Coming Home to Airolo, Switerland


Exploring Airolo Switzerland

Airolo is Switzerland!

When I think about Switzerland, I think of Airolo. Airolo is a Swiss village that holds a special place in my heart. It is part of my family history and where I was baptized. While I am Canadian – it’s where I grew up. Airolo will always be home. I spent childhood summers with both my grandparents, lived there, and enjoyed numerous vacations.

Airolo from the AlpsSurrounded by the Alps, Airolo is at the crux of three valleys. From one side of the San Gottardo Pass, coming from the German side into the Italian Canton of Ticino, an area known as Valle Leventina. From another valley, comes from the French canton of Valais via Nufenen Pass in. Then traveling down from the high elevation (Airolo is 1,175 m) to a lower elevation in Ticino before reaching the border into Italy.

Airolo brings memories of the times I spent here as a young boy. Going in the mountains and picking blueberries off the bushes or going in the forest picking mushrooms with my grandpa. Hiking in the mountains during summer was memorable. I walked to the top of a mountain peak and saw the spectacular tips of the Swiss Alps. I was 14 at the time but I remember like it was yesterday. To be on the same level as the clouds made me feel on top of the world!

The Serenity of Airolo

The hills of Airolo remind me of Maria in the movie The Sound of Music. She stood on the picturesque hills outside of Salzburg. I love knowing I have my own special place like that. There’s a quiet peacefulness and cinematic beauty that brings this real-life feeling of serenity to life. It is nature at work.

Caseificio del Gottardo restaurant in Airolo is where I saw cheese being made and enjoyed samples. Full meals are lovely, as well. Within walking distance is a gondola that took me to the top of the mountain to see a beautiful view of the tops of the Alps valley. There is nothing like skiing in the winter surrounded by fresh mountain air and enjoying the majesty of the Swiss Alps. Of course there is more than just beautiful views.

More than a Pretty View

Throughout the year Airolo festivities are held and the whole village gathers to celebrate. People unite in fun and celebration. A couple of big events include Switzerland’s national holiday on August 1st and, depending on the year, during either February/March month Carnival happens, which is similar to Mardi Gras. I love both of these celebrations, especially carnival where I dressed up one year as a clown and remember accidentally scaring my little cousin who was 2 years old.

During the summertime, the San Gottardo Pass is open. Here I visited beautiful lakes. One is Lago Della Piazza where there is a hotel and a museum, which is dedicated to the history of Airolo and the area. My favorite story is about the devil, a bridge and the townspeople.

The legend of the “Devil’s Bridge” (Teufelsbrücke) states that the river was so difficult to cross that a Swiss herdsman wished the devil would make a bridge. The Devil appeared, but required that the soul of the first to cross would be given to him. The mountaineer agreed, but drove a goat across ahead of him, fooling his adversary. Angered by this trickery, the devil fetched a rock with the intention of smashing the bridge, but an old woman drew a cross on the rock so the devil could not lift it anymore.

The Horse ad Carriage of Airolo

In the future I plan to travel from Andermatt over the Gotthard Pass to Airolo on a stagecoach like they did in the 19th century. It’s a journey back in time with the legendary Gotthard Post horse and carriage transport. This trip uses the old roads including the cobblestone paved Tremola on the southern side of the Gotthard Pass. The Tremola has hairpin turns and serpentine curves from the peak of the pass to Airolo and is considered to be Switzerland’s longest historical monument.

One last fun fact I learned while writing this article, the famous Albert Einstein spent a summer here. No wonder Airolo will always be in my heart!

Written by Andrew Mondia