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Ticino’s Cultural Highlights for 2018

The Ticino’s cultural offerings are as rich and varied as the region’s natural landscape, with museums large and small offering a host of exciting exhibitions: The Lugano Arts and Cultural Centre (LAC) presents Pablo Picasso’s works from a new perspective, while Casa Rusca in Locarno hosts a special exhibition celebrating leading Ticino architect Mario Botta on the occasion of his 75th birthday.

Posted on Tue, Feb 20th, 2018 11:13 am by news services

Among the region’s most important religious sites is the pilgrimage church of Madonna del Sasso in Locarno, which has recently reopened its museum, showcasing a selection of artistic treasures from Easter onwards. Villa Ciani in Lugano invites visitors to travel back in time with a virtual tour, and the city itself hosts the biannual Open Gallery event, while the Berno Sacchetti Gallery in Ascona offers fine art and fine food under the same roof. The Ticino’s theatre scene is every bit as varied: The Teatro Sociale in Bellinzona is a gem of European cultural history. The grounds of Castelgrande in Bellinzona provide a stage for the medieval re-enactment event "Spada nella Rocca", now in its twentieth edition. In southern Ticino, new life is being breathed into Arzo’s marble quarries with the opening of a newly created amphitheatre, scheduled to premiere in May. Also, the Ticino’s cultural scene is set to be enriched by another building designed by Mario Botta, namely the Theatre of Architecture in Mendrisio, due to open to the public in autumn 2018.

The Lugano Arts and Cultural Centre (LAC) presents unknown works by Picasso

"Uno sguardo differente" is the name of the exhibition on display at the Art Museum of Southern Switzerland (MASI) at the Lugano Arts and Cultural Centre (LAC) from 18 March until 17 June 2018. The exhibition was created in collaboration with the Musée Picasso in Paris and presents 130 works, 105 drawings and 15 sculptures by Picasso dating between 1905 and 1967. The selection covers all stages of his artistic career, from the Blue Period through Cubism to his last works. Art historian Maurice Rheims, who catalogued Picasso‘s personal assets after the artist’s death, discovered a total of more than 45,000 unpublished works. In this context, the exhibition entitled "Uno sguardo differente" offers, quite literally, a new perspective on Picasso’s work. The previously little-known works exhibited offer visitors a deeper insight into Pablo Picasso's personal and artistic development. Admission to the museum is free on the first Sunday of each month.

Villa Ciani – a virtual trip into the past

Just a few steps from the old town of Lugano lies the Parco Ciani, one of the most beautiful green parks in Switzerland. Palm trees, roses, azaleas, magnolias and camellias all blossom in the subtropical climate by the Lake of Lugano. The history of the Parco Ciani starts in around 1845 as the plot of land is bought by brothers Giacomo and Filippo Ciani, noblemen and tradespeople from Milan. They created the wonderful city park and renovated and extended the historical villa located within. The Villa Ciani nowadays stretches over three floors and has a total of 30 halls where regular exhibitions are held and which can be booked for exclusive events as part of congresses. The first Saturday of each month is also when the Villa Ciani invites guests to take part in a virtual tour. Visitors to the former residence of the Ciani brothers can enjoy a 30-minute trip back in time between 10:00 am and 6:00 pm. Smartglasses help them to see the original features of the building, and will transport them to the atmosphere of the 19th century. The tour costs 10 Swiss francs (children: 5 Swiss francs) and is available in Italian, French, German and English.

Lugano’s cultural scene hosts the Open Gallery event

The largest city in Ticino and the third most important financial centre in Switzerland, Lugano is also well known for its vibrant arts and cultural scene. The city attracts tourists with its Arts and Cultural Centre (LAC) and its wide range of art galleries and studios in the heart of the city. During the biannual Open Gallery event, almost 40 galleries and museums open their doors and invite visitors in to experience the art scene up close with vernissages, concerts, readings and aperitifs. In some places, you can even meet the artists themselves. Dates to remember: 8 April and 2 December 2018, between 12 a.m. and 7 p.m. Admission to participating museums and galleries is free on these days.

Special exhibition in Locarno: Mario Botta's religious buildings around the world

From 25 March until 12 August 2018, the Casa Rusca municipal art gallery in Locarno will host an exhibition of the religious architecture of Mario Botta on the occasion of his 75th birthday, organised under the theme "Mario Botta. Spazio Sacro". Born in Mendrisio in 1943, the leading architect has designed numerous churches during his 50-year career. For the first time, 22 religious buildings which he built in Switzerland, Italy, France, Israel, the Ukraine, South Korea and China, among other countries, will be presented in a single exhibition. Three of the projects on display are currently still in construction. The exhibition includes the original models, drawings and blown-up photographs of buildings such as the Cathedral of the Resurrection in Évry, the churches in Mogno and on Monte Tamaro (Ticino), synagogues such as the Cymbalista Synagogue and Jewish Heritage Center in Tel Aviv and mosques such as the one in Yinchuan, China.

Reopening of Casa del Padre at the pilgrimage church of Madonna del Sasso

The pilgrimage church of Madonna del Sasso (Our Lady of the Rock) in Orselina is among the most important religious sites in the Ticino. Perched high up on a rocky outcrop overlooking Locarno, it offers spectacular views of Lake Maggiore and the surrounding mountains. The founding of the landmark sanctuary dates back to a vision of the Virgin Mary that the Franciscan brother Bartolomeo d'Ivrea reputedly experienced in 1480 on the night before the Assumption. Bartolomeo settled at the site as a hermit, and the first chapel was built on the hill between 1485 and 1487, followed by the sanctuary of Madonna del Sasso and the monastery, inhabited to this day by seven Capuchins. In 1848, the church and monastery building became the property of the Canton of Ticino, which spent around ten million Swiss francs on restoration work carried out between 2004 and 2011. The centrepiece of the sanctuary is the "miraculous" 15th century statue of the Madonna del Sasso. Inside the church are stucco and fresco decorations that have been restored to their former splendour as well as valuable altarpieces by Bramantino (1520) and Antonio Ciseri (1870). The large library houses a veritable treasure: it includes some 14,000 volumes dating from between 1400 and 1900. The Casa del Padre Museum, situated in the monks' former residential building, was closed for several years during restoration work and was reopened in autumn 2017, with a newly arranged exhibition due to open at Easter 2018. On display are assorted treasures from the pilgrimage church such as votive offerings, liturgical objects, various paintings by Antonio Ciseri and a large number of ex votos. The Sacro Monte complex also includes a Way of the Cross and additional shrines around the monastery building. Perched high up on the sacred mount, the church may be reached via the Way of the Cross, with its twelve restored shrines depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ, or the funicular departing from Locarno. The place of pilgrimage is also the starting point for walks as it is located close to the bottom terminus of the Orselina-Cardada-Cimetta funicular.

Galleria Berno Sacchetti: Fine art and fine food all under one roof

The chic and romantic town of Ascona attracts an elegant, exclusive crowd. Upmarket boutiques and art galleries open onto narrow lanes and squares which have retained the character of a quaint fishing village. Nestled in the heart of Ascona’s old town, the Berno Sacchetti gallery is well established on the local cultural scene. The gallery focuses on modern and contemporary art and offers advice on buying and selling art and art estates. It is housed in a former 16th-century convent with a secluded garden. The gallery is a vibrant place to enjoy art and culture in a friendly, informal atmosphere. Manager Claudia Mauthe has recently opened a bistro called "Stuzzichini" within the sacred walls. The small eatery, with a fireplace and garden, serves "stuzzichini" (in English: “snacks”) of local products and home-made specialities.,

Teatro Sociale in Bellinzona: A gem of European cultural history

In the heart of Bellinzona lies a unique gem of European cultural history. Built in the style of Milan's La Scala and opened in 1847, the Teatro Sociale is the finest example of classical theatre architecture in Switzerland and is part of the European Route of Historical Theatres. Renovated by the architects Giancarlo and Pia Durisch in 1997 in a fresh green with golden-white stucco-worked pillars and decorations, the theatre is a faithful recreation of the original building. Remarkably, the sides of the boxes have been preserved in both circles: Under the artistic direction of Gianfranco Helbling, the Teatro Sociale is a vibrant, buzzing venue for theatre performances and music concerts between October and April. The best way to experience the unique atmosphere of the place is by attending a theatre performance. In addition, the tourist office organises guided tours. In July, the Teatro Sociale organises "Territori", a five-day open-air theatre festival in the streets of Bellinzona’s old town featuring performances, dance and installations.,

Medieval festival "Spada nella Rocca" in Bellinzona (20th edition)

On 26 and 27 May 2018, the medieval world is brought back to life for the twentieth time on the grounds of Castelgrande in Bellinzona. During this two-day historical re-enactment at the UNESCO world heritage castle, around 300 re-enactors transport visitors back to the High Middle Ages. Gleaming swords and helmets, colourful costumes and flying flags—all this and more can be seen at the "Spada nella rocca" (Sword in the rock). The event was first held in 1999 and re-enacts scenes from medieval life with sword-fighting tournaments, knights, archers, flag-wavers and medieval dinners as well as a display of medieval craftsmanship.

The new amphitheatre in Arzo’s marble quarries celebrates its premiere

For centuries, people quarried deep into the hillside in Arzo for marble. The material extracted from these quarries was used to embellish palaces and churches all over the world, for example St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, the cathedrals of Milan and Como, the Federal Palace in Bern, Einsiedeln Abbey (a pilgrimage site) and Confiserie Sprüngli in Zurich. Around the UNESCO world heritage site of Monte San Giorgio there were once some fifty working quarries. The family business Rossi & Ci. operated the last of them up until 2009 (in the sixth generation). In 2017, new life was breathed into Arzo’s marble quarries. Under a mandate from the patriciate, Valentina Rossi is responsible for promoting the former quarry. In the seventh generation, she is following in the footsteps of her family, of which her father, Oreste Rossi, was the last family member to work in the Arzo marble quarries. An educational trail entitled "Percorso della pietra" has been created in a former factory building and on the quarry grounds illustrating the work and history of marble quarrying. Furthermore, a natural amphitheatre carved into the landscape will be used to stage various events. Turned into a modern open-air theatre by architect Enrico Sassi, the new cultural venue will celebrate its premiere in May 2018. Between 11 and 19 May 2018, the CAVA show invites you to soak up the magical atmosphere of Arzo's marble quarries. Actors will include Swiss clown Gardi Hutter, who lives in the region. The show will be directed by her son Juri Cainero. Tickets are available at

The Theatre of Architecture will open in Mendrisio in autumn 2018

Ticino is the home of contemporary architecture, which has brought forth names with an international reputation such as Luigi Snozzi, Aurelio Galfetti and Mario Botta. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Academy for Architecture was opened in Mendrisio in 1996 and that the star architect Mario Botta was decisively involved in it and managed it as its director between 2011 and 2013. The “Teatro dell’architettura”, the latest shot from Mario Botta’s pen, will be inaugurated on the architecture faculty’s campus in autumn 2018. The circular building will be erected with an investment volume of 14 million francs and incorporate some 2300 square metres at four levels for events and exhibitions with a multi-purpose room incorporating 350 seats and suitable for conferences, symposia and concerts. In the future, it should be a place where the cultural and artistic campus activities can be further extended, a workshop for ideas and cultural debates about architecture and contemporary visual arts, augmented with archive and exhibition rooms dedicated to the topics of stage sets, design, fashion and publishing. A first exhibition devoted to US architect Louis I. Kahn, among the most influential teachers of Mario Botta, will open on 11 October 2018.