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Coat of arms of Locarno
Coat of arms
Locarno is located in Switzerland
Country Switzerland
Canton Ticino
District Locarno
 • Executive Municipio
with 7 members
 • Mayor Sindaco (list)
Carla Speziali
(as of February 2014)
 • Parliament Consiglio comunale
with 40 members
 • Total 19.27 km2 (7.44 sq mi)
Elevation 200 m (700 ft)
Population (Dec 2014[2])
 • Total 15,803
 • Density 820/km2 (2,100/sq mi)
Postal code 6600
SFOS number 5113
Surrounded by Ascona, Avegno, Cadenazzo, Contone, Cugnasco, Gerra (Verzasca), Gordola, Lavertezzo, Losone, Magadino, Minusio, Muralto, Orselina, Piazzogna, San Nazzaro, Tegna, Tenero-Contra
Website .ch.locarnowww
SFSO statistics

Locarno (Ticinese: Locarn) is the capital of the Locarno district, located on the northern tip of Lake Maggiore (Lago Maggiore) in the Swiss canton of Ticino, close to Ascona at the foot of the Alps. It has a population of about 15,000[3] (60,000 for the urban area including Ascona). The official language of Locarno is Italian. It is the 74th biggest city in Switzerland by population and the 3rd biggest of the canton Ticino, after Lugano and Bellinzona.

The Locarno International Film Festival takes place every year in August in the city and, at night, on the Piazza Grande.

The Locarno Treaties were negotiated here in 1925.

In January 2004, the Italian historian Marino Vigano speculated that Locarno's castle may have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci.[4]


  • History 1
    • Prehistoric Locarno 1.1
    • Roman era 1.2
    • Capitanei di Locarno 1.3
    • Early Locarno 1.4
    • Under the Swiss Confederation 1.5
    • Locarno's Castles 1.6
    • Early Modern Locarno 1.7
    • Protestant Reformation 1.8
    • The Canton of Ticino 1.9
    • Modern Locarno 1.10
  • Geography 2
    • Climate 2.1
  • Coat of arms 3
  • Demographics 4
  • Historic Population 5
  • Heritage sites of national significance 6
  • Main sights 7
    • Astrovia Locarno 7.1
    • Madonna del Sasso, Cardada and Cimetta 7.2
    • Castello Visconteo 7.3
  • Politics 8
  • Economy 9
  • Religion 10
  • Education 11
  • Sports 12
  • International relations 13
    • Twin towns – Sister cities 13.1
  • See also 14
  • References 15
  • External links 16


Prehistoric Locarno

In 1934 in the vicinity of today's Via S. Jorio, a necropolis with 14 urn graves from the Early Bronze 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 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 (named after a large necropolis in the province of Milan). However, no traces of the settlement have been discovered.[5]

In 1935, a large necropolis was discovered at Solduno. The over 200 graves cover nearly a thousand years, from the La Tène culture 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 which spread into Ticino and Lombardy.[5]

Roman era

Between 1946-49, a number of Roman era 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 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 have dominated the local population.[6]

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 Frederick I 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 noble Da Besozzo family from the county of Seprioio. Around 1000, the family was granted a fief in Locarno by the schismatic Bishop of Como Landolfo da Carcano. The Capitanei were given the right of management of Church property entrusted to the pieve, 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 so their political power was limited. However, they played an important role in the 13th and 14th century conflicts between the Guelphs and Ghibellines 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.[7]

Early Locarno

Harbor of Locarno. Trade along the lake allowed Locarno to flourish

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.[8] 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 Locarno and Ascona formed a community, with several, separate neighborhoods. The community managed its common goods (alpine pastures, pastures, forests, churches) and tax officials and police.

In the 10th century,

  • The city of Locarno official website
  • Official Website of Ascona-Locarno Tourism
  • The old town of Locarno
  • Photo tour of the Astrovia Locarno
  • Castello Visconteo information

External links

  1. ^ Arealstatistik Standard - Gemeindedaten nach 4 Hauptbereichen
  2. ^ a b Swiss Federal Statistics Office – STAT-TAB Ständige und Nichtständige Wohnbevölkerung nach Region, Geschlecht, Nationalität und Alter (German) accessed 31 August 2015
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c
  5. ^ a b Locarno - Prehistory in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Locarno - Roman Era to Early Modern Era in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.
  7. ^ Capitanei di Locarno in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.
  8. ^ a b Locarno in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Locarno - Religious Life in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.
  10. ^ a b c Locarno - 19th and 20th Centuries in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.
  11. ^ Altitudine, superficie, secondo il genere di utilizzazione, rilevazione 1992/1997, e densità della popolazione, nel 2000 (Italian) accessed 25 October 2010
  12. ^ a b
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ Flags of the accessed 3 December 2010
  15. ^ a b Swiss Federal Statistical Office - Superweb database - Gemeinde Statistics 1981-2008 (German) accessed 19 June 2010
  16. ^ STAT-TAB Datenwürfel für Thema 40.3 - 2000 (German) accessed 5 March 2014
  17. ^ a b Popolazione residente, secondo la lingua principale e la religione, nel 2000 (Italian) accessed 23 November 2010
  18. ^ a b 01.02.03 Popolazione residente permanente (Italian) accessed 23 November 2010
  19. ^ a b c d e Swiss Federal Statistical Office accessed 3 December 2010
  20. ^ 09.02.01 Edifici (Italian) accessed 23 November 2010
  21. ^ a b 09.02.02 Abitazioni (Italian) accessed 23 November 2010
  22. ^ Swiss Federal Statistical Office-Rental prices 2003 data (German) accessed 26 May 2010
  23. ^
  24. ^ Nationalratswahlen 2007: Stärke der Parteien und Wahlbeteiligung, nach Gemeinden/Bezirk/CantonSwiss Federal Statistical Office, (German) accessed 28 May 2010
  25. ^ a b Elezioni cantonali: Gran Consiglio, Consiglio di Stato (Italian) accessed 23 November 2010
  26. ^ a b Swiss Federal Statistical Office - Statweb (German) accessed 24 June 2010
  27. ^ Settori alberghiero e paralberghiero (Italian) accessed 23 November 2010
  28. ^
  29. ^ Allievi e studenti, secondo il genere di scuola, anno scolastico 2009/2010 (Italian) accessed 23 November 2010
  30. ^ Swiss Federal Statistical Office, list of libraries (German) accessed 14 May 2010
  31. ^
  32. ^


See also

Locarno is twinned with:

Twin towns – Sister cities

International relations

Locarno has a football team, FC Locarno. As of the 2012-2013 season they play in the Swiss Challenge League, the 2nd tier of the Swiss football league system.


Locarno is home to the Biblioteca Cantonale Locarno library. The library has (as of 2008) 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.[30]

As of 2000, there were 1,484 students in Locarno who came from another municipality, while 405 residents attended schools outside the municipality.[26]

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.[29]

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).[28] There were 146 vocational students who were attending school full-time and 293 who attend part-time.

In Locarno there were a total of 2,210 students (as of 2009). The Ticino education system provides up to three years of non-mandatory kindergarten 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.

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).[19]


From the 2000 census, 10,179 or 69.9% were Roman Catholic, while 1,072 or 7.4% belonged to the Swiss Reformed Church. 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.[17]

Church of S. Antonio Abate


As of 2009, there were 30 hotels in Locarno with a total of 777 rooms and 1,536 beds.[27]

In 2000, 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.[26] Of the working population, 10.5% used public transportation to get to work, and 44.1% used a private car.[19]

As of 2007, Locarno had an unemployment rate of 5.93%. As of 2005, 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.[19] There were 6,688 residents of the municipality who were employed in some capacity, of which females made up 46.6% of the workforce.

Office building in Locarno


In the 2007 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%).[25]

In the 2007 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 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 (with 790 or 18.9%) and the PPD+GenGiova (with 703 or 16.8%).[25]

In the 2007 federal election the most popular party was the FDP which received 34.88% of the vote. The next three most popular parties were the SP (19.72%), the CVP (18.75%) and the Ticino League (9.54%). In the federal election, a total of 3,303 votes were cast, and the voter turnout was 40.5%.[24]


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.

Castello Visconteo

The Locarno–Madonna del Sasso funicular links Locarno city centre with the Madonna del Sasso sanctuary and Orselina. From Orselina, an cable car operates to the top of Cardada (el. 1,340 m (4,400 ft)), and a chair lift goes further to the top of Cimetta (el. 1,671 m (5,482 ft)).

The founding of the sanctuary goes back to a vision of the Virgin Mary that the Franciscan 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.

The sanctuary of Madonna del Sasso in Orselina above the city is the principal sight and goal of pilgrimage in the city.

Madonna del Sasso, Cardada and Cimetta

The Astrovia Locarno is a 1 : 1,000,000,000 scale model of the Solar System. The Sun can be found at the end of Via Gioacchino Respini where the cycle path, which runs alongside the river Maggia, starts. Pluto, the final planet in the model, can be found 6 kilometres (4 miles) away from this starting point in the village of Tegna.

Astrovia Locarno

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

Madonna del Sasso.

Main sights

There are nine Swiss heritage site of national significance 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 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[4]) 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[23]

Heritage sites of national significance

Year Population Italian speaking German speaking Catholic Protestant Other Swiss 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

The historical population is given in the following table:[8]

Historic Population

As of 2003 the average price to rent an average apartment in Locarno was 1046.19 Swiss francs (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.[22]

The vacancy rate for the municipality, in 2008, was 0.63%. In 2000 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.[21] 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.[21] As of 2007, the construction rate of new housing units was 10.5 new units per 1000 residents.[19]

As of 2000, there were 6,730 private households in the municipality, and an average of 2.1 persons per household.[19] In 2000 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).[20]

The age distribution, as of 2009, 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.[18]

In 2008 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%.[15]

As of 2008, 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.[18]

Most of the population (as of 2000) speaks Italian (76.6%), with German being second most common (10.5%) and Serbo-Croatian being third (3.1%).[16] Of the Swiss national languages (as of 2000), 1,528 speak German, 189 people speak French, 11,153 people speak Italian, and 27 people speak Romansh. The remainder (1,664 people) speak another language.[17]

Locarno has a population (as of December 2014) of 15,803.[2] As of 2008, 33.9% of the population are resident foreign nationals.[15] Over the last 10 years (1997–2007) the population has changed at a rate of 3.7%.

Old city of Locarno


The blazon of the municipal coat of arms is Azure a lion rampant argent.[14]

Coat of arms

Climate data for Locarno/Monti
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 6.8
Daily mean °C (°F) 3.4
Average low °C (°F) 0.8
Average precipitation mm (inches) 71
Average snowfall cm (inches) 18.6
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 4.9 4.5 5.9 10.1 12.4 10.2 8.5 9.9 8.9 9.2 8.3 6.5 99.3
Average snowy days (≥ 1.0 cm) 2.1 1.8 0.6 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.6 2.2 7.4
Average relative humidity (%) 65 61 55 60 66 64 62 66 70 75 70 67 65
Mean monthly sunshine hours 135 149 196 184 192 229 259 245 194 151 118 119 2,171
Source: MeteoSwiss [12]

Locarno averages 103 days of precipitation per year and on average receives 1,668 mm (65.7 in) of precipitation. The wettest month is May during which time Locarno receives an average of 194 mm (7.6 in) of precipitation. During this month there are 12.8 days with measurable precipitation. The driest month of the year is December with an average of 61 mm (2.4 in) of precipitation over 5.7 days. Locarno averages 2155 hours of sunshine or 56% of possible sunshine.[12] The Köppen-Geiger climate classification system classifies its climate as on the border of oceanic (Cfb) and humid subtropical (Cfa).[13]


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 (686 ft)) to the mountains above the city (Monti della SS Trinità, Bre, Cardada and Cimetta, highest point at 1,474 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.

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.[11]

Locarno has an area, as of 1997, of 19.27 square kilometers (7.44 sq mi). Of this area, 8.39 km2 (3.24 sq mi) or 43.5% is used for agricultural purposes, while 5.97 km2 (2.31 sq mi) or 31.0% is forested. Of the rest of the land, 4.92 km2 (1.90 sq mi) or 25.5% is settled (buildings or roads), 1.25 km2 (0.48 sq mi) or 6.5% is either rivers or lakes and 0.91 km2 (0.35 sq mi) or 4.7% is unproductive land.



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.

Modern Locarno

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 services delivered in the German language. 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.

[9] In 1816, the special rights and title of the old mother church of San Vittore in

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. 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.

To break the conservative hegemony of the late 19th century, the Social Democrats, allied with 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.[10]

The Constitution of 1814, established Locarno, Bellinzona and Lugano 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).[10]

Under the Ancien Régime. 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.[10]

The Canton of Ticino

In the course of Counter-Reformation 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 monastery and the church of S. Maria Assunta (Chiesa Nuova).[9]

By 1535, there was a Protestant 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. 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 Zürich.[9]

Protestant Reformation

In the 16th century, Locarno's population declined as a result of exodus of Protestants and the plague in 1576-77. After a recovery in the 17th century, the population declined considerably in the 18th century again.

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.[9]

The parish church 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 frescoes 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 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.[9]

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 tithes. Starting in the 13th century, some of these privileges went to the citizens corporation. The hill areas were dominated by viticulture, 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.[6]

Vineyards above Locarno

Early Modern Locarno

There were several castles from the Early 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 was added to protect the castle entrance. It is likely that Leonardo da Vinci designed this structure.[4][6] North-east of the castle is Palazzo Casorella (Casa degli Orelli) from the 16th century.

Castello Visconteo

Locarno's Castles

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, 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.[6]

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, 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.[6]

The rule of the Rusca ended 1503, when the Confederates occupied Locarno, but failed to conquer the Visconti castle. After the battle of Novara in 1513, the French King Louis XII 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 (Italian: commissario), 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.[6]

Swiss Confederation in 1530, showing Locarno and other territories of the Ticino region

Under the Swiss Confederation

In 1291, a Humiliati monastery was first mentioned in Locarno. St. Catherine's church, attached to the monastery, probably dates to the mid-14th century.[9]

Locarno was the administrative center of the parish of Locarno. The Podestà 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 conquered the area, which brought Locarno back under the power of Milan. In 1439, Count Franchino Rusca was awarded Locarno as a fief.[6]


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