with scraggly sides, wedged into northern Italy, and its capital lies closer to Lombardy than to the mountain fastnesses that separate the Ticino from German-speaking Switzerland.
The Castel Grande goes back to the sixth, or maybe even to the late fourth, century. Its two square towers are known as the black one, 85 feet tall, and the 81-foot white one, although their hues are in fact different shades of brownish gray. The bulwark is being restored and enlarged so as to gain space for an assembly hall, a large banquet room and a museum.
The city of Bellinzona, the Canton Ticino and the Swiss Confederation are financing the project.
The Ticino architect Aurelio Galfetti, who is in charge, has joined massive gray concrete structures with small, fortress-like windows to the ancient stone walls. He also had a shaft cut into the living rock for an elevator that will whisk future visitors from street level to the top of the hill. To enhance the stern character of the castle the architect had most of the greenery that used to cover the cliffs below it removed, baring the naked, jagged rock.
The radical changes in the appearance of the ancient landmark have inevitably touched off controversy, as traditionalists deplore the concrete additions and the sacrifice of the shrubbery.
For another example of modern Ticino architecture, the visitor can go to Bellinzona's impressive new Post Office on the Viale della Stazione, which Galfatti and two colleagues designed. Using natural stones in various shades of gray and brown and severe metal ornaments, the architects' trio created a Swiss showcase of post-modernism.
While the Castel Grande is for the time being closed to visitors, Bellinzona's two other old strongholds are accessible each contains a museum.
The Castel Piccolo (Small Castle) or Castello di Montebello, 320 feet up on the hillside east of town, can be reached by car or on foot over a steep street that starts from the Viale della Stazione between the train station and the Post Office by way of an underpass under the railroad tracks.
The 500-year-old fortress, with a square and a round tower, looks down on the Castel Grande. Crenellated walls descend from it into the town amid vineyards and orchards. To the west, a segment of the blue Lago Maggiore, the lake that Switzerland shares with Italy, is visible.
Bellinzona's Civic Museum occupies a part of the former dungeons of the Castel Piccolo. On display in the modern showrooms are pre-historic and ancient Roman finds, medieval art, coins from various epochs and a collection of historic weapons.
Higher, 320 feet above town, is the Castello di Sasso Corbaro, a typical Renaissance fortress. The Duke of Milan had his architects and work crews toil day and night to erect the stronghold in six months in 1479, in an attempt to consolidate his control of the area. (Duke Gian Galeazzo Sforza's descendants would nevertheless lose the Ticino 21 years later.)
Paved streets from the Castello di Montebello and from the Via Ospedale on the southeastern outskirts of Bellinzona lead up to the youngest and highest of the three castles, which is surrounded by forests. The panorama embraces the Alps in the north, the Ticino River valley and Lago Maggiore. The Museum of Costumes and Prints in various rooms of the keep contains examples of dress traditionally worn by mountaineers and inhabitants of the valley and many old prints, designs and watercolors by local and visiting artists.
Bellinzona's three fortresses are also known as the castles of Uri (Castel Grande), Schwyz (Castel Piccolo) and Unterwalden (Castel di Sasso Corbaro) after the three German-speaking Forest Cantons that formed the nucleus of the Swiss Confederation and which conquered most of the Ticino from the Milanese in 1500.
For more than three centuries the bailiffs of the Forest Cantons resided in the three castles of Bellinzona, inflexibly ruling the region. The Ticino gained self-government and canton status during the Napoleonic era in 1803, an event recorded by an obelisk in Bellinzona's Piazza dell'Indipendenza south of the Town Hall.
Today's Ticinesi are taking part in this year's celebrations marking the 700th anniversary of the Everlasting League of Schwyz, Uri and Nidwalden (a part of the present Canton of Unterwalden) of 1291, which is considered the birth certificate of Switzerland. Yet the harshness of the Bellinzona bailiffs is unforgotten: the Ticinesi still speak of the 303-year "Swiss occupation." BOUND FOR BELLINZONA Getting There
The quickest way to reach Bellinzona from New York is by air to Lugano (with change of planes in Geneva or Zurich), proceeding by car or rail. Frequent trains between Lugano and Bellinzona the trip takes 25 minutes, and costs $8.60 in first class, $5.30 in second (based on an exchange rate of 1.40 Swiss francs to $1). From Zurich, there are frequent trains the trip takes two and a half hours. Fares: $42.50 in first class, $30 in second. By car, the trip between Zurich and Bellinzona by way of the St. Gotthard Tunnel takes two to three hours. From Milan, direct trains leave every two hours or so, reaching Bellinzona in 90 minutes. Fares: $22.60 in first class, $17.30 in second. The trip from Milan to Bellinzona on the Autostrada takes about 90 minutes. Where to Stay
Breakfast is included in all the following hotel rates.
Hotel Unione, 4 Via Generale Guisan (telephone, dialed locally: 25 55 77), near the train station, modern, has rooms for two with bath at $107 to $121.
Internazionale, 35 Piazza Stazione (25 43 33), facing the station, is an older house with refurbished rooms. Rates for two: $78 to $107 with private bath, $64 to $75 without bath.
Budget choice: Gamper, 29A Viale della Stazione (25 37 92) $64 for two with bath, $50 without bath. Where to Eat
Traditional taverns in and near Bellinzona where residents drink wine or beer and order snacks are known as grottos. Try Grottino Ticinese, Via Lavizzari (26 39 64), near the soccer stadium west of the train station. For Pizza, try Croce Federale, 12 Viale della Stazione (25 16 67), with a pleasant terrace below medieval walls (also rooms with bath at $68 for two) or a score of other pizzerias around town. Pizza with a beer or a glass of wine: $5 to $8.
For more formal dining, try the following.
Corona, 5 Via Camminata (25 28 44), adjoining the Town Hall, is a popular brasserie and restaurant. A recent dinner for two comprised a risotto with curry and small chunks of turkey, calf's liver, Venetian style (sliced and fried with onions), and coffee, with a bottle of local Merlot wine the check was $72.
La Speranza, 12 Via Pedemonte (26 19 39), near the train station east of the tracks, with a garden, serves such local specialties as risotto, pasta with mushrooms or ragout, polenta (cornmeal mush), steaks and crisp salads. Dinner for two: $50 to $80. What to See
Two museums worth a visit:
Civic Museum, Castello di Montebello (25 13 42) open from 10 A.M. to noon and 2 to 5 P.M. daily except Monday to May 31 9:30 A.M. to noon and 2 to 5:30 P.M. except Monday from June 1 to Sept. 30 admission: $1.50.
Museum of Costumes and Prints, Castello di Sasso Corbaro (25 59 96) open from 9 A.M. to noon and 2 to 5 P.M. daily except Monday admission: $1.50. Information
More information can be obtained from the Tourist Office of Bellinzona and Surroundings, Via Camminata, 6500 Bellinzona, Switzerland (25 21 31). -- P. H.
One of the best Castle views in Europe, the Castelgrande has existed since the 1st century BC. History records indicate that Bellinzona was fortified only in the 13th Century. You will be pleasantly surprised to learn that the present views of the castle date back to between the 13th and the 16th Century, with a multitude of renovations undertaken in between. The period Castle entrance takes you into the wonderful monument, which houses a museum. You will comfortably reach the top of the castle, riding on an elevator. The elevator is organized to take you from near the foot of the rock to castle grounds. You could also reach the top by climbing up the steep narrow streets from the city center through the city wall. The museum at Castelgrande is one of its kind. The collections here exhibit the entire period beginning from the Neolithic village, well into the 20th century. The decorated ceilings of Casa Ghiringhelli and Albergo Della Cervia are also on display at this museum. You could take a peek into the Restaurant located to the west of the museum, for some refreshments. A great historic place to visit!
Address: Salita al Castello, 6500 Bellinzona, Switzerland
Châteaux de Bellinzone
BOYCOTT! OFFENSIVE & POOR SERVICE! At the Tavern Castello di Sasso Corbaro in Bellinzona!
The server (young female with brunette hair and glasses) wanted me to sit in the sun, though there were many tables in shade! PLUS, the server accused me of stealing a newspaper! [Never even saw a newspaper, let alone took one!]
Not much to see at Sasso Cobaro Castle. Visit the other two, skip this one!
First thing's first: if you're traveling by car, there are 3 parking lots as you get to the top of the hill. If you're like me and get antsy about parking, you're good here. Depending on what kind of time you have just know that the walk from Montebello from here is probably pretty significant.
What was disappointing about the castle was that the museum exhibits are entirely about bees. There is zero historical information here. Bees are great and all, but I really didn't come all this way for a PSA about honey bees. The fact that they couldn't come up with anything with even a shred of historical significance to tell you about the castle is confusing and obnoxious. They also love bees so much that there's a giant hive of them nestled into the rocks on the far side of the castle wall. It's a fun surprise for anyone that wanders over there, and like all bees they're thrilled to see you.
I also overheard the woman at the desk turn down a couple because it was inside an hour from closing. That makes even less sense considering they probably just wanted to do what everyone else does and skip the bees to get right to the view.
The view from the castle walls is stellar, naturally. And if you paid for admission to all 3 castles it's certainly worth the trip. I just don't get how they ran out of history.
Sasso Corbaro, Bellinzona
Sasso Corbaro, known as Unterwalden Castle after 1506 and Saint Barbara's Castle after 1818, is about 600m south-west of town on a rocky hill. Unlike the other two castles Sasso Corbaro is not integrated into the city walls. The first part of the castle was the north-eastern tower which was built in 1478 to close a gap in the defenses of the city. The walls and south-west tower were added later. The castle was struck by lightning multiple times during the 16th and 17th centuries, and by 1900 was falling into ruins.
Today, Sasso Corbaro Castle houses the Sala Emma Poglia which is the "wooden room" built for the Emma family during the 17th century. Originally located in the entrance hall of their home in Olivone in the Blenio Valley, the room was purchased by the Canton of Ticino in 1944 and housed first in the Castelgrande before being moved to the Sasso Corbaro in 1989. The room is panelled entirely in walnut and also includes the stüva, stove which provided heating. The stove bears the crest of the Emma family (an eagle and a lion rampant). The museum also houses temporary exhibits. It is open from March until November.
Three Castles, Defensive Wall and Ramparts of the Market-Town of Bellinzona
Once acting as a barrage to the Alps and now a World Heritage property, the three impressive castles of Bellinzona are among the most significant examples of medieval military architecture. They were built by the Dukes of Milan to bar the route southwards to the Swiss. Bellinzona occupied a strategic position between north and south back then too. Over the course of the centuries, the three castles of Castelgrande, Montebello and Sasso Corbaro have been reconstructed and restored many times. With its walls, towers, battlements and gates, this impressive defensive complex remains a source of wonder to those who view it today. Cultural Heritage since 2000.
World Heritage Days
Plan your visit
In the 10th century, possession passed to the Holy Roman Emperor Otto the Great. The earliest fortifications still standing today date from this period. The first urban structures that eventually became the modern city of Bellinzona rose on the eastern side of the fortified hill in the 12th century. The conflict in Italy between partisans of the Holy Roman Emperor, the Ghibellines) and the partisans of the Pope, the Guelfs, was mirrored in Bellinzona. The second of the three castles, Montebello, was added to the defensive system by the Ghibelline Rusca family near the end of the 13th century. Bellinzona fell to the Visconti, Dukes of Milan, in 1340. The strategic importance of Bellinzona increased further in the 15th and 16th centuries when the opposing powers fought to expand their respective territorial dominance. The suzerainty of Milan, under its new overlords the Sforza, was resisted by the rest of Italy, forcing the city to strengthen its defenses. As its stronghold in the north, Bellinzona also had to be fortified anew, at great expenses, with the building of the city walls and a thirds castle at Sasso Corbaro. Following the defeat of the Dukes of Milan, Bellinzona sought the protection of the Swiss Confederation in the year 1500. King Louis XII of France, who had ended the Milanese suzerainty, reluctantly ceded Bellinzona in 1503 to the three cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwald, founders of the Swiss Confederation.
Did you know?
&bull The castle of Sasso Corbaro was built in just six months.
&bull The castles were built by the Dukes of Milan and have only belonged to Swiss Confederation since the start of the 16th century.
&bull During the Swiss period of occupation, the castles were renamed Castello di Uri, Castello di Svitto and Castello di Untervaldo.
Watch movies under the stars at the Locarno Festival
For 11 days every August, Locarno becomes the place to be for those who love cinema. The Locarno Festival has been showcasing the best films for more than 70 years, attracting movie enthusiasts from all over the world. The beautiful main square, Piazza Grande, turns into a wonderful open-air theatre and the red carpet welcomes the biggest names in international cinema. The atmosphere is sophisticated yet relaxed, perfect to enjoy great movies under the summer sky. The Ascona-Locarno region, on the shores of Lake Maggiore, is a lively lakeside town with great dining and shopping options.
Raffaello 3D - The Divine
Following the enormous success of the exhibition on Leonardo da Vinci 3D on display last year in Bellinzona, the retrospective on the greats of the Italian Renaissance continues and presents an extraordinary exhibition in Bellinzona on the great Raffaello, 500 years after his death.
The interactive exhibition "Raffaello 3D, il Divino - was created on the occasion of the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the artist's death and displays the elegance of Raffaello's art through traditional representation and modern multimedia technology. The event arrives in Bellinzona on 1 April 2021 and will astonish the public with surprising effects: between augmented reality and holograms, the exhibition breaks down traditional museum boundaries, in an evocative setting, that of the Castello di Sasso Corbaro. Created for young people, the exhibition challenges generational barriers to appeal to all age groups. Its language involves a wide audience belonging to all cultural levels.
The exhibition aims to provide a broad explanation of the Italian Renaissance, one of the most important periods in art history ever, linking Raffaello to other Renaissance giants such as Michelangelo, Leonardo, Bramante, etc.
The exhibition gives the visitor a clear picture not only of Raffaello art, but also underlines the importance of the Italian Renaissance for the whole of humanity. This is done through introductory videos, holograms, didactic panels, a gallery of paintings and drawings reproduced with a special artistic technique.
Inside the exhibition it is possible to admire Renaissance architecture through a reconstruction of the Ideal City by means of a virtual tour, a realistic 3D printed model created at the technological laboratories of the University of Florence and Prato, and an Augmented Reality experience that makes it possible to render particularly realistic the image taken from one of the most symbolic paintings of the period. Some of the artist's most famous paintings are also animated in the gallery.
The exhibition is complemented by a treasure hunt for children, who can learn about the artist and his works through a game that is both stimulating and educational.
Particularly suitable for families and schools, the exhibition take place in Bellinzona at Castello di Sasso Corbaro every day from 01 April to 07 November 2021, from 10.00 to 18.00. Guided tours are available to complement the exhibition.
4.00 Italy / Czech Republic - 03-Feb-06 -
When we were returning from our trip to France we stopped in Bellinzona to visit its complex of fortifications, constructed by the families Visconti and Sforza, that defend the town and the river Ticino valley. The biggest and most ancient castle is Castelgrande, constructed on a rock, that consist in two towers (Black and White), a space divided by walls in three courts, an arsenal, a Redoubt and the remains of the foundations of two chapels. There starts the remains of the Murata, a long defensive wall that crossed all over the valley. The Montebello castle, constructed on another rock, is lozenge-shaped and has a keep, moats and walls. From there start all the town walls, with some towers. The square Sasso Corbaro Castle, constructed by B. Ferrini on a highest rock, consists in a keep and its walls.
I was a little bit disappointed by the castles, maybe because I imagined them more decorated, but their architecture is of high quality and impressiveness. They are in a very good state of conservation and their authenticity is very high. They justify the inscription because they are masterpieces of the military architecture and are worth to be visited if you are in the Canton of Tessin. It is easy to reach them because Bellinzona is the capital city of the region and there are some exits on the highway A2. You can park near the centre and you don't have to walk to the top of the hill of the Castelgrande because there are some lifts going there from the square Piazza del Sole in the centre. You can reach by foot the castle of Montebello from Piazza Collegiata, while you can go by car to the castle of Sasso Corbaro from the street Via Lugano.
Photo: Bellinzona - Castelgrande