Story: The queen of Lake Maggiore

A jewel right in the heart of the city

In Locarno, the iconic flower is the camellia. 15,000 m² of vibrantly coloured parkland bear witness to this.

A captivating plant that embellishes gardens and parks with its colours, the camellia flower has symbolised the Lake Maggiore area for years. It finds its perfect habitat here and can be enjoyed in all its glory in spring.


Daniele Marcacci, President of the Swiss Camellia Society

Daniele Marcacci, President of the Swiss Camellia Society
I appreciate the camellia’s elegance, but also its simplicity.

Not everyone knows that the leaves of the camellia (sinensis) can be used to make green tea and fermented black tea. The camellia (japonica) arrived in Europe in the late 18th century thanks to the travels of the East India Company. However, another century seems to have passed before it reached Locarno, imported from the Italian shores of Lake Maggiore, where it was already cultivated and propagated by the talented gardeners working for the aristocratic Borromeo family.

“The camellias overlooking Largo Zorzi today, in the heart of the city, are more than 150 years old,” explains Daniele Marcacci, President of the Swiss Camellia Society. Daniele started out as a landscape gardener almost 40 years ago, before being placed in charge of the city of Locarno’s gardens and parks. The camellia holds no secrets from him. With its granite valleys, acid soil and mild climate, the Locarno area is truly the perfect habitat for this plant that puts on its best display in spring. This is clear to see in the public gardens, on the shores of the lake and in countless private gardens, which become filled with colour and lit up by hues that range from white to red. 


Parco delle Camelie, Locarno

In order to celebrate the beauty of this flower, an event dedicated especially to it has been held every spring since the 1990s: Camelie Locarno. Five days to gain first-hand experience of the numerous unique features of this plant and more. Indeed, in addition to the central pavilion housing the display of cut camellias presented in some highly original arrangements, the festival also proposes a number of accompanying activities such as concerts and plant sales. And of course, what kind of event would it be without something to tickle the tastebuds! A well-known local patisserie has even created a green tea-based chocolate

Parco delle Camelie, Locarno

In the wake of the success of the first editions, the city of Locarno decided to create an actual park dedicated to camellias. In 1999, inspired by similar societies in neighbouring countries, was founded the Swiss Camellia Society. This meant that our event automatically became part of the International Camellia Society circuit. In 2005, the committee suggested organising the International Camellia Congress right here in Locarno.

Seeing the Camellia Park being created is a dream come true.

When it opened, the Camellia Park featured more than 500 different camellia varieties. The success of the international congress led the city to enlarge it even further, extending it towards the lake and creating an amphitheatre, a second biotope, a pavilion and a water feature. 

Parco delle Camelie, Locarno
Parco delle Camelie, Locarno

The park now occupies an area of more than 15,000 m² and is home to 1’100 different camellia varieties subdivided into 40 species. 

Parco delle camelie, Locarno
Parco delle Camelie, Locarno

A further expansion is planned for 2023, when the post-tour of the next international conference, due to be held in Verbania, will once again visit Locarno. It will include a new biotope, a picnic area and, naturally, another 430 camellia plants, which Daniele is particularly proud of because they come from collectors’ gardens. 

Parco delle Camelie, Locarno
Pro tip
The public parks in the city of Locarno are a must for plant and flower enthusiasts. In particular, the Pioda and Rusca gardens, with centuries-old camellias, and the Palazzo Morettini, with a park of considerable botanical interest.
Camelie Locarno wants to give visitors a unique emotion with its ever-changing and imaginative arrangements of cut flowers. The public appreciates and the figures confirm this.
The last edition saw a 10% increase in visitors.
In 2010 the park received the prestigious international Garden of Excellence accolade. Furthermore, it has been included in the “Grandi Giardini Italiani” circuit for a number of years, where it heads the Gardens of Switzerland category.

"I’m always happy to see fond visitors who come back year after year."