On the ride between LOCARNO AND Domodossola and you can see gushing waterfalls, tidy vineyards, chestnut forests and villages that time forgot roll by your window. Unspoiled landscapes and lush vegetation change their appearance in the course of the seasons and make this journey an unforgettable experience. Centovalli Railway runs all year long with 1st and 2nd class and panoramic coaches.
The line dates from 1923, when twin teams of workers, Italian and Swiss, laying track from either terminus, met in the middle at Santa Maria Maggiore. To this day, the Italian part of the line is administered by a separate company, the Società Subalpina di Imprese Ferroviarie, or SSIF. Services are frequent - every half-hour during the summer months (April to October) - so it's easy to break a journey at any point along the line. The pint-sized trains start out from dedicated platforms beneath Locarno's main station, emerging above ground for the pull into Ponte Brolla. This small town stands at the mouth of the great Valle Maggia system, which penetrates high into the Lepontine Alps north of Locarno. The train line continues west, entering the Centovalli proper. From here on the ride is truly spectacular. Most of the time the little trains wind their way slowly around the forested hillsides on precarious bridges and viaducts, teetering above ravine-like depths - sit on the left for the best views. A good indication of the terrain is that in the 17km-stretch between Locarno and the Italian border, the train passes over seven bridges and through 22 short tunnels. A few kilometres out of Verscio, the train clanks slowly over an iron viaduct spanning the 75m-deep gorge of the Isorno torrent - the scene of Switzerland's first-ever bungee jump, in 1993, and still a prime spot for leaping. Intragna is next, another photogenic village tucked into a fold of the hills beneath craggy mountains, and marked by the 65m steeple of its parish church, the highest bell-tower in Ticino, built in 1775. The train rolls on through dense chestnut forests to the quiet border village of Camedo and crosses the Ponte Ribellasca into the Italian Valle Vigezzo for the climb to Santa Maria Maggiore, the highest point of the line (830m above sea level). The terminus lies 20km on, at the workaday valley town of Domodossola, from where Swiss high-speed trains run through the Simplon Tunnel to Bern, Basel and Geneva, and Italian ones speed south to Milan.