Sailboats on Lago Maggiore, Swiss Alps in the background
  • Sailboats on Lago Maggiore, Swiss Alps in the background
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In Ascona, one of Lago Maggiore’s many lakeside gems, foodie and sailing fanatics alike are sure to find bliss. Located on the Italian-speaking Swiss side of Lago Maggiore in the canton (state) of Ticino near the Italian border, Ascona boasts all the amenities necessary for a weekend of prime sailing and gourmet dining.

Those seeking lively clubs, bars and an under-40 crowd ought to reconsider Ascona as a vacation destination. However, what energy Ascona lacks during late-night hours it makes up for in lake leisure and epicurean delight.

There’s no shortage of fantastic hotels in Ascona; unfortunately, most rooms come at fantastically high rates. Top five-star picks include Eden Roc (Via Albarelle 16) and Giardino (Via del Segnale 10) – or head to Best Western’s Hotel Sasso Boretto (Viale Monte Verita 45) for the best value.

Ascona’s pride is its Piazza G. Motta boardwalk, a stretch of brightly colored buildings that house Italian eateries, patisseries, gelaterias and cigar shops under candy-yellow striped awnings. Aside from sailing, relaxing patio-side at one of these Italian bistros while enjoying the views of cascading Alps over azure lake waters is an Ascona must.

At Marnin Pasticceria (Piazza G. Motta) you’ll find the town’s best chocolate croissants and Amaretti. Several bright buildings away sits Al Porto, another bread and cake favorite. Just next door resides Osteria Nostrana by Fred Feldpausch (Piazza G. Motta), Ascona’s best Italian restaurant. Famous thin-crust pizza, perfect vitello tonnato and impeccable service lure a heavy crowd come dinner time, so come early (only large groups can make reservations) – particularly if you want patio seating.

Another Feldpausch hit is Grotto Broggini, a high-end rotisserie chicken superstar located several minutes inland from the boardwalk. Many flock here to enjoy hot-off-the-spit hens under a canopy of illuminated trees in the Italian courtyard.

Chartering a sailboat in Ascona can be done through Verband Schweizer Segelschulen-Association Suisse des Ecoles de Voile (VSSS-ASEV) or the Ascona Sailing and Motor Boat School. Sailing itineraries include leisurely loops around the botanical gardens of the Brissago Islands and a three-day excursion to the far end of Lago Maggiore. Alternatively, the other side of the lake can be reached in just one day by motorboat, which leaves Ascona several times a day.

Prefer to watch the action from afar? Check out waterfront Porto Ronco Beach Club, a beach restaurant, bar and lounge offering live jazz from May through September. Jazz fanatics also ought to consider visiting during JazzAscona, Ascona’s very own Jazz Festival, which runs from late June through early July each year.

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