Story: The William Tell of Magadino

Archery for children and boat rides through nature

Adventures in nature: families simply can’t get bored here. Canton Ticino is the perfect place for children, whether exploring a special ecosystem among the reeds or shooting arrows in a wood.

A path through the woods, a clearing and sixty (fake) animals provide an opportunity to become a modern-day Swiss hero. Visitors can also climb aboard a wooden boat and explore a wonderful nature reserve that has enjoyed protected status since 1974, attracting birds and nature lovers from all over Europe. The Gambarogno is full of surprises for children and adults alike.


Marco Nussbaum, archer, graphic designer, snowboarder, sailor and artist

Marco Nussbaum, archer, graphic designer, snowboarder, sailor and artist
One year I fired more than 20,000 arrows so as not to lose my ability.

Chamois, red deer, marmots, an owl and even a boa constrictor and a dodo! You’ll be left open-mouthed when entering the Dügn and seeing its great array of lifelike animals dotted all over the 20,000 m2 space devoted entirely to archery, amidst beautiful natural surroundings. “Afterwards we’ll go to the treehouse: you’ll see how many are down there in the escarpment.”

Marco Nussbaum, our guide on this adventure, has a cheerful expression. Wearing a Hawaiian shirt, with the tan of someone accustomed to being out in the snow in winter and on the water in summer, his smile seems sincere. Marco has lots of stories to tell and it’s immediately apparent that just one afternoon together might not be enough.

We have to make our way up to Piazzogna, following an easy, scenic path for around ten minutes and embarking on an adventure. The kids are fascinated and gaze curiously at the quivers and bows on Marco’s back. They can’t wait to shoot their first arrow.


Marco is well aware of this. He’s taught archery to lots of children (and adults) and likes to see their eagerness. What’s more, his enthusiasm is catching and the stories he tells as we climb up to the Dügn reveal his love of the area and those mountains, that lake and those vineyards he has watched grow.

Born in Locarno and raised in San Nazzaro, he has a German surname because his grandfather arrived in Ticino to build the Bellinzona-Luino railway in 1880: he firstly fell in love with Ticino, then with Marco’s grandmother. 

Another love story began in 2007 during a grape harvest in Coldrerio. This story involved Marco, on the one hand, who’d gone to lend a hand to some of his wife Laura’s fellow students, and, on the other, a bow and arrows. “After lunch I fired those arrows with Pietro, my first archery instructor, and I haven’t stopped since!” He was completely bewitched.

Could this also be something to do with the Mendrisiotto sunshine and the Merlot?

The aim is to take down the animal with the first arrow, like when hunting.

Archery is an ancient sport, recalling prehistoric people and reconnecting us with nature. “Breath in, breath out as you draw back the bow, and with your last breath release it and fire the arrow. It’s liberating.” 

Marco captivates his young pupils: “Listen to the sounds of leaves and twigs under your feet: you can empty your mind here,” our guide points out.

Pro tip
Marco offers boat tours of the Bolle di Magadino on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings in July and August. The tour is free, but you have to book with plenty of advance because it’s a small boat.
Did you know that in 2016 a pedal boat towed a 195-ton boat from the Società Navigazione Lago di Lugano for 600 metres?
The Bolle di Magadino is a surprising natural landscape. It occupies an area of 600 hectares and is home to fish, plants, insects and almost 300 bird species.

Marco isn’t just an archery enthusiast. He’s done a bit of everything. He studied graphics, he’s tried his hand at juggling, he attended Dimitri’s school in Verscio and accompanied the famous clown on a European tour in 1977. “It was an amazing experience. I learned so much from Dimitri.”

As well as art, he’s also into sport. He’s always loved freestyle skiing and he still teaches every winter. He was one of the first to do a backwards somersault.

“Keeping your arm taut is a big mistake in archery.”


And there’s more. There’s the Bolle di Magadino nature reserve. In fact Marco has been offering free boat tours of the reserve for the last fifteen years to raise awareness and promote its attractions.

His wooden boat is a bit like a gondola, making its way through the reeds, past fish and birds that nest here in total tranquillity. Marco’s stories simply add to the experience and it feels like you’re travelling on the waves of time.

The children are fascinated by the swans, the coots and the grebe that builds its nest in the same place here every year: the feathers on its head look like a crown and it has a proud, alert gaze.

After stepping back on shore, the children are full of enthusiasm: have we really done all this in just one afternoon? The bow, the arrows, the faux animals in the woods and the real ones in the reserve, the boat trip and Marco’s great company. We’ll be talking about this amazing day out on Lake Maggiore for a long time.