In 1900 the Belgian Henri Oedenkoven together with his German friend Ida Hofmann set up the individualistic vegetarian co-operative Monte Verità near Ascona and opened a sanatorium on the hill. They led a self-sufficient life based on cultivating the land, taking regular physical exercise, performing the arts and practising heliotherapy. Among others anarchists, social-democrats,
theosophists, anthroposophists, physicians and writers visited them for a cure. The Hungarian dancer Rudolf von Laban, who owned a dancing school in Zürich, in 1913 started a Schule für die Kunst on the Monte Verità, concentrating on ‘the new dance as the manifestation of the human mind’. During the First World War Ascona next to Zürich and Bern became a refuge for emigrants. In particular artists commuted between Zürich and Ascona. Marianne von Werefkin and Alexej Jawlensky settled in Ascona, Dadaists such as Hans Arp and Hugo Ball and many others – Herman Hesse, Else Lasker-Schüler and James Joyce - stayed there for a while. 1924 the artists’ group Orsa Maggiore was established, existing of two Swiss and five foreign – among them Marianne von Werefkin – painters.
In 1926 the banker Eduard von der Heydt bought the Monte Verità, erecting an hotel in Bauhaus-style on it, thus attracting artists like Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer and Oskar Schlemmer. In the second half of the 1930’s Ascona again became a re-fuge for emigrants from Germany.
The Monte Verità today, with a museum and the hotel in 1989 converted into a seminar centre, combines tradition and innovation.