Centovallina Amazing Journey
According to Lonely Planet, the Vigezzina-Centovalli Railway is one of the most beautiful in the world. It offers a slow train ride from Locarno to Domodossola, through Centovalli and the Vigezzo Valley. A unique experience that takes travelers on a scenic journey through deep gorges, wild mountains, rivers and waterfalls. During the two-hour trip, you’ll find yourself immersed amidst untamed nature, harmoniously interspersed with small, picturesque towns. A free audio guide, available on all "Centovalli Express" trains, allows travelers to discover details and interesting facts, and to receive useful information about the entire route.
Every year, the Centovalli railway, inaugurated in 1923, takes 150,000 passengers from Switzerland to Italy. The train covers a 52km route trundling over 83 bridges, and through 31 tunnels. Every season offers a diverse and evocative picture; from snowy scenery to flowering meadows; from autumnal colours to the intoxication of summer. The Vigezzina-Centovalli Railway is mentioned as one of the most beautiful in the world in the recent guide published by Lonely Planet, titled "Amazing Train Journeys"; a real ‘bible’ for lovers of scenic tourist train rides.
The journey starts in Locarno. After travelling for about 20 minutes through the Terre di Pedemonte, you’ll reach the village of Intragna, where you can visit the Regional Museum of Centovalli and Pedemonte, which tells the story of the rigours of life in the valley in past centuries, the highest bell tower in Ticino (65m in height and 165 steps), the parish church and the 16th century Roman-style bridge. Between Intragna and Camedo, the route winds through the wild heart of Centovalli, crossing over several spectacular bridges along the valley, offering travelers a magnificent view of the surrounding scenery and picturesque villages perched on steep slopes.
After passing the customs in Camedo, you’ll find yourself in the breathtaking Vigezzo Valley. Nicknamed the valley of painters, its striking, pristine landscape includes dense woods and wide plains. The first village that you come to in Italy is Re, characterized by the imposing Basilica of Madonna del Sangue (Blood Madonna). Like the Sacred Calvary Mount of Domodossola and the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Sasso in Locarno, the Basilica of Madonna del sangue is visited by thousands of pilgrims every year. Just beyond Re, you’ll find the charming town of Santa Maria Maggiore, where you can enjoy a pleasant stroll, and visit the brand new "Casa del Profumo" (House of perfume), which celebrates the invention of Cologne Water created by an inhabitant of the Vigezzo Valley who emigrated to Germany. Another noteworthy attraction is the "Museo dello Spazzacamino" (Chimney Sweepers Museum), which pays tribute to the numerous youngsters, who travelled north in search of work during past centuries. Located just a short distance from the historic centre of Santa Maria Maggiore, the picturesque settlement of Craveggia, renowned for its magnificent gneiss roofs and original chimneys, can be accessed either on foot or by public transport.
A visit to Santa Maria Maggiore is a good opportunity to enjoy a top-notch meal at one of the restaurants in the valley, or make purchases from one of the area’s "botteghe" renowned for their delicious local enogastronomic specialties. The itinerary ends in Domodossola, in the heart of Piedmont’s Val d’Ossola, a beautiful town whose picturesque historic centre hosts a lively, traditional street market on Saturdays.
A trip on the Vigezzina-Centovalli Railway can be combined with excursions to destinations that can be accessed on foot or via the cable cars of Verdasio-Rasa, Monte Comino and Intragna-Pila-Costa.