Switzerland's small, Italian-speaking region (called "Tessin" in German & French) is south of the Gotthard pass; this region is warmer than the rest of the country, and has food and culture not unlike that of Lombardy south of the Italian border. The Monte Ceneri range splits the region between the north (Sopraceneri) and south (Sottoceneri). Sopraceneri contains the most land, including the capital Bellinzona and 3rd-largest city Locarno (on the shore of Maggiore Lake). Sottoceneri contains a slight majority of the population, including the largest city, Lugano (on the eponymous Lake Lugano).

Roughly from north to south:

Alto Ticino

The northern Sopraceneri (or "Alto Ticino") and valley ("Valli") districts of Blenio, Leventina, Riviera and Vallemaggia are relatively sparsely-populated and feature mountains and valleys, including a bunch of rifugio lodging. Some popular valleys include Valle di Blenio,and Val Bedretto.

Bellinzona District

Bellinzona is the cantonal capital and home to three UNESCO World Heritage Site castles; it's easy to get to by train from the north or south.

Locarno District

This district extends up into the Alto Ticino, but most of the population is on the north shore of Lago Maggiore, especially in the twin towns of Locarno/Ascona. A bit quieter than Lugano, so if you want a more "relaxing" stay it's a good fit (if you want to be where the action is, go to Lugano).

Lugano District

The eponymous town of Lugano is the most populous town in Ticino, overlooking Lake Lugano

    • Lugano

      • Massagno (suburb): Grotta della Salute - Bib Gourmand 2015

Medrisio District

Also called "Mendrisiotto" district, the most southern part of Ticino (and Switzerland) has rolling hills with vineyards (some call it "Switzerland's Tuscany")