From Gandria Marco and Soraia drove us north to the town of Bellinzona, the capital of the Canton of Ticino. The city is at the head of the Lake Maggiore valley and boasts the well preserved and extensive remains of its original town walls which includes the three separate, but linked, castles of Castelgrande, Sasso Corbaro and Montebello.
Bellinzona is situated on one of the main north south Alpine trade routes and as such has been fortified for centuries with newer fortifications simply being built on top of the older ones.
In the 14th century the Milenese Visconti family actually built a wall across the entire 1 km width of the Tessin the valley to ensure control of the trade route over the St Gothard Pass and the current fortifications originate with the modernisations under taken by the Sforza, the last Milanese Dukes. In 1499 the French took Bellinzona on their way to Milan, but only managed to hold the city until the following year when the townspeople revolted and kicked them out. Seeking protection from the French the city joined the Swiss Confederation in 1500.
The old town below the fortifications and within the remains of the city wall is wonderfully traditional and is centred around the Cathedral and Town Hall in adjacent ‘squares’.
The Town Hall (Palazzo Civico) is built around an open quadrangle. It has a fabulously decorated wood panel ceiling and the walls are decorated with murals depicting changes to the city over the centuries
The castles at Bellinzona are impressive, as they are supposed to be, and the old town is how I had envisaged Lugano might have looked; which is why Marco and Soraia brought us here! It was a great day out and we enjoyed our visit immensely!