Giubiasco-Bellinzona: Tibetan bridge, UNESCO castles and a Saturday market

The valley drops from underneath me, ancient trees cascading towards the river. I take one shaky footstep after another, my eyes focused on the distance, my knees wobbling like jelly. I'm only a few steps into the 270-metre long Tibetan bridge near Giubiasco in Canton Ticino, and I can't stop walking: if I do, I'll feel the swaying of the narrow ribbon beneath me, and I'll have to turn back. It's a shame, because I would like to admire the scenery: the mountains laced with woodland and stone villages.

The bridge, which was built by the Foundation CurzĂștt-S. Barnard, connects the steep sides of the valley separating Sementina and Monte Carasso. Anyone who wants to do the pretty circular walk, which clings to old-worldly stone walls in wizened chestnut woodland and takes in the charming hamlet of Curzutt, has to cross this elegant curve of larch wood some 130 metres above the valley floor.

We're in Ticino for the weekend, staying at charming new Hotel La Tureta, which occupies a 17th-century palace (my review for The Telegraph will follow shortly). Before our hair-raising hike, we meandered around the Saturday market in medieval Bellinzona. It was an explosion of colour and a fiesta of flavours - breads, cheeses, organic produce from the region. Bellinzona was beautiful. It's much overlooked by tourists, who tend to pass through on their way to the ritzy resorts of Lugano and Locarno, but it's worth visiting.

Intricate Renaissance facades are backed by rampaging fortresses that rise up at the end of every street. Bellinzona is home to three UNESCO-listed medieval castles, and their battlements protect the city. We ventured up to Castelgrande, which peers over central Piazza del Sole from a mound and is reachable via a free lift through the bedrock. We emerged onto a cobbled path that led to a landscaped swathe of green hemmed in by swallow-tail battlements. Views swept across waves of jagged boulder, then vineyards and woodland, to the other two castles: Monte Bello and Sasso Corbaro. As cloud swirled around, I pictured knights emerging from the mist and cascading down the hill towards us.

From the top of the grey granite tower, we enjoyed panoramas along the valley towards the Alpine passes of St. Gotthard, San Bernardino and Lucomagno, while inside, we chuckled at a set of 15th-century murals depicting allegorical themes that seemed to have been drawn with a childlike innocence. But now, back to the bridge, I'm almost at the end. The wooden slats are curving upwards; I'll soon be back on terra firma ... Except Tim wants a selfie, obviously. Snap, quick. And then I dash towards my goal between those elegant trees that have stood sturdy for generations.
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