Infobox Swiss town
subject_name = Bellinzona
municipality_name = Bellinzona
municipality_type = city
imagepath_coa = Bellinzone-coat of arms.svg|pixel_coa=

languages = Italian
canton = Ticino
iso-code-region = CH-TI
district = Bellinzona
postal_code = 6500
municipality_code = 5002
area = 19.84
elevation = 238|elevation_description=
population = 17363|populationof = December 2005 | popofyear = 2005
website =
mayor = Brenno Martignoni|mayor_asof=|mayor_party=
mayor_title = |list_of_mayors =
places = Artore, Carasso , Daro, Ravecchia
demonym =
neighboring_municipalities= Arbedo-Castione, Giubiasco, Gorduno, Monte Carasso, Pianezzo, Sant'Antonio
twintowns = |

Bellinzona ( [IPA|bɛllin'dzoːna] in French "Bellinzone" [IPA|bɛlɛ̃'zon] , in archaic German "Bellenz" [IPA|'belents] and "Bilitio" [IPA|bi'litsjo] in Latin) is the capital city of the canton Ticino in Switzerland. The city is famous for its three castles (Castelgrande, Montebello, Sasso Corbaro) that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 2000.It is the 45th largest city of Switzerland.Fact|date=June 2008


The city lies east of the Ticino River, at the foot of the Alps. It stretches along the river valley, surrounded by the Saint Gotthard massif.


Bellinzona has always occupied an important geographic location in the Alps. Several key alpine passes, including the Nufenen, St. Gotthard, Lukmanier, San Bernardino and the Poebene, all meet in the area around Bellinzona making it a key trading center.

While the region has been occupied since the early Neolithic age [ [ Official Website-Prehistoric Settlement] accessed July 7, 2008, see also HDS|2031-1-1|Bellinzona-Ancient and early history] it wasn't until the late 1st Century BC that a fort was built in the area during the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus. While the fort fell into disrepair in the following centuries, it was rebuilt and greatly expanded in the 4th Century AD. During the reign of Diocletian and Constantin a chain of castles and watchtowers were built to protect northern Italy from invasion. Bellinzona's location was recognized as a key point in the defenses and a large castle was built to protect the walls. The town that grew up around the fortifications was known as "Bilitio".

Following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire the successor states, which included the Ostrogoths around 500 AD, the eastern Byzantine Empire towards the middle of the 6th Century, and the Longobards from 568/70, all took control of Bellinzona and used the castle to assert control of the surrounding passes. Under the Longobards, Bellinzona became the site of a permanent garrison to protect the region from raids by the neighboring Frankish and Alemannic tribesHDS|2031-1-3|Bellinzona-The Middle Ages] . From Bellinzona the Longobards controlled the traffic on the important trade route from Varese over Ponte Tresa, the Monte Ceneri Pass, Biasca and finally over the Lukmanier Pass into Chur. Some researchers believe that Bellinzona may have been the capital of a county that included most of the valleys in Ticino.

At around 774 the Frankish Kingdom (that would become the Carolingian Empire) gained control of the Ticino valley including Bellinzona.

About 2 centuries later the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, seeking to restore the power of glory of ancient Rome and expand into Italy, opened the Lukmanier and St. Bernard passes. Control of Bellinzona was a key part of this expansion. The city was taken from Milan and given as a gift to the Bishop of Como, who supported the Ottonian dynasty. In 1002, following the death of Otto III, Marquis Arduino of Ivrea declared himself King of Italy and ratified the bishop's ownership of the "Castelgrande" and the city. Two years later, after Arduino had been defeated by Henry II the King of Germany, Henry II's man Enrico II reratified the gift of the "Castlegrande" on the Bishop of Como [ Official Website-High Middle Ages] ] . The city is mentioned in medieval sources in 1218 as "Bilizione".

During the Investiture Controversy of the late 11th Century the city of Bellinzona with its castle came under the control of the Hohenstaufens of Swabia. However, in 1180, Frederick I {Barbarossa) placed the city under the jurisdiction of the city of Como. In the following years Como tended to support the Pope in his conflicts with the Holy Roman Emperor. However in 1239, Como sided with the Emperor Frederick II who quickly moved forces into Bellinzona and strengthened the "Castelgrande". In 1242 Milan sent Guelph (or pro-papacy) forces under the command of Simone di Orello to take Bellinzona. The city and castle were taken which weakened the Emperor south of the Alps. However the town was back under the jurisdiction of Como in 1249. Conflicts in northern Italy continued, the "Castelgrande" was besieged several times in 1284, 1292 and 1303. During this time the Rusca family in Como, a Ghibelline or pro-Imperial family, fought the growing power of Milan under the pro-papacy House of Visconti with limited success. Around the end of the 13th Century the Rusca family built another castle, "Montebello", in Bellinzona, which they controlled. This was fortunate because by 1335 the Rusca family had been driven out of Como and had to retreat to Bellinzona. Five years later, in 1340, Milan besieged Bellinzona. Following a lengthly siege, the city fell to Milan but the Ruscas were allowed to keep "Montebello". Pro-papacy Milan would dominate Bellinzona for the next one and a half centuries, though the pro-Imperial Rusca would also occupy part of the city.Under the control of the Visconti trade flourished and the city of Bellinzona grew. Even when an alternative route over the Alps, the Schöllenen bridge opened, traffic in the St. Gotthard increased to the highest levels ever [ Official Site-Late Middle Ages] accessed July 17, 2008] . During the second half of the 14th Century a long wall, known as the "Murata", was built across the entire Tessin valley. This wall allowed Milan to protect and tax the trade route over the St. Gotthard Pass. While the city was controlled by Milan through the Visconti after 1340, the Visconti did not have a formal title and feudal rights until 1396 when they were granted by King Wenceslaus. However, the orderly growth of Bellinzona was threatened in 1402 when Duke Gian Galeazzo Visconti died. In 1403 Bellinzona was taken under the control of Alberto di Sacco of Val Mesolcina. He held Bellinzona until 1419 when it was taken over by Uri and Obwalden which had expanded into the Leventina Valley. Milan attacked the city three years later in 1422 after an offer to buy the city was rejected by the Swiss Confederation. The troops from Uri and Obwalden were quickly driven from the city and later defeated at the Battle of Arbedo on June 30, 1422. This defeat discouraged the expansionist intentions of Uri and its allies towards Lake Maggiore for a time.

During the period of unrest following Gian Galeazzo Visconti's death, a tower which would become the nucleus of the third castle, "Sasso Corbaro", was built outside the city.

While the border between Uri and Milan was fixed in the peace treaty of 1426, in 1439 Uri invaded again. While they were unable to take Bellinzona, the victories of the Swiss troops led to Milan granting all of the Leventina Valley to Pollegio to Uri in 1441. Following the death of Duke Filippo Maria Visconti in 1447, Bellinzona was in the middle of the succession crisis between Franchino Rusca of Locarno and Heinrich of Val Mesolcina, who were allied with Uri and the Ambrosian Republic in Milan. The war following the succession crisis lasted nearly three years until Francesco I Sforza seized power in Milan. Bellinzona quickly accepted the new Sforza dynasty and the peace and stability that followed.

The peace was broken again in 1478 when the Swiss once again attacked Bellinzona unsuccessfully. However Swiss pride was restored by the Battle of Giornico which followed, where a force of 600 Swiss soldiers defeated 10,000 Milanese troops. Following the attack, Milan built the "Sasso Corbaro" either on the site of a tower which had been built nearly a century before. The other two castles were strengthened and the "Murata" wall across the valley was rebuilt. Much of the modern castles and fortifications date from this period of construction in the late 15th Century.

In 1499 nearly one and a half centuries of Milanese rule ended with the invasion of Milan by Louis XII of France. He captured Bellinzona and fearing an attack by the Swiss, fortified the "Castelgrande" with 1000 troops [ Offical Site-Bellinzona joins the Confederation] accessed July 17, 2008] . Throughout the winter of 1499/1500 unrest in Bellinzona grew, until January when an armed revolt of the citizens of Bellinzona drove the French troops from the city. Following the capture and execution of Ludovico Sforza in April 1500 and seeking protection from France, Bellinzona joined the Swiss Confederation on April 14, 1500. Bellinzona would remain under the joint administration of Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden until the creation of the Helvetic Republic after the Napoleonic invasion of Switzerland in 1798. From 1798 to 1803, under the Helvetic Republic, Bellinzona was the capital of the canton of Bellinzona.

Following the Act of Mediation in 1803 Bellinzona became part of the independent canton of Ticino, and the capital of the new canton from 1803 to 1814. From that date until 1878, Bellinzona, Lugano, and Locarno, took turns being capital every six years.

The city includes the village of Artore and, since the incorporation in 1907, the former municipalities of Carasso , Daro, and Ravecchia.


In 2000, the city had 16,463 inhabitants. In that census, 30.6 percent were non-Swiss, mostly from Italy. The metropolitan area of Bellinzona has a population of 48,300, divided into 16 municipalities.


It is an important stop for major trains heading either north toward Arth-Goldau and Zürich, or south toward Lugano, Chiasso and Italy or bound for the southwest to Locarno.

The A2 and A13 motorways, as well as some main roads, link here, thus making it an important transportational node.


The city is known for its carnival Rabadan, which has taken place for over 150 years.

The local football team is AC Bellinzona.

The Three Castles

The Three Castles, officially listed as the Three Castles, Defensive Wall and Ramparts of the Market-Town of Bellinzone, have been an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. The group is composed of "Castelgrande", castle "Montebello", castle "Sasso Corbaro" and fortified walls. The "Castelgrande" is located on a rocky peak overlooking the valley, with a series of fortified walls that protect the old city and connect to the "Montebello". The third castle ("Sasso Corbaro") is located on a isolated rocky promontory south-east of the other two [ [ UNESCO listing for Bellinzona] ] .


The site of the "Castelgrande" has been fortified since at least the late 1th Century BC and until the 13th Century it was the only fortification in Bellinzona. During its history the castle has been known as the stronghold (before the 13th Century), the Old Castle in the 14-15th Centuries, "Un Castle" after 1506 and Saint Michael's Castle from 1818 [ Official Website-Castelgrande] ] .

The "Castelgrande" hill includes a nearly vertical side on the north and a steep southern side, but is nearly flat and 150-200m in diameter. The natural shape of the hill has encouraged every man-made fortification to follow the same contours. While the Roman fort is not visible the Roman foundations were used by the High Middle Ages castle which followed. Of the High Middle Ages castle the only visible parts are a few pieces of wall that are still standing. Much of the visible castle dates from 1250-1500 with extensive renovations and some expansion in the last two centuries. Most of the area inside the castle walls is now flat, open space.

Records from the 11th to 15th Centuries as well as archeological evidence indicate that the castle grounds were once full of buildings. However most of these were pulled down by the Dukes of Milan to free up interior space. The open space was divided into 3 large baileys which served to provide temporary housing for troops that could be stationed in Bellinzona. Under the Dukes of Milan the outer fortifications were extended and strengthened. The walls were raised, extended and towers were added. The western walls were totally rebuilt and connected to the city walls.

The castle can be reached by taking an elevator from the foot of the rock to the castle grounds or by climbing steep, narrow streets from the city center through the city wall onto the castle grounds.


asso Corbaro


On July 21, 1985, Swiss swimming sprinter Dano Halsall set a world record in the 50 m freestyle in Bellinzona's local pool, clocking in at 22.52 seconds.


*HDS|2031|Bellinzona (municipality)

External links

* [ Bellinzona official website]
* [ Rabadan carnival]
* [ Unesco]

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