We headed towards the north to Bellinzona the capital of Ticino canton. It took only 24 minutes on the train to get there.
Julie, our lecturer gave us a guided tour in the Castelgrande, which is the lowest fortification out of the 3.
This town was the southern gate of the Gotthard Pass (the valley on the left on the picture) and St. Bernard Pass (the valley on the right). The fortification system of Bellinzona closed down the valley completely. They could control the traffic going through and could collect the taxes.
Ticino and Bellinzona was under the supervision of Milan for 400 years. When there was a threat of French control Ticino asked the German speaking canton of Uri to protect them. This meant 300 years of foreign control again. Ticino got canton rights during the time of Napoleon.
Due to this very special military heritage with the 3 fortification Bellinzona was declared part of the World Heritage in 2000.
After the guided tour we had some free time to eat some lunch on our own with our lunch money then we took a postal bus to Pollegio, where the Alptransit Visitor Center is situated. Here we got a presentation about the construction of the new Gotthard Tunnel and visited the small exhibition.
The new Gotthard Tunnel will be 57 km long (ca. 34 miles) longest tunnel in the world. They started to work only 10 years ago, the drilling part should be ready by the 15th October, but the first train can cross only in 2017.
Once the tunnel is ready (along with other 2 smaller tunnels) 300 trains / day will be able to pass through. It will double the recent capacity. There will be 2 separate tunnels and the system will meet the highest safety regulations. One more interesting fact: only 10 % of the workers are Swiss, 90 % are foreigners. Sorry no pictures about this but you can find out more about the works on www.alptransit.ch
We returned by bus and train to Locarno for the evening and enjoyed another delicious dinner in Hotel Camelia, which indeed has an excellent restaurant.
After dinner we had a possibility to enjoy a Puppet show by a Torino based Marionette group, who performed an 18th century love story along the lake. Perfect finish to our stay in the Italian speaking Ticino.