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Visit Ascona in Switzerland’s Italian Riviera

Midsummer night's dream at Hotel Giardino

Many magical pairings are living proof that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Take milk and cookies as a bedtime snack…and what are shoes without socks or Angelina without Brad?

Another case in point is the medieval town of Ascona, perched on the northern shore of Lake Maggiore, which shares the border of Italy and Switzerland. Ascona is part of the Italian-speaking region of Ticino in Switzerland, which actually used to be part of Italy.

It’s like the perfect offspring of an Italian mother and Swiss father, where both sides are represented with Mediterranean palms and citrus trees giving way to gorgeous Alpine pastures and mountains. The town is immaculate. Everything works and efficiency rules (the trains run on time).

The regional cuisine runs the gamut from dining al fresco at the plethora of stylish pizzerias lining the lakeside promenade to rustic taverns “Grotti” – old wine caves repurposed into family restaurants.  These off-the-beaten track eateries (a perfect example is Grotinno Ticinese- a local fave) feature outdoor dining on stone tables, with your choice of delectable local dishes such as air-dried charcuterie, organic, free-range chicken, Ticinese risotto, polenta, mountain cheese, and chestnut torte.



Hands down, your first choice should be the romantic, five-star Hotel Giardino, located in a park-like, residential area (adjacent to one of Europe’s top-rated 18-hole golf courses) a couple km outside of town. This gorgeous, Mediterranean-inspired Relais & Châteaux hotel is nestled in a flower-drenched Garden of Eden, complete with water lilies and koi ponds, fragrant citrus trees and artistic fountains and sculptures.

The 77 rooms and spacious suites were recently remodeled with bright whimsical colors, lush fabrics and sophisticated marble bathrooms (complete with generous samplings of dipiù by Daniela beauty products) a private  balcony, a flat-screen satellite TV, CD and DVD players, and a minibar.

Other amenities include a free use of Giradino’s pink bikes or shuttle bus, a beautifully landscaped outdoor pool and lounge area, the Roman bathing temple where guests can indulge in the indoor pool, sauna, jacuzzi, a state-of-the-art fitness center with BioStrengh® machines by TechnoGym, and the award winning Giardino di Bellezza spa offering a wide range of massage and beauty treatments.

The Giradino’ motto, “Un po’ di più” which means “a little bit more” is always in practice, starting with a complimentary glass of Prosecco and snacks awaiting you on the veranda when you check in. Having trouble falling asleep? Check out the Giardino Night Butler pillow offerings, which range from a Swiss pine pillow to a warm grape seed pillow, accompanied by a pot of relaxing fennel tea, which will sweeten any dreams.


Stellar dining options range from a casual bite served at Hotel Giardino’s Pool Bar to an unforgettable culinary-extravaganza at ECCO restaurant, which was awarded 2 Michelin stars under the creative genius of Chef Rolf Fliegauf. Refined, gourmet meals can also be enjoyed at Ristorante Aphrodite’s which received the “Best Hotel Restaurant in Switzerland” award. Don’t sleep in too late or you’ll miss their lavish morning buffet.


Although the hotel is so comfy/cozy it’s hard to leave the property, however, if you are tempted to explore, the accommodating concierge will be happy to make all the arrangements.

Walk the Piazza Motta waterfront. Stop for a tasty gelato or espresso at one of the many sidewalk cafes.

Borgo Old Town –centered around the church of San Pietro e Paolo, a basilica dating back to the 16th century. Wander the spider-web streets lined with art galleries, contemporary shops and museums. Sneak a peek at the sculpture garden of theowners house behind an exciting new international art gallery, AcquestArte.

Isole di Brissago –a short, relaxing ferry boat ride brings you to the Botanical Garden, which thanks to a unique, subtropical, island climate, is home to over 1700 different species of plants bursting with a profusion of color. A beautifully restored 1929 villa provides a perfect lunch spot on the petite island.

Ronco sopra Ascona – this quaint, hillside town offers magnificent, panoramic views of Lake Maggiore and the mountains.


If you go:

The closest international airport is Lugano Airport (LUG / LSZA) and is about 20 km from the center of Ascona, Switzerland.


The weather is almost always peachy.  You might want to visit during one of the many cultural events, such as July’s popular Jazz Ascona.

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About Janice Nieder

Janice Nieder
Janice Nieder could be the love child of Indiana Jones and Julia Child. Previously a specialty food consultant in NYC, Janice is currently a SF-based culinary tourism writer who has wined & dined her way through 80 countries

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