The town of Bellinzona, the capital of Ticino, warrants a visit mainly for its trio of Unesco-heritage-listed castles: Castelgrande, Montebello, Sasso Corbaro.
Castelgrande rises from a huge rock in the center of town, making it the most easily accessible castle if you’re short on time. It’s also the only one of the three castles that is open year-round. Construction on the castle commenced in the 13th century, but, as with so many buildings of this kind, there have been additions and adjustments over the centuries. With its mix of dungeon-like interiors, atmospheric tunnels, ramparts with sweeping views, museum, courtyards, vineyards, a smart restaurant and a lovely grotto (local eatery), there’s a lot to take in and it’s a great spot for young and old. The easiest way to access the castle is to take the elevator directly from central Piazzetta delle Valle. If you fancy a little extra footwork, strike out along Salita San Michele.
Thirteenth-century Montebello castle is like something form an episode of Game of Thrones, with its ramparts, drawbridge, redoubtable stone walls and elevated position, sometimes affording views of Lake Maggiore on a clear day. Its museum costs CHF5/2 per adult/child (extra for temporary exhibitions). The castle closes from November to April, but is open daily from 10am to 6pm the rest of the year.
Sasso Corbaro is a good hike (and therefore less visited than the other castles) away form the town center, sitting high on a rock. Its stern countenance matched by its great views, the castle was built in a head-spinningly short time of only six months in the 15th century. Its museum costs CHF5/2 per adult/child (extra for temporary exhibitions). The castle closes from November to April, but is open daily from 10am to 6pm the rest of the year.
Admission to all the castles is free, although attached museums generally cost extra.