One tricky thing about having a husband and children who do not enjoy hiking is that I cannot “simply” suggest that my family hike through spectacular high alpine areas. Instead, the prospect of an accessible walk full of discoveries with a reward of quality food is what makes me successful in taking my family to the mountains.
This summer we explored Tegna and Verscio, washed by the river Melezza and located west of Locarno, between the beginning of the Maggia Valley at Ponte Brolla to the east and Centovalli to the west. Several Roman era buildings in Terre di Pedemonte municipality are listed on the Swiss Inventory of Cultural Property of National and Regional Significance. Additionally, there are numerous grottos that one encounters in the area, promoting the feeling that traditions are still alive here, and allowing for the tasting of some delicious typical regional plates, too. It is possible to reach Terre di Pedemonte by car and train (from Locarno), as well as by cycling and hiking.
If you have the chance to visit Locarno and Ascona and stay in this north-eastern tip of Ticino for a few nights, exploring Tegna and Verscio and the surrounding area is absolutely a must! Here three hikes I would suggest. The first two can be done together, depending on how long you like to walk. The third one is totally separate, and I recommend it to families with teens.
Hikes around Tegna and Verscio
- Easy and enjoyable walk along the river Melezza
Families can hike about 2km from Parco Giochi in Tegna down to river Melezza following Via Patriziale. At the crossing with Via dell’Argine, turn right: you will reach Tennis Club Pedemonte in Verscio. Just behind the Club there is a nice playground and lots of grass with shade where to chill out.
The walk is without any substantial elevation difference and is accessible with strollers. It does not have any dangerous turns, so your kids can possibly walk or run some meters ahead of you without any risks. The trail takes you on a winding route following the riverbed, and it is very easy. We did it with a five-year-old and a three-year-old.
The scenery is beautiful: Cardata, Monte Brè and Monte Salmone, with their peaks, are visible to you with blue skies, and the walk is relaxing, too: the sound of water accompanies you all the way. The path offers a few “safe shortcuts” down to the river, for you to dip your feet into the refreshing water to cool down. Under normal circumstances in summer, this part of Melezza River is not deep, and it is safe to swim in. We had toy shovels and buckets with us so we did walk down to the riverside and took a long break: our kids loved playing with the sand and, most of all, stepping from stone to stone near the water. Remember to take sun hats and lots of water with you on a sunny day: the trail is only partially in shade and there is no possibility of drinkable water along the way. You can also enjoy the walk on a cloudy day. Do remember to bring proper hiking shoes with you (always). Although you are not high up in the mountains (only 255 meters above sea level), sudden rains do happen and the terrain can quickly become very muddy.
- Walking a bit longer: between nature and historical sites
Families who want a longer walk can continue from Tennis Club Pedemonte towards Vescio town center (about 1 kilometre away) and from there back to Tegna. Altogether the walk takes about one hour (a total of 3.6 km) and it is suitable for families with teens but also parents with infants and toddlers (provided they have an all-terrain stroller, because of the off-road nature of the first part of the walk). If you decide to continue this ‘second’ part of the walk, you should be aware that you will not be walking along the river but on normal streets (car traffic is not that bad). The added value of walking through local villages is that they are beautiful and picturesque. Verscio is designated as a Swiss Heritage Site, for example!
- For experts: Astrovia, the Planet Way
If you and your family members are experienced hikers and enjoy adventure, then there are even more challenging hikes in the area, such as Astrovia, or Planet Way (from Locarno to Tegna). Personally I have not done this walk, but a few friends – parents with teens – spoke very positively about it. The itinerary starts near the Maggia river delta (Foce della Maggia), at the end of Via al Lido in Locarno, and through a nice green area along the Maggia river it takes you to Tegna (6 km, accessible also by bicycle). The Astrovia itinerary reproduces the solar system in scale and displays models of the planet Earth and the others in the Solar System.
Where to eat
Families are certainly spoiled with choice in terms of restaurants and grottos, which are all very child-friendly! Personally, I recommend Grotto America, located in the area of the ancient grottos of Ponte Brolla, immersed in greenery and next to the Maggia River. The grotto is called after all those nineteenth-century Ticinese emigrants who used the Grotto as meeting point waiting for convoys heading for the port of Genoa and from there to America. The large outside terrace has a beautiful view of the Maggia River and surrounding mountains. It is spacious, so children can move around and do not have to sit at the table for the entire duration of the meal. It is confined, so you can always have a good view of your children’s activities!
Story and photos by Valeria Camia
Valeria is a blogger and freelance journalist living in Lugano with her family. She writes about “interculturality and third culture,” drawing inspiration from her personal experience as an expat and the mother of bilingual children.