Locarno is the capital of the Locarno district
Locarno (district)
The district of Locarno is a district of Canton Ticino, Switzerland. It has a population of .-Geography:...

, located on the northern tip of Lake Maggiore
Lake Maggiore
Lake Maggiore is a large lake located on the south side of the Alps. It is the second largest of Italy and largest of southern Switzerland. Lake Maggiore is the most westerly of the three great prealpine lakes of Italy, it extends for about 70 km between Locarno and Arona.The climate is mild...

 (Lago Maggiore) in the Swiss
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

Cantons of Switzerland
The 26 cantons of Switzerland are the member states of the federal state of Switzerland. Each canton was a fully sovereign state with its own borders, army and currency from the Treaty of Westphalia until the establishment of the Swiss federal state in 1848...

 of Ticino
Canton Ticino or Ticino is the southernmost canton of Switzerland. Named after the Ticino river, it is the only canton in which Italian is the sole official language...

, close to Ascona
Ascona is a municipality in the district of Locarno in the canton of Ticino in Switzerland.It is located on the shore of Lake Maggiore.The town is a popular tourist destination, and holds a yearly jazz festival, the Ascona Jazz Festival....

 at the foot of the Alps
Swiss Alps
The Swiss Alps are the portion of the Alps mountain range that lies within Switzerland. Because of their central position within the entire Alpine range, they are also known as the Central Alps....

. It has a population of about 15,000 (60,000 for the urban area including Ascona). The official language of Locarno is Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

It is the 74th biggest city in Switzerland by population and the 3rd biggest of the canton Ticino, after Lugano
Lugano is a city of inhabitants in the city proper and a total of over 145,000 people in the agglomeration/city region, in the south of Switzerland, in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, which borders Italy...

 and Bellinzona
Bellinzona is the administrative capital of the canton Ticino in Switzerland. The city is famous for its three castles that have been UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 2000....


An important film festival, the Locarno International Film Festival
Locarno International Film Festival
The Film Festival Locarno is an international film festival held annually in the city of Locarno, Switzerland since 1946. After Cannes and Venice and together with Karlovy Vary, Locarno is the Film Festival with the longest history...

, takes place every year in August in the Piazza Grande.

The Locarno Treaties
Locarno Treaties
The Locarno Treaties were seven agreements negotiated at Locarno, Switzerland, on 5 October – 16 October 1925 and formally signed in London on 3 December, in which the First World War Western European Allied powers and the new states of central and Eastern Europe sought to secure the post-war...

 were negotiated here in 1925.

In January 2004, the Italian
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

 Marino Vigano speculated that Locarno's castle
Castello Visconteo (Locarno)
Visconteo Castle is a castle in Locarno, Switzerland.In January 2004, the Italian historian Marino Vigano speculated that it may have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci.-References:...

 may have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...


Prehistoric Locarno

In 1934 in the vicinity of today's Via S. Jorio, a necropolis
A necropolis is a large cemetery or burial ground, usually including structural tombs. The word comes from the Greek νεκρόπολις - nekropolis, literally meaning "city of the dead"...

 with 14 urn graves from the Early Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 (about 14th century BC) were found. Some of the urns were directly buried, while others were placed in boxes of uncut stone. The urns contained, in addition to burned bones, bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

 ornaments, which had some fire damage, including, bangles, hair pins with conical head and slightly thickened neck, rings and knives. Similar urns were also discovered in the district of S. Antonio, which was probably also a small cemetery. The ceramic and bronze objects date from the Canegrate culture
Canegrate culture
The Canegrate culture was a civilization of Prehistoric Italy whom developed from the recent Bronze Age until the Iron Age, in the Pianura Padana of what are now western Lombardy, eastern Piedmont and Canton Ticino....

 (named after a large necropolis in the province of Milan). However, no traces of the settlement have been discovered.

In 1935, a large necropolis was discovered at Solduno. The over 200 graves cover nearly a thousand years, from the La Tène culture
La Tène culture
The La Tène culture was a European Iron Age culture named after the archaeological site of La Tène on the north side of Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland, where a rich cache of artifacts was discovered by Hansli Kopp in 1857....

 to the 3rd century AD. Many of the La Tène era grave goods (particularly from the 3rd-1st century BC) are Celtic style Fibulae or brooches. These objects demonstrate a cultural influence from regions north of the Alps. However, the ceramic objects are indigenous to Golasecca culture
Golasecca culture
The Golasecca culture was a Celtic culture in northern Italy , whose type-site has been excavated at Golasecca in the province of Varese, Lombardy.-Archeological sources:...

 which spread into Ticino and Lombardy
Lombardy is one of the 20 regions of Italy. The capital is Milan. One-sixth of Italy's population lives in Lombardy and about one fifth of Italy's GDP is produced in this region, making it the most populous and richest region in the country and one of the richest in the whole of Europe...


Roman era

Between 1946-49, a number of Roman era
Switzerland in the Roman era
The history of Switzerland in the Roman era encompasses the roughly six centuries during which the territory of modern Switzerland was a part of the Roman Republic and Empire...

 tombs were discovered on the terrace between the churches of S. Maria in Selva and S. Giovanni Battista in Solduno. The Roman city that became Locarno was therefore between the Vicus
Vicus (Rome)
In ancient Rome, the vicus was a neighborhood. During the Republican era, the four regiones of the city of Rome were subdivided into vici. In the 1st century BC, Augustus reorganized the city for administrative purposes into 14 regions, comprising 265 vici. Each vicus had its own board of...

 of Muralto and this cemetery. Unfortunately, intensive construction and agricultural activity have destroyed many traces of the city. In 1995 and 1997, 57 graves were found in Via Valle Maggia. Nineteen were from the Roman period, which confirms that even in the 3rd century cremation and body burials were practiced side by side. Among the significant, a number of glass items were discovered. The Roman necropolis was used from the end of the Latène era until the middle of the 3rd century AD. The Romanization of Locarno wiped out much of the local culture or replaced the rest with Roman elements. However, it appears that there was no Roman ruling class, which could had dominated the local population.

Capitanei di Locarno

The Capitanei, were a group of noble families that led Locarno. The term is first mentioned in a document granting market rights to the town by Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

 Frederick I
Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick I Barbarossa was a German Holy Roman Emperor. He was elected King of Germany at Frankfurt on 4 March 1152 and crowned in Aachen on 9 March, crowned King of Italy in Pavia in 1155, and finally crowned Roman Emperor by Pope Adrian IV, on 18 June 1155, and two years later in 1157 the term...

 in 1164. This title was originally only the direct vassals of the king's fief. The lower vassals were known as valvassores, but could have been awarded the title of Capitanei as a special concession. The Capitanei were probably descendants of the old Lombard
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

 noble Da Besozzo family from the county
A county is a jurisdiction of local government in certain modern nations. Historically in mainland Europe, the original French term, comté, and its equivalents in other languages denoted a jurisdiction under the sovereignty of a count A county is a jurisdiction of local government in certain...

 of Seprioio. Around 1000, the family was granted a fief in Locarno by the schismatic Bishop of Como
Roman Catholic Diocese of Como
The Catholic diocese of Como, in northern Italy, has existed since the fourth century. It is a suffragan of the archdiocese of Milan. The bishops' seat is in Como Cathedral....

 Landolfo da Carcano. The Capitanei were given the right of management of Church property entrusted to the pieve
In the Middle Ages, a pieve was a rural church with a baptistery, upon which other churches without baptisteries depended.The Italian word pieve is descended from Latin plebs which, after the expansion of Christianity in Italy, was applied to the community of baptized people...

, they had the rights of immunity and coercion, but were not owners of the village cooperatives' (Vicini) land, with the exception of the churches and royal estates. They did not have the right of high justice
High, middle and low justice
High, middle and low justices are notions dating from Western feudalism to indicate descending degrees of judiciary power to administer justice by the maximal punishment the holders could inflict upon their subjects and other dependents....

 so their political power was limited. However, they played an important role in the 13th and 14th century conflicts between the Guelphs and Ghibellines
Guelphs and Ghibellines
The Guelphs and Ghibellines were factions supporting the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, respectively, in central and northern Italy. During the 12th and 13th centuries, the split between these two parties was a particularly important aspect of the internal policy of the Italian city-states...

 and in the wars between Como and Milan.

In Locarno, at the Reformation, two of the three great feudal families of capitanei: Muralto and Orelli emigrated to Zürich. A branch of Muralt was established in Bern. The third great family, Magoria, remained in Locarno.

The Capitanei retained a role in Locarno's politics until 1798. In 1803, the lands and rights of the Capitanei were integrated into the political municipality of Locarno.

Early Locarno

Starting in the Lombard period (after 569), the area around Locarno (and presumably the town) was part of the county Stazzona and later the Mark of Lombardy. Locarno is first mentioned in 807 as Leocarni. In German, it came to be known as Luggarus, Lucarius, Lucaris. It is likely that a market existed at or near the lake since the Roman era. The long history of the town and its location led to the creation of a royal court, which is first mentioned in 866. During the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 Locarno and Ascona formed a community, with several, separate neighborhoods. The community managed its common goods
The commons
The commons is terminology referring to resources that are owned in common or shared between or among communities populations. These resources are said to be "held in common" and can include everything from natural resources and common land to software. The commons contains public property and...

 (alpine pastures, pastures, forests, churches) and tax officials and police.

In the 10th century, Bishop of Milan
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milan
The Archdiocese of Milan is a metropolitan see of the Catholic Church in Italy. It has long maintained its own rite: the Ambrosian rite. It is led by the Archbishop of Milan who serves as metropolitan to the dioceses of Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Crema, Cremona, Lodi, Mantova, Pavia, and Vigevano.The...

 began to consolidate more and more power to himself at the expense of the Kings of the Germans
Kingdom of Germany
The Kingdom of Germany developed out of the eastern half of the former Carolingian Empire....

. This expansion by Milan was countered by Henry II
Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor
Henry II , also referred to as Saint Henry, Obl.S.B., was the fifth and last Holy Roman Emperor of the Ottonian dynasty, from his coronation in Rome in 1014 until his death a decade later. He was crowned King of the Germans in 1002 and King of Italy in 1004...

, who incorporated Locarno in 1002/04 with the surrounding areas into the Diocese of Como. Friedrich Barbarossa granted extensive market rights
Market town
Market town or market right is a legal term, originating in the medieval period, for a European settlement that has the right to host markets, distinguishing it from a village and city...

 to Locarno in 1164 and granted imperial immediacy in 1186. Due to these privileges, Locarno developed substantial local autonomy, which assisted the development of municipal institutions. The nobles (Nobili) lost more and more rights to the citizens (borghesi). By 1224, the borghesi had their own administration and various privileges, including: market rights, the right to their own weights, maintenance of mills and grazing rights in Saleggi, in Colmanicchio (Alp Vignasca) and in the Magadino and Quartino valleys.

Locarno was the administrative center of the parish
A parish is a territorial unit historically under the pastoral care and clerical jurisdiction of one parish priest, who might be assisted in his pastoral duties by a curate or curates - also priests but not the parish priest - from a more or less central parish church with its associated organization...

 of Locarno. The Podestà
Podestà is the name given to certain high officials in many Italian cities, since the later Middle Ages, mainly as Chief magistrate of a city state , but also as a local administrator, the representative of the Emperor.The term derives from the Latin word potestas, meaning power...

or high government official, resided in the Casa della Gallinazza, which was burned in 1260 during the clashes between the Guelphs and Ghibellines. Several Locarno families, including members of the Capitanei di Locarno and Simone da Orello, played an important role in the battles between the two factions. In 1342, Luchino and Giovanni Visconti
House of Visconti
Visconti is the family name of two important Italian noble dynasties of the Middle Ages. There are two distinct Visconti families: The first one in the Republic of Pisa in the mid twelfth century who achieved prominence first in Pisa, then in Sardinia where they became rulers of Gallura...

 conquered the area, which brought Locarno back under the power of Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

. In 1439, Count Franchino Rusca was awarded Locarno as a fief.

In 1291, a Humiliati
The Humiliati were an Italian religious order of men formed probably in the 12th century. It was suppressed by a Papal bull in 1571 though an associated order of women continued into the 20th century.-Origin:Its origin is obscure...

 monastery was first mentioned in Locarno. St. Catherine's church, attached to the monastery, probably dates to the mid-14th century.

Under the Swiss Confederation

The rule of the Rusca ended 1503, when the Confederates
Old Swiss Confederacy
The Old Swiss Confederacy was the precursor of modern-day Switzerland....

 occupied Locarno, but failed to conquer the Visconti castle. After the battle of Novara
Battle of Novara (1513)
The Battle of Novara was a battle of the War of the League of Cambrai fought on June 6, 1513, near Novara, in Northern Italy.The French had been victorious at Ravenna the previous year. Nevertheless, the French under King Louis XII were driven out of the city of Milan the following month by the...

 in 1513, the French King Louis XII
Louis XII of France
Louis proved to be a popular king. At the end of his reign the crown deficit was no greater than it had been when he succeeded Charles VIII in 1498, despite several expensive military campaigns in Italy. His fiscal reforms of 1504 and 1508 tightened and improved procedures for the collection of taxes...

 gave the Confederates the castle. In the Treaty of Freiburg in 1516, they received all of Locarno. The Twelve Cantons took turns appointing a governor , to rule over Locarno. The governor had both civil and criminal jurisdiction, except in certain cases after 1578, where seven judges were elected by the locals to try the cases. On taking office, the Governor swore under oath to obey the statutes of Locarno. The Governor was supported by a local mayor, and criminal fines were usually given to local community.

The rule of the Twelve Cantons also had an effect on the social and political relations of the town. In addition to the nobility (representing the three old noble families Orelli, Muralto and Magoria) and citizens, there was a third group. This third group, the terrieri, was a group of residents who had lived a long time in Locarno, but were not citizens. Each of the three groups were a statutory corporation
Statutory Corporation
A statutory corporation or public body is a corporation created by statute. While artificial legal personality is almost always the result of statutory intervention, a statutory corporation does not include corporations owned by shareholders whose legal personality derives from being registered...

, with shared property and a governing body. Under the Confederation, each of these groups or corporations had representation in the Consiglio Magnifico which ruled Locarno. However, the town's dominance over the villages in the region, until 1798, is clearly shown in their representation in the Council. The three groups in Locarno had twelve aldermen (six nobles, four citizens and two terrieri), while all the rural communities together had only eight members.

During the Middle Ages, Locarno was centered around the intersection of Via Cittadella and Via S. Antonio. The town stretched up the slope of the mountain and behind the castle. Some houses lined the shore, and above the Contrada Borghese a small, almost rural settlement grew up. The center of town was dominated by town houses with their large courtyards and gardens. The members of the upper class also owned small country houses with vineyards, which went up the hill behind Locarno as well as in Solduno and Cugnasco. Locarno also had several noble estates during the Late Middle Ages
Late Middle Ages
The Late Middle Ages was the period of European history generally comprising the 14th to the 16th century . The Late Middle Ages followed the High Middle Ages and preceded the onset of the early modern era ....

, including the so-called Cittadella. The buildings of the 17th and 18th Centuries, including the Casa Simona (16th to 18th century), the Casa Rusca from the first half of the 18th century (now the seat of the municipal art gallery) and the Casa del Negromante, were built on older structures and didn't change the layout of the town.

Locarno's Castles

There were several castles from the Early Middle Ages
Early Middle Ages
The Early Middle Ages was the period of European history lasting from the 5th century to approximately 1000. The Early Middle Ages followed the decline of the Western Roman Empire and preceded the High Middle Ages...

 in Locarno. One was destroyed by the Milanese in 1156. Another, first mentioned in 1210 as Orelli castle, was occupied in 1342 occupied by the Visconti and enlarged. This castle came to be known as Visconti Castle. In 1531, the Confederates demolished much of the castle, leaving only the central core. The castle was used as the residence of the governor, but in the following centuries, it began to fall apart. From 1804 to 1909, the castle was the seat of the administrative governor and the District Court. After 1909, it came into the possession of the city and was renovated in 1921-28. Since 1920, it houses the city and Archaeological Museum. In 1507, a defensive bastion or Ravelin
A ravelin is a triangular fortification or detached outwork, located in front of the innerworks of a fortress...

 was added to protect the castle entrance. It is likely that Leonardo da Vinci designed this structure. North-east of the castle is Palazzo Casorella (Casa degli Orelli) from the 16th century.

Early Modern Locarno

During the Middle Ages, the economy of Locarno and the whole region was closely linked with the nobles who owned the market, fishing, alpine and grazing rights and tithe
A tithe is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a contribution to a religious organization or compulsory tax to government. Today, tithes are normally voluntary and paid in cash, cheques, or stocks, whereas historically tithes were required and paid in kind, such as agricultural products...

s. Starting in the 13th century, some of these privileges went to the citizens corporation. The hill areas were dominated by viticulture
Viticulture is the science, production and study of grapes which deals with the series of events that occur in the vineyard. When the grapes are used for winemaking, it is also known as viniculture...

, while grain was raised in the plains. Within the town, vegetables and fruits were grown. Artisans and stores were concentrated in the interior of the town. The repeatedly flooded shorelines and the alpine pastures were used for grazing. In the early modern period, Locarno developed into a thriving commercial center on an important road that linked the major cities of Lombardy, with German-speaking Switzerland and Germany. Cereals and salt came from the Lombardy and Piedmont to Locarno, while Locarno and its hinterland (especially the Maggia Valley) provided large quantities of wood and cattle to Italy.

The parish church
Parish church
A parish church , in Christianity, is the church which acts as the religious centre of a parish, the basic administrative unit of episcopal churches....

 of Locarno, S. Antonio Abate, was first built in 1353-54. It was replaced by the current building in 1664. The decoration of the church was financed, primarily, by the grain traders at the end of the 17th century, and the chapel fresco
Fresco is any of several related mural painting types, executed on plaster on walls or ceilings. The word fresco comes from the Greek word affresca which derives from the Latin word for "fresh". Frescoes first developed in the ancient world and continued to be popular through the Renaissance...

es are by Giuseppe Antonio Felice Orelli from 1742. The citizens of Locarno had the right to appoint priests at S. Antonio Abate, S. Maria in Selva (consecrated in 1424, since 1884 only the choir
A choir, chorale or chorus is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform.A body of singers who perform together as a group is called a choir or chorus...

 and bell tower remain) and SS Trinità dei Monti (consecrated 1621). The church of San Francesco, together with the adjoining convent, were built in the early 13th century. The church's first consecration was probably in 1230, but the first documented consecration of the church was in 1316. It was rebuilt and enlarged between 1538-1675 using construction material from Visconti Castle. San Francesco hosted the meetings of the nobility and the citizens. Starting in the 16th century, the appointed Governor swore his oath in the church.

In the 16th century, the Humiliati order was suppressed and St. Catherine's church and monastery closed. All three ruling groups of Locarno agreed to convert the church and monastery into the Hospital S. Carlo. The Hospital remained until 1854 when it closed, due to financial reasons.

In the 16th century, Locarno's population declined as a result of exodus of Protestants
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 and the plague in 1576-77. After a recovery in the 17th century, the population declined considerably in the 18th century again.

Protestant Reformation

By 1535, there was a Protestant
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 community known as the ecclesia christiana locarnensis in Locarno. They owed their existence to the work of Giovanni Beccaria, several notables of the town (including Taddeo Duni) and religious refugees from Milan and Piedmont
Piedmont is one of the 20 regions of Italy. It has an area of 25,402 square kilometres and a population of about 4.4 million. The capital of Piedmont is Turin. The main local language is Piedmontese. Occitan is also spoken by a minority in the Occitan Valleys situated in the Provinces of...

. To counteract the tensions, the Protestant community and the Catholic clergy met for a debate on 8 May 1549. At the end of the debate, Beccaria was imprisoned. However, because of protests against his arrest, he was immediately released. In 1550, Locarno declared itself to be a Catholic town, but a large group continued to practice the Protestant faith. However, in 1554, the Diet of Baden issued an ultimatum to the Protestants, either renounce new faith or go into exile. On 3 March 1555, over 100 people left Locarno to emigrate to Zurich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...


In the course of Counter-Reformation
The Counter-Reformation was the period of Catholic revival beginning with the Council of Trent and ending at the close of the Thirty Years' War, 1648 as a response to the Protestant Reformation.The Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort, composed of four major elements:#Ecclesiastical or...

 in the 17th century, many religious buildings in Locarno were renewed or rebuilt. These include the 1604 church dedicated to SS Sebastiano e Rocco with the Capuchin
Order of Friars Minor Capuchin
The Order of Friars Minor Capuchin is an Order of friars in the Catholic Church, among the chief offshoots of the Franciscans. The worldwide head of the Order, called the Minister General, is currently Father Mauro Jöhri.-Origins :...

 monastery and the church of S. Maria Assunta (Chiesa Nuova).

The Canton of Ticino

Under the Helvetic Republic
Helvetic Republic
In Swiss history, the Helvetic Republic represented an early attempt to impose a central authority over Switzerland, which until then consisted mainly of self-governing cantons united by a loose military alliance, and conquered territories such as Vaud...

 (1798–1803) Locarno was part of the Canton of Lugano
Canton of Lugano
Lugano was the name of a canton of the Helvetic Republic from 1798 to 1803, with its capital at Lugano. The canton unified the former Landvogteien of Lugano, Mendrisio, Locarno and Valmaggia....

. Following the collapse of the Helvetic Republic, the Act of Mediation
Act of Mediation
The Act of Mediation was issued by Napoleon Bonaparte on 19 February 1803 establishing the Swiss Confederation. The act also abolished the previous Helvetic Republic, which had existed since the invasion of Switzerland by French troops in 1798. After the withdrawal of French troops in July 1802,...

, in 1803, created the Canton of Ticino with Locarno as an independent municipality. The Helvetic Republic was very liberal and attempted to reform much of Swiss society. However, the changes were too great and the Republic collapsed. The compromise Act of Mediation changed some aspects of society but left others unchanged. The new municipality of Lucarno was no longer ruled by three different patriziati
The Bürgergemeinde is a statutory corporation in public law in Switzerland...

, which had emerged from the three groups (nobles, borghesi and terrieri), but until the mid-19th century there were institutions that reached back to the Ancien Régime
Early Modern Switzerland
The early modern history of the Old Swiss Confederacy , lasting from formal independence in 1648 to the French invasion of 1798 came to be referred as Ancien Régime retrospectively, in post-Napoleonic Switzerland.The early modern period was characterized by an increasingly...

. For example, the community of Locarno and Ascona was dissolved in 1805. Nevertheless, a "committee of the representatives of the former communities of Locarno" managed, for several decades, the S. Carlo Hospital and schools, which had been shared by the patriziati of the old, combined community. However, the power of the old patriziati gradually weakened. In 1859, the terrieri decided to set aside their corporation. The nobles corporation distributed its assets in 1866-67 to its members and dissolved the archive, but retained until about 1920, the fishing rights. Only the citizens corporation has preserved its status as a civil community.

The Constitution of 1814, established Locarno, Bellinzona and Lugano
Lugano is a city of inhabitants in the city proper and a total of over 145,000 people in the agglomeration/city region, in the south of Switzerland, in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, which borders Italy...

 as the capitals of the canton, in a six year rotation. Locarno was the capital of the canton in 1821-27, 1839–45, 1857–63 and 1875-81. In 1838-39, on the initiative of a group of notables, a government building was built. It was sold in 1893 to private company. It then became the headquarters of Credito Ticinese and since 1917 it has been the headquarters of the Electricity Company of Sopraceneri. Locarno was repeatedly the scene of political clashes. In 1839 and 1841, uprisings against the government broke out. In 1855, a murder in a coffee house was used as a pretext for a coup of radicals (pronunciamento). Another coup, the Ticino coup of 1890, did nothing to change the balance of power between the parties in the city. After a liberal mayor ruled for 35 consecutive years (1865–80), a conservative mayor ruled for another 36 years (1880–1916).

To break the conservative hegemony of the late 19th century, the Social Democrats
Social Democratic Party of Switzerland
The Social Democratic Party of Switzerland is the largest centre-left political party in Switzerland....

, allied with the Liberals
Liberal Party of Switzerland
The Liberal Party of Switzerland was a party with economically liberal policies. It was known as a party of the upper class. On 1 January 2009 it merged with the larger Free Democratic Party to establish FDP.The Liberals....

 in 1916 elections. They succeeded to a majority in the city government (which then consisted of nine members, but in 1987 was limited to seven), which they kept in the following decades.

In the 19th century, the population in Locarno grew noticeably compared to neighboring communities. As early as 1836, the immigrant population was over 16% of the population. Between 1860-80, the population fell slightly mainly because of emigration to California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

. In the following decades, the growth rates were below those of other population centers of the canton, which, unlike Locarno, benefited directly from the Gotthard railway.

In 1816, the special rights and title of the old mother church of San Vittore in Muralto
Muralto is a municipality in the district of Locarno, in the canton of Ticino in Switzerland.-Roman settlement:In the second half of the 19th Century, the ruins of a Roman settlement were discovered. However, all the items discovered in these early excavations are either lost or they are kept in...

 went over to S. Antonio Abate. In 1863, snow collecting on the roof of the church caused the vault
Vault (architecture)
A Vault is an architectural term for an arched form used to provide a space with a ceiling or roof. The parts of a vault exert lateral thrust that require a counter resistance. When vaults are built underground, the ground gives all the resistance required...

 to collapse, killing 40 people. The citizens collective or borghesi lacked the resources to repair the church. Therefore, in 1866, the ownership and maintenance of the churches of S. Antonio and S. Maria in Selva were given to the town as a whole. For financial reasons, the collapsed church was not completely repaired. Only the façade and central vault were rebuilt and the choir was expanded.

Between 1863-74, church of San Francesco had to be used for services, and after 1798, the Assemblies of the neighborhoods, the city and the county were held in the church. In 1814, the church of San Francesco was secularized and the Franciscans had to leave. The church and convent served from 1821 until 1827 as the State Government offices. From 1848-63, the church was closed for worship, and in 1874 it was converted into a barracks and a salt storage. In 1924, it was converted back into a church and used by Benedictines for Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 services delivered in the German language
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

. The Jesuits took over this task from 1947 until 1992. The monastery was secularized in 1848, and after the 1893-94 renovation, it housed the first high school. Then in 1930 it was used for teacher training.

Modern Locarno

Between 1935-92, the newspaper, L'Eco di Locarno was printed in Locarno. In 1992, it merged with the official newspaper of the Liberal party Il dovere to create the daily newspaper La Regione. Since 1987, the only German language newspaper in Ticino, the Tessiner Zeitung, is published three times each week in Locarno.


Locarno has an area, , of 19.27 square kilometres (7.4 sq mi). Of this area, 8.39 km² (3.2 sq mi) or 43.5% is used for agricultural purposes, while 5.97 km² (2.3 sq mi) or 31.0% is forested. Of the rest of the land, 4.92 km² (1.9 sq mi) or 25.5% is settled (buildings or roads), 1.25 km² (0.482627698240669 sq mi) or 6.5% is either rivers or lakes and 0.91 km² (0.351352964319207 sq mi) or 4.7% is unproductive land.

Of the built up area, industrial buildings made up 1.4% of the total area while housing and buildings made up 10.3% and transportation infrastructure made up 7.6%. Power and water infrastructure as well as other special developed areas made up 2.6% of the area while parks, green belts and sports fields made up 3.6%. Out of the forested land, 28.3% of the total land area is heavily forested and 2.7% is covered with orchards or small clusters of trees. Of the agricultural land, 31.2% is used for growing crops, while 2.1% is used for orchards or vine crops and 10.3% is used for alpine pastures. Of the water in the municipality, 0.8% is in lakes and 5.7% is in rivers and streams. Of the unproductive areas, 4.6% is unproductive vegetation.

The municipality is the capital of its district. Locarno is located on the left shore of Lake Maggiore. The city is made up of the old town (historic settlement center), the new town (Nuovo quartiere) toward the lake and the land district (quartiere Campagna) toward Solduno. The area of the municipality extends from the lake (elevation 209 m (685.7 ft)) to the mountains above the city (Monti della SS Trinità, Bre, Cardada and Cimetta, highest point at 1474 m (4,836 ft)). It includes a large part of the Magadino valley along with the right side of the Ticino river, and stretches from the Bolle di Magadino to Monda Contone.

Coat of arms

The blazon
In heraldry and heraldic vexillology, a blazon is a formal description of a coat of arms, flag or similar emblem, from which the reader can reconstruct the appropriate image...

 of the municipal coat of arms
Coat of arms
A coat of arms is a unique heraldic design on a shield or escutcheon or on a surcoat or tabard used to cover and protect armour and to identify the wearer. Thus the term is often stated as "coat-armour", because it was anciently displayed on the front of a coat of cloth...

 is Azure a lion rampant argent.


Locarno has a population of . , 33.9% of the population are resident foreign nationals. Over the last 10 years (1997–2007) the population has changed at a rate of 3.7%.

Most of the population speaks Italian (76.6%), with German being second most common (10.5%) and Serbo-Croatian
Serbo-Croatian language
Serbo-Croatian or Serbo-Croat, less commonly Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian , is a South Slavic language with multiple standards and the primary language of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro...

 being third (3.1%). Of the Swiss national languages , 1,528 speak German, 189 people speak French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, 11,153 people speak Italian, and 27 people speak Romansh. The remainder (1,664 people) speak another language.

, the gender distribution of the population was 46.5% male and 53.5% female. The population was made up of 4,421 Swiss men (29.1% of the population), and 2,636 (17.4%) non-Swiss men. There were 5,654 Swiss women (37.2%), and 2,474 (16.3%) non-Swiss women.

In there were 83 live births to Swiss citizens and 45 births to non-Swiss citizens, and in same time span there were 115 deaths of Swiss citizens and 33 non-Swiss citizen deaths. Ignoring immigration and emigration, the population of Swiss citizens decreased by 32 while the foreign population increased by 12. There were 14 Swiss men and 3 Swiss women who immigrated back to Switzerland. At the same time, there were 87 non-Swiss men and 78 non-Swiss women who immigrated from another country to Switzerland. The total Swiss population change in 2008 (from all sources, including moves across municipal borders) was an increase of 159 and the non-Swiss population change was an increase of 55 people. This represents a population growth rate of 1.4%.

The age distribution, , in Locarno is; 1,205 children or 7.9% of the population are between 0 and 9 years old and 1,454 teenagers or 9.6% are between 10 and 19. Of the adult population, 1,791 people or 11.8% of the population are between 20 and 29 years old. 2,002 people or 13.2% are between 30 and 39, 2,442 people or 16.1% are between 40 and 49, and 1,979 people or 13.0% are between 50 and 59. The senior population distribution is 1,767 people or 11.6% of the population are between 60 and 69 years old, 1,541 people or 10.1% are between 70 and 79, there are 1,004 people or 6.6% who are over 80.

the average number of residents per living room was 0.64 which is about equal to the cantonal average of 0.6 per room. In this case, a room is defined as space of a housing unit of at least 4 m² (43.1 sq ft) as normal bedrooms, dining rooms, living rooms, kitchens and habitable cellars and attics. About 15.5% of the total households were owner occupied, or in other words did not pay rent (though they may have a mortgage
Mortgage loan
A mortgage loan is a loan secured by real property through the use of a mortgage note which evidences the existence of the loan and the encumbrance of that realty through the granting of a mortgage which secures the loan...

 or a rent-to-own agreement).

, there were 6,730 private households in the municipality, and an average of 2.1 persons per household. there were 904 single family homes (or 42.1% of the total) out of a total of 2,147 inhabited buildings. There were 252 two family buildings (11.7%) and 480 multi-family buildings (22.4%). There were also 511 buildings in the municipality that were multipurpose buildings (used for both housing and commercial or another purpose).

The vacancy rate for the municipality, , was 0.63%. there were 8,647 apartments in the municipality. The most common apartment size was the 3 room apartment of which there were 3,068. There were 856 single room apartments and 877 apartments with five or more rooms. Of these apartments, a total of 6,709 apartments (77.6% of the total) were permanently occupied, while 1,695 apartments (19.6%) were seasonally occupied and 243 apartments (2.8%) were empty. , the construction rate of new housing units was 10.5 new units per 1000 residents.

the average price to rent an average apartment in Locarno was 1046.19 Swiss franc
Swiss franc
The franc is the currency and legal tender of Switzerland and Liechtenstein; it is also legal tender in the Italian exclave Campione d'Italia. Although not formally legal tender in the German exclave Büsingen , it is in wide daily use there...

s (CHF) per month (US$840, £470, €670 approx. exchange rate from 2003). The average rate for a one room apartment was 611.61 CHF (US$490, £280, €390), a two room apartment was about 816.64 CHF (US$650, £370, €520), a three room apartment was about 1007.47 CHF (US$810, £450, €640) and a six or more room apartment cost an average of 1896.51 CHF (US$1520, £850, €1210). The average apartment price in Locarno was 93.7% of the national average of 1116 CHF.

Historic Population

The historical population is given in the following table:
rowspan="2" Year rowspan="2" Population rowspan="2" Italian speaking rowspan="2" German speaking rowspan="2" Catholic rowspan="2" Protestant Colspan="4" Other rowspan="2" Swiss rowspan="2" Non-Swiss
Total Other Jewish Islamic No religion given
1591 3,725
1597 3,029
1719 3,515
1769 1,751
1795 1,471
1801 1,308
1824 1,463
1836 1,572
1850 2,944 0 0 2,938 6 0 0 0 0 2,425 519
1870 2,885 0 0 2,903 1 0 0 0 0 2,318 603
1888 3,430 3,375 37 3,399 22 18 0 0 0 2,664 766
1900 3,981 3,825 107 3,893 59 49 1 0 0 2,513 1,468
1910 5,486 5,117 278 5,177 178 91 3 0 0 3,104 2,382
1930 6,575 5,570 883 5,846 566 122 8 0 0 4,464 2,111
1950 7,767 6,428 1,090 6,887 751 249 9 0 0 5,980 1,787
1970 14,143 11,408 2,000 12,491 1,387 735 32 8 139 9,603 4,540
1990 13,796 10,817 1,604 11,108 1,310 1,375 7 129 728 9,440 4,356
2000 14,561 11,153 1,528 10,179 1,072 1,880 15 200 1,167 9,430 5,131

Heritage sites of national significance

There are nine Swiss heritage site of national significance
Swiss Inventory of Cultural Property of National and Regional Significance
The Swiss Inventory of Cultural Property of National and Regional Significance is a register of some 8,300 items of cultural property in Switzerland...

 in Locarno. Three of the sites are churches; the church of S. Francesco and former convent, the church of S. Maria Assunta (new church) and house of the canons
Canon (priest)
A canon is a priest or minister who is a member of certain bodies of the Christian clergy subject to an ecclesiastical rule ....

 and the church of S. Maria in Selva with Cemetery. The Castello Visconteo complex (part of which may have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci) is on the list. Two schools, the Ai Saleggi primary school and the Secondary School at via Dr. G. Varesi 30, as well as the Cantonal Library are also listed. The last two are the Pinacoteca comunale Casa Rusca at piazza Sant’Antonio and the Casorella at Via Bartolomeo Rusca 5 make up the rest of the list. The entire city of Locarno is listed on the Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites
Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites
The Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites is part of a 1981 Ordinance of the Swiss Federal Council implementing the Federal Law on the Protection of Nature and Cultural Heritage.-Sites of national importance:-Types:...

Main sights

Locarno has a number of interesting sights that draw tourists year-round.

Astrovia Locarno

The Astrovia Locarno is a 1 : 1,000,000,000 scale model of the Solar System
Solar System
The Solar System consists of the Sun and the astronomical objects gravitationally bound in orbit around it, all of which formed from the collapse of a giant molecular cloud approximately 4.6 billion years ago. The vast majority of the system's mass is in the Sun...

. The Sun can be found at the end of Via Gioacchino Respini where the cycle path, which runs alongside the river Maggia, starts. Pluto
Pluto, formal designation 134340 Pluto, is the second-most-massive known dwarf planet in the Solar System and the tenth-most-massive body observed directly orbiting the Sun...

, the final planet in the model, can be found 6 km away from this starting point in the village of Tegna.

Madonna del Sasso, Cardada and Cimetta

The sanctuary of Madonna del Sasso
Madonna del Sasso, Switzerland
The Madonna del Sasso is a sanctuary in Orselina above the city of Locarno in Switzerland. It is the principal sight and goal of pilgrimage in the city....

 in Orselina
Orselina is a municipality in the district of Locarno in the canton of Ticino in Switzerland.-History:Orselina is first mentioned in 1182 as Concilio Meziano. In 1323 it was mentioned as Orsarina...

 above the city is the principal sight and goal of pilgrimage in the city.

The founding of the sanctuary goes back to a vision of the Virgin Mary that the Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

 brother Bartolomeo d'Ivrea experienced in the night of 14/15 August 1480. The interior is highly decorated, and a platform gives a magnificent view of the city.

A gondola runs from Orselina to the top of Cardada (el. 1340 m (4,396.3 ft)), and a chair lift goes further to the top of Cimetta
Cimetta is a mountain in the Lepontine Alps, it is located above Locarno and Lake Maggiore. It can be accessed by cable car from Orselina to Cardada and with a chair lift to the summit.-Weather:...

 (el. 1671 m (5,482.3 ft)).

Castello Visconteo

Castello Visconteo, on the edge of the old town, was built in the 12th century, probably as the residence of a Captain Orelli, who remained true to the Emperor. In 1260, it fell into the hands of the Ghibellines. In 1342 the Visconti of Milan, for whom it is now named, attacked the castle from both the land and the lake side and took it. It first came into the hands of the Eidgenossen in 1503. Today, only a fifth of the original structure remains. Most of that dates from the 15th and 16th centuries. Only the foundation remains from the original structure.


In the 2007 federal election
Swiss federal election, 2007
Elections to the Swiss Federal Assembly, the federal parliament of Switzerland, were held on Sunday, 21 October 2007. In a few cantons, a second round of the elections to the Council of States was held on 11 November, 18 November, and 25 November 2007...

 the most popular party was the FDP
FDP.The Liberals
FDP.The Liberals is a classical liberal political party in Switzerland. It is the joint-largest party in the Federal Council, third-largest party in the National Council, and second-largest in the Council of States....

 which received 34.88% of the vote. The next three most popular parties were the SP
Social Democratic Party of Switzerland
The Social Democratic Party of Switzerland is the largest centre-left political party in Switzerland....

 (19.72%), the CVP
Christian Democratic People's Party of Switzerland
The Christian Democratic People's Party of Switzerland is a Christian democratic political party in Switzerland. It is the fourth-largest party in the National Council, with 31 seats, and the largest in the Council of States, with 15 seats. It has one seat, that of Doris Leuthard, on the Swiss...

 (18.75%) and the Ticino League
Ticino League
The Ticino League is an isolationist, national conservative political party in Switzerland active in the canton of Ticino.In 1991, after some public campaigning in the Sunday journal Mattino della Domenica against political power and use of public money, the editor Giuliano Bignasca and the...

 (9.54%). In the federal election, a total of 3,303 votes were cast, and the voter turnout
Voter turnout
Voter turnout is the percentage of eligible voters who cast a ballot in an election . After increasing for many decades, there has been a trend of decreasing voter turnout in most established democracies since the 1960s...

 was 40.5%.

In the Gran Consiglio election, there were a total of 8,555 registered voters in Locarno, of which 4,291 or 50.2% voted. 90 blank ballots and 15 null ballots were cast, leaving 4,186 valid ballots in the election. The most popular party was the PLRT
FDP.The Liberals
FDP.The Liberals is a classical liberal political party in Switzerland. It is the joint-largest party in the Federal Council, third-largest party in the National Council, and second-largest in the Council of States....

 which received 913 or 21.8% of the vote. The next three most popular parties were; the SSI (with 822 or 19.6%), the PS
Social Democratic Party of Switzerland
The Social Democratic Party of Switzerland is the largest centre-left political party in Switzerland....

 (with 790 or 18.9%) and the PPD
Christian Democratic People's Party of Switzerland
The Christian Democratic People's Party of Switzerland is a Christian democratic political party in Switzerland. It is the fourth-largest party in the National Council, with 31 seats, and the largest in the Council of States, with 15 seats. It has one seat, that of Doris Leuthard, on the Swiss...

+GenGiova (with 703 or 16.8%).

In the Consiglio di Stato election, 66 blank ballots and 23 null ballots were cast, leaving 4,202 valid ballots in the election. The most popular party was the PS which received 946 or 22.5% of the vote. The next three most popular parties were; the PLRT (with 837 or 19.9%), the SSI (with 768 or 18.3%) and the PPD (with 714 or 17.0%).


, Locarno had an unemployment rate of 5.93%. , there were 86 people employed in the primary economic sector and about 23 businesses involved in this sector. 2,385 people were employed in the secondary sector and there were 158 businesses in this sector. 7,338 people were employed in the tertiary sector, with 920 businesses in this sector. There were 6,688 residents of the municipality who were employed in some capacity, of which females made up 46.6% of the workforce.

, there were 7,550 workers who commuted into the municipality and 2,864 workers who commuted away. The municipality is a net importer of workers, with about 2.6 workers entering the municipality for every one leaving. About 12.1% of the workforce coming into Locarno are coming from outside Switzerland, while none of the locals counted in the census, commute out of Switzerland for work. Of the working population, 10.5% used public transportation to get to work, and 44.1% used a private car.

, there were 30 hotels in Locarno with a total of 777 rooms and 1,536 beds.


From the , 10,179 or 69.9% were Roman Catholic, while 1,072 or 7.4% belonged to the Swiss Reformed Church
Swiss Reformed Church
The Reformed branch of Protestantism in Switzerland was started in Zürich by Huldrych Zwingli and spread within a few years to Basel , Bern , St...

. There are 2,307 individuals (or about 15.84% of the population) who belong to another church (not listed on the census), and 1,003 individuals (or about 6.89% of the population) did not answer the question.


In Locarno about 57.1% of the population (between age 25-64) have completed either non-mandatory upper secondary education or additional higher education (either university or a Fachhochschule
A Fachhochschule or University of Applied Sciences is a German type of tertiary education institution, sometimes specialized in certain topical areas . Fachhochschulen were founded in Germany and later adopted by Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Greece...


In Locarno there were a total of 2,210 students . The Ticino education system
Education in Switzerland
The education system in Switzerland is very diverse, because the constitution of Switzerland delegates the authority for the school system mainly to the cantons...

 provides up to three years of non-mandatory kindergarten
A kindergarten is a preschool educational institution for children. The term was created by Friedrich Fröbel for the play and activity institute that he created in 1837 in Bad Blankenburg as a social experience for children for their transition from home to school...

 and in Locarno there were 292 children in kindergarten. The primary school program lasts for five years and includes both a standard school and a special school. In the village, 648 students attended the standard primary schools and 65 students attended the special school. In the lower secondary school system, students either attend a two year middle school followed by a two year pre-apprenticeship or they attend a four year program to prepare for higher education. There were 512 students in the two year middle school and 10 in their pre-apprenticeship, while 203 students were in the four year advanced program.

The upper secondary school includes several options, but at the end of the upper secondary program, a student will be prepared to enter a trade or to continue on to a university or college. In Ticino, vocational students may either attend school while working on their internship or apprenticeship (which takes three or four years) or may attend school followed by an internship or apprenticeship (which takes one year as a full-time student or one and a half to two years as a part-time student). There were 146 vocational students who were attending school full-time and 293 who attend part-time.

The professional program lasts three years and prepares a student for a job in engineering, nursing, computer science, business, tourism and similar fields. There were 41 students in the professional program.

, there were 1,484 students in Locarno who came from another municipality, while 405 residents attended schools outside the municipality.

Locarno is home to the Biblioteca Cantonale Locarno library. The library has 122,115 books or other media, and loaned out 97,667 items in the same year. It was open a total of 264 days with average of 44 hours per week during that year.


Locarno has an average of 100.7 days of rain or snow per year and on average receives 1668 mm (65.7 in) of precipitation
Precipitation (meteorology)
In meteorology, precipitation In meteorology, precipitation In meteorology, precipitation (also known as one of the classes of hydrometeors, which are atmospheric water phenomena is any product of the condensation of atmospheric water vapor that falls under gravity. The main forms of precipitation...

. The wettest month is May during which time Locarno receives an average of 194 mm (7.6 in) of rain or snow. During this month there is precipitation for an average of 12.6 days. The driest month of the year is December with an average of 61 mm (2.4 in) of precipitation over 5.5 days.

External links

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