When you’re in this sun-drenched part of Switzerland, drinking
an aperitivo, gazing at the picturesque stone facades and listening
to the rustling leaves of the chestnut trees in the breeze
you feel as though you’re a long way from the cares of the
world. All you need here is time to sit back, relax and enjoy.
Ticino, with its magical beauty, has so much to offer: poetic
landscapes, stunning architecture, and lots of great food and
wine. From gourmet restaurants to casual osterie, cucina Ticinese
is prepared and served with skill and care. Around the
granite tables of the grotti (traditional inns that were once storage
caves for cured meats and aged cheeses) with the locals
you’ll find yourself experiencing typical Ticino joie de vivre.
Ticino and Merlot are natural partners. This happy pairing
happened about a hundred years ago. Phylloxera infection had
ravaged the vineyards as it had in most of Europe, and winemakers
faced ruin. From Bordeaux they introduced phylloxeraimmune
Merlot vines, which immediately thrived in the climate
and soil of Ticino, and soon delivered elegant, ruby-red wines.
Nowadays Merlot accounts for 82 percent of Ticino’s 1,000-
plus hectares of vineyards, and the grape variety has become
almost synonymous with Ticino wine. Merlots from Ticino are
also gaining in reputation abroad: a new generation of innovative
winemakers is producing barrel-aged wines that are scooping
up prizes at international exhibitions, rivalling some of the
best growths of their native Bordeaux.
The taste of Ticino
If forced to choose between breathing and eating, a Ticinese
would opt for the latter. Here lunch and dinner are sacred;
natives approach them with a mixture of pleasure and reverence, typically ordering a traditional dish such as risotto or polenta, served with rabbit or brasato (braised beef). The method of preparation is usually derived from the cuisine of neighbouring Lombardy; and in Ticino, the rule is often the simpler, the better. A good tip is simply to order one of the dishes on the chalkboard menu: luganighe (sausages), costine (ribs) with cazzöla (vegetable stew) or pesce in carpione (tangy marinated fish, usually whitebait or sardines).