Just a few kilometres from the Italian border and a short distance from the famous FoxTown outlet, Mendrisio with its cellars offers visitors a chance to enjoy delightful “al fresco” evenings.
Built at the foot of the mountain and shaded by enormous trees, the cellars of Mendrisio were built at the beginning of the 18th century by a monastic order. As time went by, part of the cellars were converted into small, charming restaurants, cooled by the soft breezes wafting down from the mountain. In days gone by, thanks to their moderate temperatures (around 10-11°C in winter and 13-14°C in summer), peasants used them not only to preserve food supplies but also to age wines. As time went by, in addition to being used for preservation purposes, they also served as meeting places where people could taste products, celebrate special occasions and take shelter from the heat during sweltering summer Sundays. Above all, during the 20th century, various private facilities were transformed into a number of charming restaurants.
In his book, “Excursions in Cantone Ticino”, naturalist Luigi Lavizzari explains the phenomenon of the cool temperature in the area’s wine cellars. “The air currents entering the rock formations (featuring a number of small openings) are collected and directed inside the cellars through terracotta pipes. In summer, the air is forced out of the pipes while, in winter, it flows back into them; this phenomenon can be documented by placing a candle near the pipes: in summer, the flame is blown outwards, while, in winter, it is sucked back in.”
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