A brief glance at the map of Europe shows that Switzerland has such a characteristic panhandle on its southern border, cutting into the foothills of the Alps towards the Po valley. This is Ticino – the Italian-speaking Swiss canton. It feels different here than on the other side of the Alps. Greener, warmer and more lively.
The capital of the canton, Bellinzona, lies in a valley leading to significant Alpine passes. The collection of customs duties and the protection of roads leading through them meant that it has always been a bait for both Milan and Uri (one of the current Swiss cantons). It changed principalities quite often, and successive rulers (with Visconti – the princes of Milan in particular) built increasingly powerful fortresses and walls here. There are as many as three castles on the slopes of the valley and in the town, and they are connected by a wall that crosses almost the entire city. The views that extend from them to the valley, mountains, town and onto each other made climbing even with a heavy backpack worth it.