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Ascona

The relatively low-lying canton of Ticino, situated south of the Alps, enjoys a Mediterranean climate and imports a distinctive Italian flavour to Switzerland. The village of Ascona on the shore of Lake Maggiore is a regional centre for the arts and its backstreets are filled with art galleries and craft shops. The community of artists and intellectuals living here at the beginning of the century embraced the 'back to nature' movement and welcomed the exiled Lenin for a time. The Museo Comunale D'Arte Moderna includes paintings by artists connected with the town, among them Paul Klee, Hans Arp, Ben Nicholson and Alexej Jawlensky.

 
Estavayer-le-Lac

This small resort on the shores of Lake Neuchâtel has a perfectly preserved medieval town centre and all manner of watersports facilities, but it's uniqueness is heralded by the collection of 130-year-old frogs lying under glass in the Regional Museum. The stuffed slimeys are the work of an eccentric 19th-century military man called François Perrier who spent much of his leisure time killing frogs, preserving their skins, and filling them with sand (nice hobby, Frank). He then arranged the frogs in parodies of human situations - courting, studying, playing games, etc - and ornamented them with props. Although Estavayer-le-Lac is close to the French border, quite what François was trying to convey about the human condition remains to be deciphered.

 
Franches Montagnes

Overlooked by most visitors, this pretty area of pastures and woodlands in the Jura mountain chain has 1500km of hiking trails and some 200km of cross-country ski trails. Horse-riding is also popular, and the horses in the area are supposedly renowned for their gentleness and calm disposition. The main town in the region is Saignelégier, which hosts the national horse show in August.


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