Il laghetto di Origlio. Photo/Foto: TES

The Natural beauty of Tessin

A canton of the Swiss Confederation since 1815 (or 1803), Tessin (Ticino) has traditionally been a haven for refugees, writers, painters, sculptors and other artists.

It was also an economically poor area, however, until 1945. While many intellectuals and refugees settled in Tessin, many young people left the canton searching for work.

What it meant to live as a small farmer or labourer in Tessin at this time was expressed by the writer Plinio Martini (1923-1979) in his book: Il fondo del sacco (1970): “In autumn there were chestnuts. We ate those for three months, for breakfast, lunch and supper”.


Today, the region is a prosperous immigration canton. Not only Swiss citizens from other cantons but also other nationalities settle in Tessin. Moreover, tens of thousands of Italians cross the border for work.

What is the attraction of this canton? From the nineteenth and twentieth centuries until 1945, it was mainly an idyllic residence with a southern European atmosphere and mild climate, good (train) connections in a safe, neutral and democratic country.
After 1945, the tourism, industrial and service sectors experienced strong growth.

Mendrisio, teatro dell’architettura

The establishment of a university (Lugano), a film festival (Locarno), an architecture centre (Mendrisio), Swissminiatur (Melide), the opening of natural parks, numerous museums, historical buildings and other cultural institutions gave the canton allure and grandeur.

The four regions of Bellinzona/Leventina, Ascona-Locarno/Valli, Luganese and Mendrisiotto already had extraordinary natural beauty and peculiarities. The Piora Valley in the northern Leventina, the Blenio Valley in Bellinzona, the Brissagio Island in Lake Maggiore or the Maggiate Valley in Ascona-Locarno or the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site San Giorgio in Mendrisiotto are just a few examples.



It also applies to the Luganese with Lugano and Lake Lugano as the focus. Monte Bré, Gandria, Morcote, the ridge Denti della Vecchia (the old woman’s teeth) or San Salvatore are well-known attractions.

De Denti della Vecchia

De San Salvatore


There are also numerous lesser-known places in the canton, with over 4 000 kilometres of well-maintained hiking trails. Valleys, mountains, waterfalls, streams and rivers, villages and towns, chapels, churches, castles and magnificent views alternate.

One of these lesser-known places is the commune of Origlio, 10 kilometres from Lugano. The village has its nature reserve with Lake Origlio at the centre. This lake was created 13 000 years ago by the melting waters of glaciers from the last ice age.

The ancient village is an idyllic green oasis surrounded by the raw mountains of Tessin. The small town is also close to Switzerland’s oldest Capuchin monastery and Lake Lugano.

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