Bellinzona is a much overlooked destination in Switzerland - most people pass through hurrying along to the towns and cities on the lakes. That's their loss. Bellinzona is home to three UNESCO listed castles all of which are worth to visit.
Castelgrande - the Castelgrande is the most majestic of the three castles and a natural location to build a castle. At the entrance to three Alpine passes, Bellinzona is at a strategically important location - hence the need for a large fortress atop a large rock with a sheer cliff face on one side, a steep slope on the other and a plateau above. Climb the Black and White Towers for great vistas over the town and through the valleys. This must have been how they looked out over their domain in the olden times. The enjoyable museum takes you through the history of the Castle and Bellinzona from the 1st century to present day. Do walk down for fantastic views over the old town and of the other castles.
Montebello - The second of Bellinzona's three Castles, Montebello is no less impressive (albeit less dramatically set) than the Castelgrande. Higher than the Castelgrande, the Castle is now surrounded partially by vineyards growing what I suspect to be Merlot - for which the Ticino region has become known since the early 20th Century. The ramparts which once linked the three castles, and provided a defensive wall across the valley floor, are most clearly visible from the Montebello Castle and the route to town - although sections are still clearly visible within the town itself. The museum houses a rare 13th century Baptismal font and several 13th and 15th century capitals. There's also a collection of ceremonial and military arms.
Castel Sasso Corbaro - Of the three Castles, Castel Sasso Cobaro is the only one which is not connected to the city walls. It is the highest of the three castels and, as a result, has some of the best vistas - and that's saying something. It seems to be perched precariously above the town - an attribute, perhaps, of its comparativly diminutive stature. Originally built to close a gap in the defensive structure and multiple lighting strikes in during the 16th and 17th century, by the early 19th Century the Castel was falling into ruins. So it's remarkable that the structure survives at all.
Walk up to or down from any of the Castles - All the Castles are set above the town itself, they all command excellent views over the surrounding area. Walking up to or down from them commands nothing less than spectacular vistas of the local surrounds. My personal favorite descent is from the Castel Sasso Corbaro which provides excellent views of the surrounds (such as the church against snow-capped mountains pictured) but views of the larger castles from an assortment of angles which allows one to appreciate the thought processes that might have gone into the location and construction of such wonderful structures.
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Mark Sukhija is a travel and wine blogger, photographer, tourism researcher, hat-touting, white-shirt-wearing, New Zealand fantatic and eclipse chaser. Aside from at least annual visits to New Zealand, Mark has seen eclipses in South Australia (2002), Libya (2006), China (2009) and Queensland (2012). After twelve years in Switzerland, Mark moved back to London in 2012. You can follow Mark on Twitter or Facebook