Day four: Bellinzona.
Benvenuto al Ticino. Ticino (which took me a while to work out after knowing it as Tessin for nine months in French) is the Italian bit of Switzerland. It’s amazing how one country can change so much from one region to the next! The German bit is completely different from the French bit, and then the Italian bit’s completely different again. I can’t speak for the Romansch region (yet).
I saw a tourist guide somewhere that Bellinzona was the most Italian city in Switzerland, and I can believe that. You really did feel like you were in Italy (apart from the fact that everything was in Italian), and the place is gorgeous. It’s in a valley surrounded by wooded mountains, has THREE castles, and has open piazzas with fountains which you can actually drink from (love Swiss fountain water). I mean, come on!
That said, Bellinzona is very small, and trying to get tourist information is like trying to draw blood from a stone (I followed the directions on the map outside the station to the tourist office, only to find it was apparently non-existent). I still explored the town centre (it is more town than city-sized) and saw all the pretty buildings. I also finally managed to track down a pair of sunglasses*. Then, once explored, I decided to head up to the Castelgrande.
Like I said, Bellinzona has not one, not two, but THREE castles that all look like they were built in some sort of medieval fairytale. I mean, I couldn’t NOT visit them. I wandered round the grounds of the Castelgrande and had a good explore, and then ended up doing a little train tour around all three. It was one of those very kitsch little road trains, but it was so nice driving round the mountain roads. It was all very idyllic. I seem to have successfully chosen the most photogenic places to go to.
It was nice to be able to wander round the castles and walk along the walls and climb the towers. And I even spotted some alpine horn players outside one of them (although for some unknown, incomprehensible reason they broke into a rendition of ‘God Save the Queen’ at one point).
So, that was what I got up to in Bellinzona. Next stop: Como.
*Just in case you were interested.