In the past, I have already told you of how nature offers an unforgettable spectacle during autumn in Abruzzo. If you want to live the same experience in northern Italy, away from the usual itineraries, today I propose you to experience the autumn in Piedmont with the Fall Foliage Train. The Fall Foliage Train of Piedmont is a 52 km long itinerary, which allows you to admire the wonderful natural spectacle of foliage in the autumn. It is a suggestive, slow and enchanted journey through the autumn landscapes of a part of Italy that is still little known.
This itinerary runs along the Vigezzina-Centovalli Railway, considered by tourist guides to be the most beautiful panoramic railway in Italy, and connects Domodossola in Piedmont with Locarno in Switzerland. Every year from mid-October to mid-November, thousands of passengers choose to make an unforgettable journey through colours and flavours, from Piedmont to Canton Ticino. The white and blue train crosses 83 bridges and 31 tunnels in about two hours, passing valleys, woods and villages suspended in time, with fiery landscapes with warm autumn shades and spectacular views.
The journey can start from one of the two terminals - Domodossola, in Italy, with a beautiful historical centre not to be missed, or Locarno, in Switzerland, on the Swiss shore of Lake Maggiore, which is also worth visiting.
You can choose to buy the ticket valid for 2 days, which allows making stops on the way there and back, to visit the picturesque villages that the train crosses. Furthermore, by presenting the ticket at the affiliated shops, it is possible to obtain gifts and discounts on the typical products of these areas. You can buy chocolate, artisan cured meats and fresh goat cheese, beers and local wines, pastry products, honey, jams, etc. In particular, the ticket also includes a voucher to collect a gift at the Locarno train station market.
Domodossola is located in a strategic position because it is not far from Milan, Switzerland, Lake Maggiore and the rest of Piedmont. It is a town that contains in its historical centre many romantic glimpses and hidden gems, such as the splendid Piazza Mercato, an architectural jewel of Renaissance art, adorned with beautiful arcades. An evocative market has been held here every Saturday, since the year 917. On Piazza Mercato, there are some beautiful Renaissance buildings, such as Palazzo Silva, a national monument. This building is famous for its marble-framed windows and its beautiful internal spiral staircase, which connects all floors of the building.
Even the Palazzo di Città, which houses the Town Hall, deserves mention among the historical buildings to visit. Via Briona is also very suggestive, overlooked by the houses with roofs covered with characteristic slate slabs. Domodossola is famous for the beautiful churches in its territory, such as the Church of Santi Gervasio and Protasio and the Sanctuary of Madonna della Neve, dating back to the 17th century. About 30 minutes from the centre of Domodossola stands the Sacro Monte Calvario, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Here, there are several religious structures, including 15 chapels and the Sanctuary of the Santissimo Crocifisso.
From a gastronomic point of view, Domodossola is very interesting for the Officina del Cioccolato, an artisan workshop for the processing of chocolate, and the Balabiòtt Brewery, which produces craft beer.
Santa Maria Maggiore is a beautiful village which represents the highest station of this railway line (836 meters above sea level). The village is famous because every year it hosts the International Meeting of Chimney Sweeps and a museum dedicated to this ancient craft. It is considered one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Its territory is part of the Val Grande National Park, a vast protected area for hiking and mountain sports. On a historical and artistic level, Santa Maria Maggiore houses the splendid parish church dating back to the 4th century, considered the most beautiful church in the Ossola region. Also worth seeing is the beautiful Piazza Risorgimento, formerly the Town Hall, and the Casa del Profumo, a small museum that traces the history of Eau de Cologne, invented by Giovanni Paolo Feminis from Vigezzo. It is a multisensory journey through perfumes, aromas, herbs, essences and installations.
Val Vigezzo is also known as the Valley of the Painters, for its unique and wonderful views. From the train window, you can admire the fascinating villages of the lower valley and the landscapes of the highest peaks, which reach 2000 meters. Here, you can also visit the Sanctuary of Re, a beautiful sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Locarno is the final station for those leaving Italy with the Fall Foliage Train and is a delightful Swiss town overlooking Lake Maggiore. It has a beautiful historical centre and an elegant lakefront and is surrounded by vast rows of vines, which produce the grapes for Merlot wine. Locarno organizes the Gastronomic Autumn of Lake Maggiore and Valleys every year in October, a food and wine event with thousands of visitors, and it presents the main food and wine products of the area. A small market of typical local products is located at the Locarno train station.
Well, we have come to the end of this romantic journey, whose absolute protagonist is the landscape. The watchword is slowness because we often forget to slow down, stop, raise our eyes and enjoy the little beautiful things that nature offers us. And what better way for this slow journey to discover the autumn in Piedmont than with the Fall Foliage Train?
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