From 18th until 30th September 2014 I have been to Ticino. Most of the time I was in or close to Locarno and the Lago Maggiore. On and off I also have been in Italy (Piedmont and Lombardy), because the Lago Maggiore is Italian for 80% and Swiss for only 20%. Ticino is not only the Lago Maggiore, of course, there are more lakes and also lots of valleys without lakes. I was travelling alone, most of the time I also did the activities by my own, but I was also lucky to meet people, both Swiss and Italian to get a better view of the area. The most amazing views I think you can find in Lugano, Switzerland and Mergozzo, Italy.
I had to eat breakfast, take a shower, pack my little suitcase, not to forget any important things and be in time at the airport. I did, of course, and I was waiting at the airport longer than necessary. My flight was not before 14:25. Anyway I was a little stressed by going there because three buses were not stopping at the bus stop. At the airport I still had time enough to go to a book shop looking for an Italian Phrase book and I found a good one.
I was a little late to Switzerland because the flight could not start in time. Also we had a turbulence, so we could not get the coffee, but later. I tried to learn some Italian during the flight, but without success. Anyway we arrived well in Zuerich and then the big misery began. I took CHF at an ATM and only got high value notes. I tried to buy a prepaid sim-card, but the company had run out of them, at the other company there were so many customers I won’t wait, the third company I did not find. Afterwards I was looking for public transport and had to ask how to buy a ticket and what is the right one. I could read at the bus stop, which bus I should take, but had to ask where it starts. And I was getting surprised because the bus was not a bus, but a tram. This tram should go straight to the Central Station, but there was a traffic jam or accident somewhere, so we had to change and take another tram from another stop! Finally I was at the Central Station and could buy the sim-card. I messaged my friend and asked when she will meet me. First she answered, I should take a special train to another station, but then she met me at the Central Station. I was happy for that. When we finally were at her home, we ate and talked and were to bed quite late.
I have been on a hill, called mountain: It was the Uetliberg and it had a wonderful view. It was a big forest there, too. I was going up to the hill by a local train, even not to the highest point of it. The rest I was walking, therefore I also had to walk down again. I decided to walk all the way down, but it would have been better the other way around of course. Nearly down i slipped on the ground and rolled a few meters, but all went well – also my devices are still working.
Afterwards I was enjoying the old city of Zuerich, going by boat on the lake of Zuerich and at the end I was shopping a little, because both my trousers and shoes got very dirty when I fell and I did not take a lot of clothes with me and we will go to Locarno the following day.
I was already up at 4:30 today and we were going by train through a landscape with high mountains on both sides. It was not really day, when we started, the world was gray in gray, but I thought, soon I will see all the colours.
My left hand was still hurting when I was carrying my little suitcase, but I thought it will be OK again until I will be back on Malta. There were a lot of tunnels, too, the train had to use and one could not see the mountains anymore. Even Switzerland has great views, I thought Malta is nicer, but I had not seen the Lago Maggiore yet.
In Locarno we just looked around a little, walked aside the lake – they also have some palms here, but mostly other kinds of trees. We were going to Ascona to eat something. It was a special restaurant serving salad, salami, main course of polenta and meat, cheese and at least a cake. We had to be quick to take of all of that, but the salad and the main course, because they let the other plates go around all the tables. The name of the restaurant was Grotto Baldoria, but it was not really a grotto, more an old house with old furniture and several old lights, none like the other.
When my friend was going back to Zuerich I was looking for, what I can do the next days and how I can make it affordable, because Switzerland is very expensive for tourists. I bought a ticket for three days with free rides by train, bus, boat and cable trains as well as free entrance at museums. I have to plan to make the best out of it. Later at the hostel I met a nice Swiss woman. She was here only for the weekend, but we took a walk together the next day.
We (Claudia, the Swiss woman and me) started hiking after breakfast. We did not have the goal to make all the way up to Cardada, but at least we did. We were walking up for the mountain the most time on hiking trails, but meanwhile on the road, too. Claudia was a very nice company. It was a pleasure to meet her and make this walk together with her. Before we were going down by two different funiculars – the first with the cable on the top and the second with the cable underneath – we were in a restaurant with an amazing view. We were also happy to get a seat with the best view and in the first funicular we were standing right at the front, so I made a video.
When Claudia was leaving for the train, I was going back to the hostel and took care about my pictures and the video. I needed a lot of time for it and did not feel so lonely at the evening. One of the wonderful things with couch surfing is, that you will not be alone in the evenings. In the hostel, were I was, I had no company during the rest of the week..
I went to Brissago island in the morning, there is a botanic garden. It was nice, so were the trip by boat.
In the afternoon I went swimming at the Lido, I could only see pools, but I am not sure I have seen all of the area. There was one with a deep of 1,30m and the water was really warm. It was nice to swim there, but the weather was not warm enough for being in the sun, because I was not arriving there before 5pm. When I left the Lido again I had to look for a meal, because unfortunately I was hungry again, but I took some more pictures from Locarno on my way back to the hostel.
I was up quite early again because I chose a train 8.49 through Centovalli (Valle Vigezzo). First I was off at Intraga, I was going further by cable car (a little one for 4 persons max.). I was happy that I was not alone in the car. There was a couple, too. Even they already left in Pila, the beginning of the trip felt safer. I did not have the right shoes for walking this day, only sandals, therefore I also were taking the car back. First I was alone, but at Pila, there were two more people entering with moving boxes. They could not get in all of them, but three. The other three boxes they had to fetch later. It seems to be the only way of transport for people there. I also saw small, open and simple cable cars from the villages to the houses aside.
I was trying to visit a museum, but it opened at 2pm, therefore I had to continue anyway. I was walking to the next train station because on the way are a Roman Bridge, but I could not find it. I was going by train only one more station and after that I used another cable train, as little as the previous one, but the cars were older. I was not alone in that car either. I was happy about that, too and enjoyed the view. I came to a village called Rasa and this looked like my inner pictures of the Ticino villages. I had a wonderful panorama here, too. I thought, I will continue to some interesting points of the village. Maybe there will be something nice to see and after that I will continue to Camedo, the last village on the Swiss side.
Often we have to change our plans, so I had to do, because I was entering an original Ticino restaurant. They waitress was maybe as old as the restaurant, because she was in my age or older. She had a rustic kind to make her job. I ordered a Ticino plate, not really knowing what that means, but it sounded interesting. The plate was filled with Salami, four different kinds of ham and different kinds of hard cheese in slices. There were bread, too – but not enough to put all these cold cuts on it. The waitress later on asked me if I would like more bread, but I did not take more even I ate all the cold cut. I drank some kind of grape juice, very strange for me because it was carbonated. Going back I was lucky again because the car only could take seven standing persons and I was the only lonely person for filling up. So I came with the first ride of the cable cars, after the operator have had his rest. I was going further by train again. But this time I had to wait around 20 minutes for it. It was only going to Camedo, because that is the last station on the Swiss side. Here I had to decide whether I will continue by train to Domodossola or not, because I had to pay for it – it was not on my tourist ticket.
I was going to Domodossola and hoped I will see a lot, but unfortunately the train was quite full and I had not a good sight. Anyway I was standing up when I saw there were a valley and so I could see better, but the leaves on the trees at the side of the rails made it nearly impossible to see all what the tourist brochures was showing one. I was disappointed, I can tell you.
I did not know anything about Domodossola. Also it is a little city I was aware, it is a nice one. It is totally surrounded by mountains. From nearly every street you look at them. The most of the buildings are elder and nice. I was surprised to see a freedom statue lamp light on one of the balconies. The statue was as high as a real person, a tall one. On another house I found a sun-clock, but it was in the shadow from other houses, so it was not working. After an ice cream – I tried to use my poor Italian, but got stuck because I did not have taken Euro with me from Locarno – and more sightseeing I was trying to find some more clothes, because here they were cheaper than in Switzerland.
Finally I was sitting at the railway station in Domodossola. I missed the train 18:25 because the shopping – even I did not find anything – and had to wait around two hours for the next one. It was dark on the way back and that was a pity, because I was making this trip for the nice views. Domodossola is a nice town, but I think it would get me a psychotic crisis after a while, because the forest and the mountains are so dark. I am happy I live on Malta.
I slept a little longer, the weather was not so nice that day – just gray in gray, therefore I managed my photographs from the day before until noon, walked Locarno afterwards, was window seeing and tried some clothes, but I did not really like any of them, so I walked my way and continued to Minuso taking a lot of photographs again. From there I went by bus to Ascona, was more window seeing, took more photographs, too. I was going back to the hostel by bus. I ate just a yogurt and a roll and took care about my photographs from this day.
I was up early that day, even I still was tired. I took a train about 10 o’clock to Bellinzona. There was a bus a little earlier, but I just missed it because my tourist ticket was not working and I had to go into the “Fart”-office (the office for the public transport).
Bellinzona is quite different to Locarno and Ascona and I liked it more because it seems, the people are more friendly here. I was visiting two castles, tried to go to a third one, but did not find the way – even I think I have been half ways. I went down to the city and tried to find a bus. There should be one and there was, but it was coming very late. I was back in Locarno at the late afternoon. I ate a pizza slice and took care about my pictures.
My last day in Locarno. There are still only 10 degrees, but it is sunny and the weather report promised 21 degrees for the middle of the day.
I took the cable train to Orselina and walked to the church Madonna del Sasso. There were a lot of plates with thanksgiving to the Madonna. The interior of the church has a lot of arts, e.g. the Holy Meal – Jesus and his twelve apostles around a table as a sculpture. The art is surprising because the details. Twelve apostles and they are all different! I tried to go to the museum. I did not find it, therefore I was asking in the shop for it and got an answer that there is no museum any more.
I continued through Orselina and tried to find the way for a recommended walking trail: The Sentiero Collina Alta. When I finally found it, I decided not to walk that trail because it looked to dangerous to go alone, especially because I did not have proper shows for walking in the mountains. Therefore I continued on the road. After a while a woman with a car stopped and asked me, if I want to have a ride. I was happy about the offer and she took me to Bre, where she is living. From there it is not far to San Bernardo and a stop of the cable train. While she was driving I understood, that I wouldn’t have made it without her help. I would have been on my way until darkness and how should I have went back to the hostel?
In San Bernardo I took a rest very close to the stop of the cable train. I was relaxing by eating my lunch package and listening to music on my tablet. The sun was shining on me and it was warm. Because the nice weather and my frightening of high I decided not to take the cable train. In this case it was not for the cable train but for the stop. I started walking.
The first one or two kilometers where very easy to walk. After that there where stairs in the forest, which after a while became just a stony walking trail. It was quite small, but I thought it might not be so long down to the city of Locarno. Actually it was very far and I had to look up for every step I took. When I reached Orselina again, there were more kilometers to walk for coming back to the hostel. The most of them were stairs, but also some were on the streets. I was tired when I was back and did not try to go to the concert – maybe it also was sold out already.
The rest of the evening I relaxed and tried to sleep a little earlier because I will go further at 9am tomorrow – going by boat to Arona in Italy, where I will be welcomed by a host family.
27th of September
It was the 83rd birthday of the famous, but retired artist Freddy Quinn. I have heard that he is living in Locarno, but I did not meet him and I did not mind either even I am a fan of him. I continued on this day to Arona at the other end of the Lago Maggiore. The boat to Arona, crossing the most of the Lago Maggiore, left at 9am. I already had bought my ticket and had to make a reservation, so there was no stress this morning. I chose that boat because it is a quick service and there is no need to change. It is going all the way from Locarno to Arona. There are not many of these tours each day. The other routes take nearly a whole day, this around two hours.
It was a perfect sunny day. I arrived well in Italy and have had a great day. I could catch a view of the Isole de Madre, because there were a stop and I also could catch a view, even a better one, of the Isola Bella, because there were another stop. My host was meeting me at the boat stop in Arona, then we were on a hill so I could see the city of Arona and the surroundings. It was a nice view. I like this part of the Lago Maggiore better than the Swiss one, because it is more open. Close to here, on the other side of the lake, is a castle on a rock, it is called Angera. It is another amazing view to look at the castle, because the rock under the castle is so steep. Also the views are amazing in Ticino, of course, but the most is so dark and “closed”. I like space for my eyes and I think it is therefore I like the Italian part better than the Swiss and Malta so much as I do – and the last for the sun of course.
I was in an Italian family, they speak English very well – she is a teacher in English and other subjects. Her 25-year-old son is talking German as well. He studied German and English. He does not have any accent in German, that is amazing! The whole family of five are very nice and kind. The other members of the family are the father and two daughters. I was writing on their computer to my Maltese friend, I was allowed to do so. It is real Italian family live! I enjoyed it very much. It is the same very good feeling like in San Marcello, Marche, where I have been in April this year. This family lives outside Arona in a village called Bellinzoga and in an own house. I had a room under the roof for my own and a bathroom for my own as well. It is very private here – very different to the time at the hostel.
We (my host, her husband, one of their daughters and me) went to Mergozzo after lunch. They have had “Gustus”-day there. They have this event once a year and one can taste local products like cheese, bread, wine and more. We tasted some – not of all kind. They sold the food cheaper than usual. Afterwards we were walking at the side of the little lake Mergozzo, which could be a part of the Lago Maggiore, but there is a little land between and only a little river from the Lago Mergozzo to the Lago Maggiore. The water in the Lago Mergozzo is very clear and clean and coming from a little river in the mountains.
The nights are cold here, too – like they were in the Ticino. By the way I think it is funny how the grown up son see the situation for the Ticino and this part of Italy. He told me, that the Ticino should belong to Italy because they have the same language – and also the same Italian dialect. Only some few words they use in Ticino should be different to the area here. At one of the last wars between the Lombards and people from Bellingzona, Ticino, when the Bellingzona people won, they decided to be a part of Switzerland. Because Bellinzona is the “wall” of the area, they were able to decide for all the people of the Ticino.
It was an interesting day again. We were to Orta and the Sacro Monte of Varallo in Piedmont. The Sacro Monte is on the UNESCO world heritage list. On the way we saw the Villa Crespi. It is a hotel now, but it was built in 1879 in authentic middle eastern style with an unusual feature, it’s very own minaret is inspired by the fascinating splendor of Baghdad’s architecture. It was built of the successful cotton merchant Cristoforo Benigno Crespi. On the way back we took two stalks of a rice plant, which is growing in Piedmont. They were not full ripe yet, but some rice corn already were brown.
I have crossed the Italian/Swiss-border three times that day. After I left my host family in Bellinzoga in Italy early in the morning – my host was driving me to the bus stop and waiting with me for the bus – I was going to Malpese and changed there to another bus, but I had around 1 hour to the next bus and nothing to do, no Internet either. I continued with a coach to Lugano. My new host met me at the bus stop at the Central station. We were going by her car home to her and were talking a little, took some juice and fruit.
Afterwards we were going to Como in Italy again, using the country road. There were so many amazing views! In Como we were visiting the cathedral, ate a pizza each and were going by cable train to Burant. At least we went back to Lugano for sightseeing of the old city. When it became dark we walked at the side of the lake, enjoying the lights and finally we went back to her home on the hill with a nice view over Lugano and on the mountains. When we sat on her balcony I saw a big fire down in the city and told Monique, my host. She called the fire brigade, but she was not the first one. The rest of the evening was relaxing.
The last day of this trip. The time was too short again! I would have been almost one more day in Lugano. By the way Lugano is much bigger than Locarno, has his own lake, which is just a little smaller than the Lago Maggiore. Lugano is the biggest city in Ticino and the third financial place of Switzerland. Therefore they also built their own Art Exhibition Hall which took a lot more of time to be finished (there are still some small things to do) and costs much more money than planned. It is the comparison to the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Germany. I think a lot of countries all over the world have such kind of projects, or maybe it only happens in Europe.
I had to book my flight before I knew which hosts I will get and when I will be at which place. So I booked Malta – Zuerich – Malta. If I have had known before, that my last place will be Lugano, I would have booked the flight back from Milano, because the airport Malpese is quite close. Though I had to go back to Zuerich by train – fortunately I could book a cheap ticket by the Internet. I would have had the possibility to stay in Lugano some hours longer but I won’t take any risk to miss my plane for Malta. By the way it would have been much cheaper to take a flight from Milano, than the one from Zuerich. I was leaving early the morning for my travel home. Monique drove me to the railway station.
I had some time left in Zuerich, but I could not make a lot of it, because I had to find something to eat and I still do not like either the main railway station nor the airport in Zuerich. The flight back was OK, no bigger deal this time. We could get the coffee directly after the meal and I was happy when I was back on Malta. My Maltese friend was surprising me by picking me up by car at the Malta airport.
Even I was disappointed in some parts of this trip, I also have had a nice time and I look forward to explore another country or part of, because how could I know what I like of a country and what not when I never have been there? Also in Switzerland and Italy I have to see a lot more, but next trip abroad – apart from the travels home to Sweden to my children – will be to Hungary.