Ticino offers biking enthusiasts endless possibilities: from simpler cycling trails to mountain paths that are suitable for mountain biking, to more extreme downhill and freeride trails. We have chosen two routes that are accessible to bikers at all levels and also offer bike-hire-options. The first, from Airolo to Biasca, offers a unique, all descending experience featuring places of interest along the way. The second trail winds along a track devoted entirely to cycling. It is suitable for families and connects Ascona to Bellinzona, passing through Locarno and skirting the Ticino River.
Mountain bike enthusiasts are offered a wide variety of trails in the Ticino mountains, clearly marked on the TicinoTurismo website. Aficionados of more extreme downhill and freeride experiences will find a variety of options both on Monte Tamaro, on the trail built in 2003 to host the World Mountain Bike Championships, and in the breathtaking region of Nara in Blenio Valley.
In this section, we have chosen two excursions that are suitable for riders of all levels.
OPTION 1: From Ascona to Bellinzona (approx. 3 hours)
This first, family-friendly excursion leaves from the town of Ascona and ends in Bellinzona, the capital of Ticino and a UNESCO World Heritage site, renowned for its castles. Bicycles can be hired from the railway stations of Locarno and Bellinzona.
The trail starts on the lakefront promenade of Ascona. After riding along the shores of Lake Maggiore and passing a golf course, you will reach Locarno, from where the route continues along the banks of the Maggia River. After passing the Lido and riding along the cycling path on the shores of the lake you will reach Tenero. After passing the national Sports Centre, you will enter the Magadino Plain. Just a little further on, between the mouths of the Ticino and Verzasca rivers, you will come across the ‘Bolle di Magadino’, recognized throughout Switzerland as an area of significant naturalistic importance. By following the marked cycling routes and riding in the direction of Bellinzona along peaceful country roads and through breathtaking areas of wetland you will cross the Magadino Plain known as the orchard of the Canton.
Winding through meadows, cultivated fields and vineyards, the trail is dotted with a number of small farms (agritourisms) where bikers can stop and sample or purchase typical, locally grown products. On reaching Bellinzona, the capital of Ticino, make sure to visit its charming historic center where a lively market is held on Saturdays. Other must-see attractions include its three castles.
OPTION 2: From Airolo to Biasca (approx. 5 hours)
A comfortable all downhill bike ride from Airolo (1160 m) to Biasca (301 m) along a 40 km course. You can rent the bikes in Airolo and return them in Biasca following the beautiful itinerary that unwinds on the floor of the valley, partially on secondary roads, along the River Ticino. Along the way you will go through places of interest such as the Dazio Grande at the opening of the striking Gole del Piottino (Piottino Gorge), the village of Giornico with the splendid Romanesque church of San Nicola and the outstanding churches of SS. Pietro e Paolo (Saints Peter and Paul) and of Santa Petronilla in Biasca.
The Dazio Grande and the Piottino Gorge
From Airolo, go down the Cantonal road towards Quinto/Piotta. Just outside the village of Rodi-Fiesso you will run into the Dazio Grande (old custom check point) where travelers in the past were required to stop and pay a toll for merchandise and people, with the option of also having a rest and a refreshment. In fact, a little further travelers were faced with a serious obstacle: the narrow gorge that the River Ticino dug in the Monte Piottino rock.
From the Dazio Grande you can also have an interesting and easy walk that is well signposted and approximately 1.5 hours long. Along the way, ruins of the Dazio Vecchio, an old customs house erected at the beginning of the 1300s by the Milanese, are visible. Proceed through the woods following the signpost Ponte di Mezzo. Immediately after the bridge, a gangway gives access to the gorge and the "Uri road" (old road named after the neighboring canton), a 1500s masterpiece, chiseled from live rock. From there, you will return to the starting point.
From the Dazio Grande you can also access the Piottino Gorge by avoiding the abovementioned circular itinerary. Simply walk down the Cantonal road and take the trail that leads to the old mule track and to the gorge.
Continue the bike itinerary to reach the village of Faido and then take the peaceful little road towards Nivo where you can admire the nice electric power plant built by Milanese architect Giovanni Greppi according to the Lombard industrial style of the early 1900s.
The descent continues down the zigzagging of the Biaschina, true crossroad of the North-South communication route: the A2 freeway with its impressive viaduct inaugurated in 1983, the railway line from 1882 and finally the winding Cantonal road. Above this bottleneck you can observe the trains from the Gottardo line entering and exiting the coiling tunnels designed to overcome the almost 200 meters of gradient.
Giornico and the Church of San Nicola
Continue to Giornico, where you can visit the modern Ethnographic Museum of the Leventina Valley and the church of San Nicola considered one of the greatest expressions of Romanesque architecture in Ticino. Built in the 12th century with a plain and rigorous style, it sticks out of the vineyards with its stone presence: sturdy, simple and noble. Remarkable are the portal and the Southern facade with the little sculptures, the main facade, the crypt with the mysterious capitals, the apse frescoes and the baptismal font at the entrance.
The Churches of SS. Pietro e Paolo and of S. Petronilla in Biasca
At the end of the bike ride, you will arrive in Biasca, a town that was remarkably important in the past and which still preserves some significant historic monuments. Behind the 16th century Casa Cavalier Pellanda, today a cultural centre and home to the tourist office, stands a parish church dedicated to San Carlo and built in the latter part of the 1800s. From here, take the stairway to the beautiful 12th century Romanesque church of SS. Pietro e Paolo. Precious frescoes are inside (12th-17th centuries). On the right, a trail running along the old cemetery connects to the Via Crucis blessed in 1779. Shaded by chestnut trees, a succession of 14 chapels expose mosaics of contemporary artists. In about twenty minutes on foot you will reach the stone bridge on the Froda stream, the beautiful waterfall and the Santa Petronilla Oratory, rich in frescoes of an unknown author from 1638-1651.