Bellinzona castles, Ticino, Switzerland ~ Romancing Italy

Nov 7, 2008

Bellinzona castles, Ticino, Switzerland

I would never have thought have going to Bellinzona, (Ticino) Switzerland had it not been for Ann who wrote about her visit in her blog. Check out her photos of Bellinzona as my camera died and I took these with my camera phone. They aren't great, but thank goodness for tech today!

There were so many reasons to not go; the grey fluffy stuff that blocks the view of a blue sky, the 10 o'clock hour saying it was too late to go that far, last minute plans that bother a 'plan ahead' person. (That would be A, as I can pick myself up and take a trip on the drop of a dime).

At the very last moment, after we were both dressed to go by car, we decided to go by bike (based primarily on A's intolerance for waiting in line because he is encumbered by being in a car). Just as well, as we lost our way and spent about an hour trying to disentangle ourselves from the clutches of the town of Varese.

Once in Bellinzona, it's not hard to find the castles as the town itself is built smack dab around one of the defensive walls. In an instant you "feel" what life would have been like in a protected city.

The streets are lined with colorful and intricately decorated homes, in sharp contrast to the somber gray, moss covered stone walls. We followed the signs to the highest castle, the Castello di Sasso Corbaro, which was considered the weak point in the stronghold. Interestingly, the Dukes of Milan who polished and fortified the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, also had a hand in building the fortifications here in Bellinzona when they were in power in the 15th century. Today, the castle has been renovated and houses a museum and an extremely expensive restaurant. Well, certainly by my pocketbook anyway. The chef better be worth a 42 euro plate!!

Winding our way back down the narrow road, we headed to the middle castle, Castello Montebello. It sits on a rocky hilltop with large expanses of greenery within the fortified walls. We crossed two drawbridges before entering the castle itself. Time, weather and perhaps a few canonballs had taken its toll on the original stonework and red brick, purposely buried in the walls, marked the positions where the structure had been restored. This castle although small in comparison to many, would be perfect for a Robin Hood film.

Surrounding the castle is the large open space, framed by the outer walls running towards the town itself. A large stout door exits to this area and is flanked by an enormous tree that has no doubt seen the comings and goings of different eras. It's beautiful in its solitude, but also sad in a way as it is the only witness of the lives that passed within this now empty space.

The last and probably best fortified castle is the Castelgrande sitting safely upon a rock with the northern side almost vertical and the southern part a steep climb. Because of our late start, there wasn't enough time to visit this space so it goes without saying that Bellinzona will beckon again.

In addition, there are a number of other monuments in the area that may be interesting to see. Bellinzona has always been in the enviable position to be situated where many passes converge. It is easy to reach by car or train and you can hear the frequent rumblings and screech of brakes as trains stop in the center.

As I visited these old castles the thought occurred to me that it is my imagination that fills the empty space, envisioning life as it once was in its hey day and the walls, courtyard and the different structures regain a short-lived vitality, invisible in my photos. It's not like the Medici villa that I visited in Poggia di Caiona where the decorated and still furnished rooms gave a visual idea of Medici life. And yet, Bellinzona's castles intrigue me and I spend time walking the walls..

I am tossing around the idea that it's how we view something that gives it its value. As they stand, the castles are only empty shells and abandoned spaces. But because we view them as a declaration and witness of times that have had an impact on our present day they have gained importance and value and are restored, maintained.

Relationships are many times empty shells and abandoned spaces, waiting for restoration and maintenance. I am a loner by nature and I know many of my relationships with friends or family have fallen into ruin because of the way I am. Yet even for me, relationships are necessary.

If the walls of the old castles of Bellinzona tell me anything, it's this:

if we will take the time, energy and resources to preserve the lifeless remains of an ancient castle, how much more important to take the time, energy and resources to preserve the vitality of current relationships.

I will certainly be connecting a whole lot more with the people who are important in my life.

More info at:


  1. Bev, thanks for the link! Like the first photo. I really like that square where that building is with the busts. On a sunny day is even better, so bright and cheerful, along with the colorful and clean buildings.

    We would love to live in British Columbia, near Whistler actually. Not too far from Vancouver, the sea and the mountains. But anywhere would do at first.

  2. Aaah, yes. I've been to Vancouver and love it there. Whistler is awesome. Well, I think no matter where you end up in Canada will be beautiful.

  3. How beautiful! I've seen you post from Ann's blog and I'm someone who immigrated to Canada. I also lived in the Vancouver area for 4.5 years. Now I'm in Victoria...

    I'll have to be sure to come back in visit as I miss this area of the world so much!

  4. Hi Expat Traveler, welcome to another view of Italy. Glad you dropped by!

    If it were not for Ann, I would not have found my way to Bellinzona.

    Canada is one of those places that I would consider doesn't matter where. Have you seen much of eastern Canada? I've always wanted to visit Montreal but never made it.


Whisper sweet somethings