Locarno is all palm trees, gelato and pastel-hued Piazza Grande, the huge open space that will have you thinking you’ve been transported straight to Italy (especially on Thursday, which is market day). Other sights in this attractive city include the marvellous Sacro Monte Madonna del Sasso, overlooking Locarno and with glorious views over the lake. It’s accessible by funicular (complete with Mario Botta-designed gondola!) from the town center.
Locarno’s 17th-century Chiesa Nuova on Via Cittadella is a riot of baroque interior decoration (especially the ceiling), while nearby Castello Visconteo (on Piazza Castello) originally dates from the 13th century and features a Renaissance-style courtyard and modest archeological museum. It was the site of the signing of the Locarno Treaty in 1925.
One of the world’s longest-running film festivals (since 1946), Locarno’s cinematic celebration has an all-inclusive appeal,
thanks to its evening screenings at glorious Piazza Grande, with room for 8000 people and one of the world’s largest open-air screens (26mx14m; 85ftx46ft).
The 11-day program is known for featuring quality auteur cinema and interesting fare, and the international atmosphere is fanned by the multilingual residents of Locarno (Italian speaking, but generally happy to switch to German, English or French at the drop of a hat) and the city’s stunning location.
Compared to festivals such as Berlin, Cannes and Venice, it’s a low-key, friendly affair, although there are also good opportunities for star spotting at Q&A sessions and the like. Daytime screening take place in theaters, while evening screenings take place in Piazza Grande. The main prize, given to the film judged to be the best at the festival, is the Golden Leopard.
Tickets can be purchased online through the festival’s website and at box offices in the city, such as at Piazza Grande.