Ascona has no shortage of nicknames: the ‘Pearl of Lake Maggiore’ and the ‘Diamond of Swiss Tourism’, to name but two. However, there is one major difference between the town and other destinations; here reality actually lives up to the marketing slogans and promises!
In addition to its mild, welcoming climate all year round, its landscape, its spectacular location and its top-quality infrastructure, Ascona also boasts artistic and cultural treasures from every era. Over the years, this land has welcomed and inspired sculptors, painters, architects and musicians, who have all left a profound mark on the local area.
Alongside the places described on the other pages of this site, one of the most exciting parts of an artistic and cultural tour of the old town, or Borgo, takes you up high, allowing you to enjoy a view of it in all its glory. This is Monte Verità (the Mountain of Truth), actually little more than a hill, which can be reached easily from the centre of Ascona. It is a place full of energy and magic, surrounded by an 18-acre park commissioned in 1899 by a wealthy banker, Eduard von der Heydt, to welcome people like him who loathed the restrictions and contrived luxury of bourgeois life. Monte Verità thus became the Temple of Utopia, a cooperative colony of people seeking physical and spiritual regeneration, a community of decidedly unconventional individuals who drew inspiration from theosophical readings and vegetarian food and practised naturism and nudism.
Ascona is associated with many other figures from the worlds of politics, international anarchic movements, literature and the arts. One such figure is the German writer Erich Maria Remarque, author of the renowned All Quiet on the Western Front, a bestseller that was well ahead of its time, and which earned him fame and wealth. Remarque purchased Villa Tabor in Ronco, on the shore of Lake Maggiore, where he lived until 1939 and, after a period spent in America, he returned to Switzerland, where he died in 1970.
The painters Julius Bissier (1893-1965), Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941) and Marianne von Werefkin (1860-1923), the sculptor Margherita Osswald Toppi (1897-1971), the soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (1915-2006), the violinist Helmuth Zacharias (1920-2002) and the historian Wolfgang Oppenheimer (1923-2014) all lived in Ascona for various lengths of time.
A visit to the cemeteries in Ascona and Ronco, which overlook Lake Maggiore and, in the background, the Brissago Islands, is an original way to meet some of these figures who chose this enchanting region as their final resting place.