— the bernese oberland
alpine heart of switzerland  

italian switzerland — 
ticino – best of 2 cultures

matterhorn & zermatt
iconic switzerland


Discover the best of two cultures in


  In Ticino — Italian Switzerland — visitors discover the surprising Italian-speaking south of Switzerland, separated from the German-speaking north by the snowcapped Alps and sharing an international border with northern Italy. Here the alpine beauty and reliable order of Switzerland meets the Italian charms of Lombardy and Piedmont, especially along shared Lake Maggiore. Imagine the possibilities of the melding of Swiss scenery, Italian cuisine, Swiss quality, Italian fashion, and a climate ranging from Mediterranean to alpine. 

Home At First’s Ticino — Italian Switzerland Region of Switzerland is the southernmost region of Switzerland bordered on the north by the Lepontine Alps and on the south by the lakes of Maggiore, Lugano, and Como. Several steep north-south river valleys carry the melting snows and glaciers of the Alps on a rapid 2-mile descent to the lakes. While upper Ticino is characterized by rugged, narrow river valleys dropping away from the high Alps, sunny lower Ticino has a different variety of geography: mountains, lakes, and plains, deltas. Upper Ticino is covered with steep chestnut forests, while lower Ticino is arable: planted with corn, wheat, fruit trees, and — importantly for this region — grapes. Ticino is justifiably proud of its Merlot and White Merlot wines — among the best produced in Switzerland. Ticino’s wines happen to accompany its other major native cuisine components: bread, salami and other dried meats, and mountain cheese. The best place to enjoy the food and wine of Ticino is in a grotto (rustic tavern). Dining in Italian Switzerland offers much more than Ticinese cuisine. Ristorantes, tavernas, and osterias throughout the canton offer traditional Italian dishes as well as German-Swiss favorites, ensuring that visitors have a broad, varied choice.

  • Ascona waterfront on Lake Maggiore
    Ascona waterfront on Lake Maggiore. Palm trees advertise the Mediterranean climate of sub-alpine Ticino. Life's pace here is relaxed. History, culture, food, and art are constants in Ascona's Borgo old town.

Ticinese Cuisine —  At the intersection of northern Italy and German Switzerland, Ticino — Italian Switzerland — not surprisingly, produces foods influenced by the cuisine of both cultures. In Ticino — Italian Switzerland —  expect lots of dried cured meats, especially salamis. Expect mountain cheese, too, from small artisanal dairy farms in the alpine heights of northern Ticino. Pizza? Everywhere in the region. Beer? You bet. Breads & rolls of all kinds? Pasta? Noodles? Veal? Of course. And for dessert  gelato, pastries, confections, and, always, chocolate. The coffee is excellent, and comes as milchkaffee (latte), espresso, or cappuccino, accompanied with or without schnapps or grappa. But the best-kept-secret of Ticino cuisine may well be its original, prize-winning local wines, especially Merlot del Ticino, the complex red that comprises about 80% of the wine produced in the canton. Because the Swiss consume nearly 100% of their wine production themselves and export virtually none, you have probably never heard of Merlot del Ticino that accompanies beautifully so much of Italian-Swiss cuisine, or the rare, delicious Bianco di Merlot Ticino (white Merlot) aperitif/dessert wine. Ticino — Italian Switzerland — is a region full of delightful surprises, perhaps perfectly exemplified by its broad, varied, natural cuisine.

Ticino - Italian Switzerland - Ripe Wine Grapes on the vine


Home At First’s Ticino — Italian Switzerland
How it Works: Locations & Lodgings

Ticino - Italian Switzerland - Window shopping in Ascona's Borgo old town


Explore Ticino and parts of Northern Italy from your own vacation apartment in Italian Switzerland.
Home At First
guests in Ticino — Italian Switzerland — have their own apartments in the historic small city of Locarno or in neighboring satellite communities, especially: Ascona, Minusio, and Muralto. Located in the middle of Ticino — Italian Switzerland — these lodgings make excellent bases for exploring Italian Switzerland and beyond into portions of northern Italian regions of Lombardy and Piedmont. Equipped with our exclusive New Swiss Dream Book activity guide and using the regional Ticino Pass or the (extra-cost) national Swiss Travel Pass — valid, respectively, for transport throughout Ticino or all of Switzerland on intercity trains, postal buses, city transit, even some lake boats, as you explore Switzerland independently, taking day-trips throughout Italian Switzerland and even into areas of northern Italy, returning to your cozy Ticino apartment each evening. Our Locarno-area lodgings are in convenient locations you will quickly feel at home in, where you will happily return after each day’s adventures.

Where are the apartments? What are they like? Home At First’s vacation apartments in Ticino — Italian Switzerland — are located in Locarno‘s historic città vecchia old town as well as in Locarno‘s modern nuovo quartiere (new town), and in neighboring satellite communities, especially: Ascona, Minusio, and Muralto.
       All locations are urban, near stores, restaurants, supermarkets, shopping, cafés, and public transport: trains, buses, and within walking distance of Lake Maggiore passenger boats landings. 
       All Home At First Ticino — Italian Switzerland — apartments have English-speaking hosts either on-site or available nearby for questions, information, recommendations, and help should a problem or emergency arise.
       While all lodging locations share many characteristics, there are some key differences, too. See the following section for a selection of Home At First Ticino lodgings and details of their locations.



  Detailed descriptions of several of our favorite Italian Switzerland apartments. To see the illustrations in larger format on your PC, “right click” on the image, then click on the “View Image” menu item in Firefox or click on the “Open image in new tab” menu item in Chrome. 


Old Town

Ascona - Italian Switzerland: Borgo View Apartment with Maggiore lakefront. Photo © Home At First.


Ascona — Home At First’s Borgo View Apartment by the Lake Maggiore harbor.

Home At First‘s Ascona vacation apartments are in or very near Ascona’s Borgo old town and the town’s lively, picturesque harbor. The modern apartments sleep from 1 to 6 persons and are well-equipped with appliances, TVs, and WiFi. They are located no more than 10 minutes walk from 2 supermarkets, and are 5-7 minutes walk to transportation. Stores, shops and restaurants are as close as 1-2 walking minutes. Apartments have secure, private entries. Some on upper floors are accessible by elevator. The English-speaking host does not live on site, but is available by telephone during daytime and for emergencies at all times. Laundry services vary from apartment to apartment — please inquire.

  Ascona’s Borgo old town is 1-2 minutes walk from Home At First‘s vacation apartments. Borgo’s broad promenade hugs the chestnut-lined harbor and is often busy with strollers and diners at the several café restaurants across from the private boat quays and the passenger ferry debarcadero. During the year jazz and rock music festivals as well as Ascona’s October Chestnut Festival draw crowds to this delightful setting.

  Several narrow alleys wander upwards from the promenade into the historic Borgo, creating a maze of medieval facades housing boutiques, grottoes, specialty shops, some offices, and enviable residences. Two landmarks anchor the Borgo: the 14th century Parish Church of Saints Peter & Paul, and the 14th century Church of S. Maria della Misericordia on the walled grounds of the Collegio Papio, Ascona’s prime venue of the annual Settimane Musicali Ascona (Classical Music Weeks).

  At the top of the hill the Borgo ends and modern Ascona begins. Here are clustered two supermarkets, two banks, several shops, and the post office with its Posta bus stop offering frequent connections to the region’s principal rail station in Locarno-Muralto.

Home At First’s


  This former fishing village occupies a picturesque setting on Lake Maggiore southwest of Locarno across the delta of the River Maggia. Its medieval Borgo is the charming remnant of the original fishing village, and is largely traffic-free. Outside of Borgo, modern Ascona is a busy semi-urban town and satellite of Locarno. Ascona has nearly all the services visitors might ever require: stores, shops, pharmacies, restaurants, supermarkets, churches, museums, galleries, and transportation. For medical emergencies, the nearest hospital is 15 minutes away in Locarno.

  Ascona is connected by public transit — bus and passenger boat — to the regional transportation center at Locarno-Muralto. Boats depart at Ascona’s Debarcadero on the Borgo waterfront. Buses depart from Ascona Posta bus stop at the upper end of the Borgo. Home At First‘s Ascona guests walk 5 minutes to reach the Debarcadero quay or the Posta stop.

  Ascona’s long-standing reputation as a resort for the rich and famous still applies. There are high-end shops, expensive art galleries, and exclusive yacht and golf clubs. But Ascona also attracts visitors of all ages and economic stations to enjoy its music and chestnut festivals, and dine in its many café-restaurants and grottoes. The Borgo’s laid-back, pedestrian-friendly atmosphere offers all visitors a peaceful, relaxing stay in a location of uncommon beauty and charm.

  • Ascona - cafe-restaurants on Piazza Giuseppe Motta.
    Cafe-restaurants on Piazza Giuseppe Motta, Ascona's Borgo lake promenade.



  • Locarno Città Vecchia apartment — Dining & Kitchen.
    Locarno Città Vecchia apartment — Dining & Kitchen.

  Home At First‘s delightful Città Vecchia vacation apartments are in the heart of Locarno’s Città Vecchia old city, clustered along a narrow, pedestrians-only street leading uphill from the historic cultural center of Locarno, Piazza Grande. The several apartments sleep 1-4 persons in modern comfort, with modern appliances, TVs, and free WiFi. The apartments occupy 3 floors (no elevator) surrounding an interior courtyard in classical Mediterranean style, planted with palms and lush semi-tropical plants. Apartments have secure, private entry, and entry phones. The concierge office is open throughout the day. The English-speaking hosts live on site and are reachable at most times. The complex has a laundry room available for guest use. An optional breakfast service is available at a neighboring café.

  One-minute’s walk leads to the city’s great square, Piazza Grande, the site of August’s annual Locarno Film Festival and numerous outdoor concerts of all types of music during the year. Lined with arcaded shops, boutiques, pizzerias, café restaurants, and a few hotels, the broad, cobble-stoned piazza extends nearly from Locarno’s transportation center southwest to Locarno’s medieval Castello Visconteo. The castle — already Locarno’s most important historic site — has recently gained international attention when architectural historians suggested that its unusual round tower battlement may have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci.
       Città Vecchia’s convolution of ancient streets harbor three medieval churches. One, the 16th century Church of San Francesco, is Locarno’s prime venue of the annual Settimane Musicali Ascona (Classical Music Weeks held in September/October). Nearby is Locarno’s Casa Rusca museum of contemporary art. Boutiques, galleries, cafés, and fine restaurants are scattered among Città Vecchia’s warren of alleys. 

Home At First’s


CITTÀ VECCHIA — Lakeside Locarno has been inhabited since prehistoric times. It was part of the Roman Empire, and, during the Middle Ages, it was under the control of the feudal church and nobility until becoming part of the original Swiss Confederation in the early 16th century. At this time Locarno — a market town growing in regional importance and influence — extended from the lake shore at Piazza Grande uphill through today’s Città Vecchia. 

  Città Vecchia is connected by public transit from two main bus stops at Piazza Castello and Cinque Vie (“5 Points”), offering frequent service to Locarno’s bus-rail-boat transport center as well as city, regional, and Swiss postal bus connections to Ascona and to the fascinating northern and western valleys of the River Maggia and its tributaries. Many Home At First guests choose to walk the 10-15 minutes to/from the transport center via the shopping arcades of Piazza Grande, stopping for groceries, take-out food, or a gelato en route. 

  Città Vecchia is the charming remnant of the medieval market town of Locarno, and is largely traffic-free. Beyond Città Vecchia, modern Locarno is a busy small city and regional capital with all the services visitors might ever require. Città Vecchia’s historic, pedestrian-friendly district offers all visitors a peaceful, relaxing stay in a captivating location of cultural importance with superb access to services and transportation for touring throughout Ticino — Italian Switzerland.

  • Città Vecchia alley.
    Locarno Città Vecchia — alley descending to the Piazza Grande town square.


nuovo quartiere

  • New Town - Balcony view over Locarno harbor and Muralto to the Verzasca Valley.
    Balcony view from standard apartment of the harbor beyond the superior apartment building.

  Home At First‘s New Town vacation apartments are in the heart of Locarno’s Nuovo Quartiere New Town, close to the water’s edge of Lake Maggiore between the passenger boat Debarcadero and Locarno’s extravagant Lido public swimming and recreational facility. The apartments are in three different modern apartment blocks located close together, two 7 stories high, and one 5-stories tall. Each building offers apartments of differing sizes and qualities. All offer east and southeast facing balconies, with at least partial lake views. Two of the buildings are a city block from the lakeshore, their balcony views partially obscured. These two buildings have apartments of basic quality (we call “standard”) and better quality (we call “plus”), respectively. The third building, one block east with unobscured lake views, offers top-quality apartments (we call “premium”). All three apartment buildings offer one and two bedroom apartments. Standard-quality apartments are somewhat smaller than plus and premium apartments, with smaller balconies. Kitchens and bathrooms are good and equipped sufficiently if basically. Plus-quality apartments offer more open-space, larger rooms, even larger, more usable balconies. Premium-apartments are very well appointed, verging on luxury, and feature fine lake views from covered balconies. 

  All apartments have TVs and WiFi. Basic and plus apartments have laundry rooms in the building basements. Premium apartments have laundry facilities in each apartment. All three buildings provide free parking (one space per apartment) for guests with cars. Buildings have secure entrances and elevators. The concierge office is open throughout the day, but is not on-site. The English-speaking hosts are reachable at most times for emergencies.

Home At First’s



NUOVO QUARTIERE — Locarno’s Nuovo Quartiere (New Town) largely emerged in the 20th century as the railway and road system brought agricultural prosperity to central Ticino and Locarno’s importance as a commercial center blossomed. Locarno gained international importance in 1925 when 7 agreements known as the Treaties of Locarno helped determine the make-up of post World War I Europe. In the years following the treaties Locarno and Lake Maggiore became vacation destinations for German-speaking Swiss, Germans, Italians, and other Europeans looking for the combination of Mediterranean climate and access to the Alps offered by the central part of Ticino — Italian Switzerland. The Treaties of Locarno are commemorated by the Via della Pace (Avenue of Peace) that connects New Town with the Piazza Grande.  

  Locarno New Town is connected by public transit from two main bus stops 3-4 minutes waling distance from all three apartment buildings. The Via Luini and Via della Pace bus stops offer frequent service to Locarno’s bus-rail-boat transport center as well as city, regional, and Swiss postal bus connections to Ascona and to the fascinating northern and western valleys of the River Maggia and its tributaries and into the Verzasca Valley to the northeast. Many Home At First guests choose to walk the 10 minutes to/from the transport center to stop for groceries, take-out food, or a gelato en route. 

  Locarno New Town is a busy mix of residential and commercial buildings, with lots of car traffic and all the services visitors ever need, including a well-respected hospital, numerous grocery stores, shops, boutiques, restaurants, bars, cafés, parks, Locarno’s Lido swimming & recreation center, and Locarno’s large casino. 

  • New Town — Scooters and Palms.
    New Town — Scooters and Palm. Can this be Switzerland?


on lake maggiore

  • Muralto Park Apartment - building exterior.
    Muralto Park Apartment: 5 minutes walk from the shops & restaurants at the transport center.

  Home At First‘s vacation apartments in Muralto & Minusio are at once close to the water’s edge of Lake Maggiore (east of Locarno) and within 5-8 minutes walk of the Locarno transportation center in Muralto. For guests looking for the absolute best public transportation options for touring throughout Ticino and into parts of northern Italy and German-speaking Switzerland, our Muralto & Minusio lodgings are unbeatable.

  The apartments are in several different modern apartment blocks — see samples in the slide show above. Apartments differ in size and style. Nearly all offer south-facing balconies with at least partial lake views. 

  All apartments have TVs and most have free WiFi. Most apartments have laundry machines or access to laundry rooms in the building basements.

  Buildings have secure entrances and elevators. Their concierge office in Minusio is open throughout the day. The English-speaking hosts are reachable at most times for emergencies.

Home At First’s

on Lake Maggiore


MURALTO & MINUSIO are two suburban satellite communities along the north shore of Lake Maggiore just east of Locarno. Muralto is the smaller community and is wedged between Locarno and Minusio. It is home to Locarno’s transportation center. The main railway station has frequent TILO (TIcino-LOmbardy regional railway) and Swiss Federal Railway train connections to Bellinzona, Biasca, Lugano, Milan, Zürich, Luzern, and Basel. The transport center also has the underground FART (embarrassing acronym for Ticino Regional Railway and Bus Lines) railway station, the eastern terminal of the extraordinarily scenic Centovalli railway west from Locarno to Domodossola, Italy. Importantly, the bus platforms at the transportation center offer frequent city bus and Swiss Postal Bus services throughout the Locarno district, east to Bellinzona, and into the scenic, remote valleys northeast, west, and northwest of Locarno.

  Surrounding the transport center are many popular restaurants, cafés, shops, boutiques, and hotels extending into Locarno and to the Viale Verbano roadway along the shoreline of Lake Maggiore.

  East of Muralto, the larger Minusio has been a settlement since prehistoric times. Served by frequent buses from the Locarno transport center, its central plaza, Minusio Piazza, has 3 supermarkets and several restaurants. Closer to the lake — reachable via the lovely, tranquil Via alla Riva lakeside walking & cycle path extension of Muralto’s Viale Verbano — the important medieval Church of San Quirico — dating from the early 14th century or earlier — contains several frescoes dating from the 13th century onward and is one of the important historic and cultural treasures of Ticino — Italian Switzerland.

  • Minusio - 13th c. church of San Quirico by the lakeshore path.
    Minusio - 13th century church of San Quirico by the pretty, 2.5mi lakeshore walking/cycling path from Muralto to Tenero..

More about Home At First’s Ticino — Italian Switzerland — Lodgings

What are Home At First’s apartments in Italian Switzerland like? Each is unique. They come in all sizes and shapes. Furnishings range from Italian traditional to modern to eclectic. Some have multiple bedrooms and baths; others may have a single bedroom and bathroom. There are a few studio apartments that provide economic lodging for single travelers. Most apartments have terraces or balconies, some with impressive views of Lake Maggiore. All apartments are secure private quarters with private bathrooms, and all must meet Home At First standards of quality and equipment:

HOSTING: All Home At First‘s Ticino apartments have friendly, knowledgeable, helpful, accessible hosts. Hosts may be the lodging owners or their representatives. Some live on-site. Some have offices on-site or nearby. Hosts will welcome you, show you around the apartment, explain its workings, and be on-call if questions, problems, or emergencies arise.

KITCHENS: Full kitchens or practical kitchenettes (in studio apartments) with at the very least: fridge, coffee maker, tea kettle, stove top range, oven and/or toaster oven and/or microwave. Most have additional counter appliances. Many have dishwashers, and some come equipped with clothes washer/dryers. All kitchen and bath towels & linens provided.

BEDROOMS: Although some apartments come with queen or king double beds, most bedrooms have twin beds. Some twin beds can be secured and made-up together to form a large double bed. Some apartments may have a sofa bed in the multi-purpose living/dining room in addition to the bedroom(s).

BATHROOMS: Most bathrooms have a shower stall or a bathtub with overhead shower. Some few bathrooms may have a bathtub with hand-held shower, or a bathtub for bathing only.

LAUNDRY FACILITIES: Those apartments without clothes washer/dryers will have a common laundry room in the basement of the building for guest use.

PARKING (Locarno New Town, Muralto, & Minusio): Usually (with rare exceptions) 1 designated private guest parking space per apartment, often in the apartment building’s underground garage. NOTE: We recommend taking advantage of the excellent public transportation service available in Switzerland and avoiding the difficulties of driving on mountain roads in alpine weather conditions and of finding parking in small villages with medieval streets.

PARKING (Ascona Borgo & Locarno Città Vecchia): Ascona Borgo and Locarno Città Vecchia are not readily accessible by car. We recommend that guests coming to to these locations travel by public transportation using a Swiss Travel Pass or a regional Ticino Pass. 

ELECTRONICS: Apartments have televisions, usually the flat-screen, cable variety. Most have free WiFi, although service can be spotty due to the proximity to the mountains. Few apartments come with telephones. Bring or rent a cell phone for your trip, but remember that telephone service is spotty in as you travel through the Swiss Alps. NOTE: WiFi service is available on some trains.

PROXIMITY TO STORES & SERVICES: All Ticino apartments are within walking or short-driving distance to stores and services, and transportation. Opening times for stores varies by season, with longer opening hours most days during summer months.

TICINO — Italian Switzerland readily combines with all Home At First Swiss
destinations as well as
most Home At First European destinations.

Achieve more than one European travel goal for just one transatlantic airfare.

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