Many people tend to categorize Switzerland into French, German and Italian speaking regions. Most of the sights in Switzerland can be found in the German/French speaking areas. However, what many people don’t realize is that the Italian speaking regions of Switzerland have their own unique sights to offer as well.
I mentioned previously that I had equipped myself with a Swiss rail pass which gave me carte blanche to the entire Swiss rail network. Hence, I had no qualms taking the 2h 30 min train journey from Zurich to Bellinzona (and it’s a direct train ride too).
It’s a little hard to explain, but you do notice when the train crosses into Swiss-Italian territory. The scenery of the alps changes and the weather starts looking hotter and hotter.
Why Bellinzona? The town is famous for its three very well preserved medieval castles that are in closed proximity to one another. The main one is right in the city centre! The fit could probably do a nice hike to the highest one, or you could cheat like I did and take a cab to the highest castle and walk the rest of the way down. The paths are well marked and locals are happy to show you the way around if you feel a little unsure.
I was quite surprised when I reached the town. It was dreadfully quiet. Apart from a couple who looked like they were from China, I did not see many other tourists. Even when walking down the street looking for a lunch spot, it felt like all the restaurants were closed. There was so little activity on the streets. I had earlier done some research and decided that I would check out Giardino Ristorante. When I first approached the restaurant, I thought the restaurant had closed. The curtains were drawn and the doors were shut. Nevertheless, I tried my luck and they were open, but just being very quiet.
Interestingly, the menu is written in Italian (it really looks and feels like an Italian town more than anything). Even the waiters speak to you in Italian (not German). I decided to go for their daily menu, which turned out to be a really good deal for the amount that I got:
Pasta course: Fresh taglierini with crab. I reckon that if you want to have some pretty good seafood in Switzerland, the Swiss Italian region is a good place to get some. The crab was extremely fresh and the portion was very generous.
This was quite the no-frills restaurant with simple home style Italian cooking. I wasn’t looking for anything fancy but I was quite surprised by the portions and I enjoyed all the dishes on the daily menu. What was even more surprising was the cost. The daily menu was only CHF24 and I enjoyed a glass of house merlot for only CHF3.50. Prices which are considered cheap by Swiss standards.
Admittedly, I would not have come to this small town if not for the medieval castles. However, it’s great to know there is still the opportunity to have some great food even in a small town like this.
Add: Via Orico 1, 6500, Bellinzona, Switzerland