Airolo (1176 m a.s.l.) is on the road to St Gotthard, on the southern slope of the mountain, in the Canton of Ticino.
After the year 1000, the history of Airolo is linked with the St Gotthard Pass and, indirectly, with relations and commerce between northern and southern Europe. Being in such an important position, the town became quite rich. However, there were disadvantages as well - armies marched through the pass on several occasions, and in 1331 the Urani [inhabitants of the Canton of Urano] set fire to the town, accusing its inhabitants of attacking their goods caravans.
In the second half of the XV century, about 600 people (most of them quite wealthy) were living in Airolo, which made it quite a large village. At the end of the XVIII century the Alps and St Gotthard became a popular destination among travellers (aristocrats and wealthy middle class travellers) from every part of Europe. There are many lovely travel diaries (usually with pictures) dating back to this period and describing this area.
Lovers of the history of sports and skiing will find more than they expect in Airolo: the first skis of Italian Switzerland were built here in 1879 and so were the first two trampolines for ski jumps (1926 and 1934, now in ruins), the first sledge-lift (1938) and the first ski-lifts (Lüina and Pesciüm). Many famous skiers (men and women) came from this area. A large number of winter sports are practiced here, such as Alpine skiing, snow-boarding, cross-country skiing, skiing outings and walks with snowshoes. Ski-lift facilities are available in Airolo-Pescium-Sasso della Boggia, Lüina and Cioss Prato. Skiing is the sport most young people in Airolo practice.
In the summer, Airolo is the ideal starting point for fantastic treks on mountain paths, heading to mountain pastures or mountain shelters, such as Cristallina, Corno Gries, Piansecco, Cadlimo and Cadagno.
People who are interested in water management and its history will love this area. There are many water mills and water-based facilities, including the favre canal that transported water to the entrance of the train tunnel (remains can still be seen), a small hydro-electric facility (called Centrale Calcaccia, one of the first to be built in the area) and the awe-inspiring Lucendro and Sella dykes.