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Chestnuts and wine

Wine, bread, salami, cheese and chestnuts add up to a traditional meal in Ticino (ST swiss-image.ch)

Locals and tourists in the southern canton of Ticino are rediscovering the chestnut.

Traditional chestnut dishes have begun making their back on restaurant menus, and if you choose to spend an Autumn day wandering through an ancient chestnut grove you are encouraged to gather as many as you like.

The chestnut tree was first introduced to Ticino during Roman times and is called the poor man's bread by the local population who had to depend on meals made mainly of chestnuts for about half the year.

The best-known trail (see related story) winds along the mountainsides in the Malcontone region, a short drive or bus ride from Lugano.

After the official harvest ends in mid-November, hikers are allowed to stuff their pockets and bags with as many nuts as they can carry home.

But visitors to the region don't need to venture outside Ticino's cities or towns to understand the importance of the chestnut.

Vendors dot the streets of Lugano, Locarno and Bellinzona selling fresh roasted chestnuts and local chefs are rediscovering ancient chestnut recipes.

Lake Geneva's wines

Instead of Ticino, gourmets and wine lovers could head for the golden north shore of Lake Geneva.

This is where they will find trails cutting through Switzerland's best-known vineyards.

But be warned; stopping to sample a glass or two could slow your pace considerably.

One of the most scenic routes wanders through the Lavaux wine-growing region.

It begins in Lausanne and ends about 30 kilometres later at the medieval castle of Chillon, on the outskirts of Montreux.

But it can easily be done in stages, and local trains and buses service all the villages.

The route offers everything to soothe the savage heart; gentle hiking through the vineyards, bucolic villages offering the weary or thirsty traveller charming cafés, musty wine cellars and rustic inns.

In places, the vineyards are so steep that the harvest can only be gathered by hand.

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