Travel Guide to Ticino Wine Region

Ticino is a winemaking region of Switzerland that has been engaged in viticulture for over two thousand years. The first grapes that were planted in Ticino were Merlot grapes from Bordeaux that were planted in 1906. Despite its long history of wine, the area saw dramatic growth in wine production and in the local wine industry in the early 20th century. Ticino is located on the south side of the Alps and is an Italian-speaking village with a sunny climate that is strongly influenced by the Mediterranean Sea. The vineyards of Ticino are scattered in small groups with almost 90% of them growing Merlot.

Find out about Wine Tasting & Tours in Ticino to enjoy if you visit the region.

Follow our travel guide to Ticino wine region to discover mroe about:

Wines of Vaud

Cultural and natural sites to discover in Vaud

Local gastronomy

High-Quality Swiss Wines from the Southern Slopes of the Alps  

The Ticino wine region of Switzerland is located on the south side of the country’s Alps. The history of viticulture in Ticino dates back over two thousand years to 1906 when the first Merlot grapes were brought from Bordeaux and planted in the region. What makes Ticino unique is that it is an Italian speaking village with a sunny climate that is strongly influenced by the Mediterranean Sea.

The vineyards of Ticino are planted in small parcels across the region. When producing wines, the wine makers from across the region vinify their harvests together so that the best quality standards can be ensured.

The winemaking region in Ticino is divided into two zones. The first is the Sopraceneri or the Bellinzona which lies in the north and is where vines are still grown on pergolas. The second zone is Sottoceneri or Lugano which is in the south and is where vines are present almost everywhere from Chiasso through to the Gotthard passes.

Even though Ticino is located relatively far from the ocean, the climate of the region is still strongly influenced by the Mediterranean Sea. The climate offers long hours of sunshine and high average temperatures that allow for the grapes to mature exceptionally well. The region also experiences relatively high levels of rainfall which can be useful for irrigation, but which can also bring along hailstorms that can damage the vines.

The soils of Ticino differ greatly across the region. The south, the area between Lake Lugao and Chiasso is where the soils are rich in clay thanks to the warmer climate of this area. This soil results in the production of wines that are extremely elegant with a wonderful softness. Compared to this, the part of Ticino which is north of Monte Ceneri has a terroir that has been influenced by glacial activity leaving behind morainic deposits, dejection cones and stony soils that are rich in silt and sand.

Grape Varieties:

Red: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Gamaret, Cabernet Sauvignon

White: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc

The Wines of Ticino

The wine growing area of Ticino covers 1122 ha of land, 91% of which is planted with red grapes.

The most commonly planted grape and most popular wine from Ticino is by far the excellent Merlot. The Merlot grapes were originally brought to the region from Bordeaux. It thrives in Ticino thanks to the sunny and well exposed slopes. The wines that are produced from these Merlot grapes are distinguished with a bright ruby red colour, intense flavours and a good balance. The Merlot wines have a dry taste, a pleasant slightly bitter aftertaste and elegant ivy notes. These wines age extremely well thanks to the characteristics of the soil in which the grapes are grown.

The wine makers of Ticino also produce a Merlot Bianco white wine what is elegant and is recently becoming increasingly popular among wine lovers.

Read more about Wineries in Ticino to visit.

The Best Places to See When Visiting Ticino     

Castles of Bellinzona – The Main Attraction of Ticino

The Castles of Bellinzona are the main attraction when visiting Ticino. The castles are a true wonder to see as the old castle walls are still standing. Together the castles form the only medieval military complex in the Alps and in 2000 was enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The castles are easy to explore as they are all connected by a tourist train. When at the castles, visitors can explore all of the fortifications, the high towers, and the castle walls. Within the complex, there is also the Bellinzona Historic Centre with a local market on weekends. The first castle of the complex is Castelgrande which is accessible from the Piazza del Sole and houses a museum showing the history of the city and an excellent restaurant for lunch. From the Castelgrande one moves on to the Montebello castle which houses a history and archaeology museum. The third and final castle is Sasso Corbaro which offers spectacular views.

Locarno Historic Centre – The Heart of Locarno

The historic center of Locarno is referred to as the Piazza Grande. The area is characterized by a 700-meter-long row of porticos, built in the Lombard architectural style. These porticos host a range of businesses and restaurants that come to life, particularly during the summertime. The Piazza Grande was built in the 700’s and the cobblestone paving dates to 1825. Some of the most popular sites to see in the historic center are the Visconti Castle which houses a wonderful archaeological museum, the Church of San Francesco, the Via dell’Ospedale, the city cemetery, the church of Saint Maria, the Baron Marcacci monument, and the San Vittore Church.

The Piazza della Riforma in Lugano

The historic centre of Lugano is centered around the Piazza della Riforma, which is considered Ticino’s most beautiful square. The square is surrounded by wonderful old buildings such as the Neoclassic Palazzo Civico (the town hall) and many small alleys that are a joy to explore. When visiting the Piazza della Riforma there are many interesting places to see such as the Spartacus sculpture in the Palazze Civico courtyard, the range of shops, the Church of San Carlo Borromean, the Church of Santa Maria degli Angioli and the Palazzo Riva Ghioldi. The Piazza della Riforma is the perfect place to spend long and relaxing days, especially along the lakeside under the trees and in the Belvedere Garden. Guided tours of the Piazza della Riforma are available, but for those looking for something less formal, hours can be spent lazily exploring the sights and sounds of the historic center.

Panorama of the Gulf of Lugano from Mount Bre above the City

Travel to the top of Lugano

Monte San Salvatore is a mountain that is referred to by many as the Sugarloaf Mountain of Switzerland. This legendary mountain peak reaches to 912 meters above sea level, offering some of the most wonderful panoramic views of the surrounding areas. The best way to access Monte San Salvatore is by using the funicular which takes passengers to the summit of the mountain in only 12 minutes. Once at the summit, there are a range of wonderful activities to enjoy including various hiking trails, rock climbing the Via Ferrata, playgrounds for children and various nature trails. At the top of the peak there is also the Vetta Restaurant which has a veranda and picnic area with panoramic views over Lugano.

The Natural Environment of Ticino    

The natural environment of Ticino is one of extreme contrasts from sandy beaches to glaciers, green hills and rolling valleys. The outdoors in Ticino is a paradise of different environments and provides endless activities during any season.

Valle Verzasca – The Green Heart of Ticino

The Valle Verzasca or the Verzasca Valley is the perfect outdoor location for nature lovers. The area, which is also referred to at the greenheart of Ticino, is perfect for hiking, mountain biking, and spending time in nature. At the heart of the valley is the Verzasca River that has deep pools perfect for swimming in the summer. For visitors looking for an adrenaline rush, the valley has a dam wall that is 220 meters high and from which visitors can jump to experience a 7.5-second freefall. Within the valley, there are various hiking paths and trails that cater to hikers of all capabilities. In the village of Sonogno in the village, there are picturesque cobbled streets and decorated houses where one can relax for a drink and a meal, buy local goods, and visit the House of Wool museum.  The Verzasca Valley offers something for everyone who visits and is the perfect place to enjoy nature during the winter and summer months.

Ponte dei Salti with waterfall, Valle Verzasca, Ticino
Botanical Park Gambarogno – A Paradise of Camellias and Magnolias

The Gambarogno Botanical Park is located in Vairano-San Nazzaro. This botanical park is well known for its extensive collection of magnolias and camellias. The location of the park on a hillside means that it has the perfect soil and climatic conditions for the growth of these species and today it has over 950 varieties of camellias and almost 500 different magnolias. The flowering of the plants in the park takes place only for a few months of the year, and so the best time to visit is during the Spring, from March to May. When visiting the park there are also breathtaking views of Lake Maggiore and the surrounding Alps.

Lago Maggiore Express – An Unforgettable Boat and Train Journey

The Lago Maggiore Express is a wonderful boat and train journey that takes visitors through the Ticino region. The express makes use of the Centovalli and Valle Vigezzo railways that journey through some of the world’s most beautiful scenery decorated with streams, bridges, lakes, vineyards, forests and villages built on the slopes of the Alps. Following the train, there is a three-hour boat trip across Lake Maggiore allowing visitors to see the Borromean Islands, the castles of Cannero, the Brissago islands, and the many beautiful villages and towns along the shores of the lake. To enjoy the Lago Maggiore Express, booking is required in advance and meals can be arranged onboard.

The Delicious Local Food of Ticino        

Although a winemaking region in Switzerland, the cuisine of Ticino is strongly influenced by Venetian dishes and Italian culinary traditions. Ticino is the perfect place to experience classic Swiss cuisine as well as food from different regions, all in one of the world’s most beautiful locations.

Saffron Risotto – A Delicious Ticino Specialty

Saffron risotto is a specialty of the Ticino region. The dish is made with swiss saffron that is grown in nearby Valais. The dark red saffron is hand-picked and is considered as some of the best saffron in the world, often referred to as red gold. The ingredients of the dish include butter, rice, garlic, onions, tomatoes, meat stock, and meat which can be either veal or bacon. To add flavour, the dish is seasoned with salt, thyme and pepper. Saffron risotto is a creamy risotto with the subtle and unique flavour of the Swiss saffron shining through. A must experience for all who visit the Ticino region.

Saffron Risotto
Polenta Ticinese – The Authentic Polenta of Ticino

Polenta Ticinese is a traditional polenta dish of the Ticino region. The dish is traditionally cooked on an outdoor fire or in a fireplace. When in Ticino one can find many local restaurants that still prepare the dish in this traditional way. In making the dish, the polenta is cooked solely in water, stirring regularly so that it becomes golden in color. After this, butter is stirred into the polenta to make it even more creamy. The serving the dish is normally paired with cheese or braised meat. The perfect dinner to enjoy with a glass of excellent Ticino wine.

Pane Ticines – A Loaf of Traditional Ticino Bread

Pane Ticinese is a bread that is a traditional dish in the Ticino region. The loaf of bread is usually made up of five sections so that it can be broken apart and shared. Pane Ticinese is made with water, yeast, flour, salt and oil. Before the dough is baked, it is brushed with egg wash or milk so that it develops a delicious golden-brown crust when it is baked.

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Region Highlights

Surface: 1122
Soil: Rich clay, stony sand and silt
Climate: Ticino has milder climate than the rest of the Switzerland. It is sunny region and temperature rarely goes below zero
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Map of Wineries in Ticino wine region

Discover the long wine tradition of Ticino and discover some of the best wineries in this region

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List of Wineries in Ticino wine region

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