It is amazing the way each of Switzerland’s Cantons is so different, each has such a unique atmosphere and excitement all their own! We arrived in Ticino to experience the Italian side of Southern Switzerland, the land of castles and gastronomy. You can find everything from traditional and gourmet to the latest modular cuisine. Unique to this Canton, the Grotto-style restaurants are located off-the-beaten-path, in secluded hideaways. Between the 12th and 17th centuries, before refrigerators were invented, people stored cheese and wine in grottos or caves. Stone benches and tables were placed at the entrance to these caves where people would relax, drink and eat after work. The merchants began to sell other products and the grottos became popular restaurants. Ticino’s chefs create a cuisine all their own, based on locally sourced ingredients. This is so important in a time when we worry about the safety of our food. The United States should take a lesson from Switzerland.
Our guide drove us to the small village of Giornico. Steeped in history from the Middle Ages, everywhere we walked these stone buildings gave us the impression we were in an open-air museum. The narrow cobblestone streets and the Romanesque-style Church of San Nicolao are worth seeing. This church was built in 1210 with medieval frescoes in the choir. You can also stop at the Museo di Leventina and the La Congiunta Art Gallery. Above the village are the northern wine vineyards in the valley. One highlight of the day was eating lunch at the famous rustic Grotto dei due Ponti Restaurant.
Located on an island between two Romanesque bridges, we walked across the bridge to see the restaurant’s beautiful setting on a hill along the river. Guests can either dine at outside booths under trees or in the glass-enclosed terrace. You have views of the rushing river at both. My one-pound T-bone steak and Mike’s large filet magnon were especially tender and so much to eat. This leisurely lunch and quaint village were just the epitomai of what travelers want to experience. I particularly enjoyed the touches of Italy throughout the region, reminiscent of my trips to Italy. There is so much to see in the nearby villages, you do not have to travel far to see the historic sites and attractions.