Hi, and thanks for taking the time to read this post. I’m on a road trip through France, Switzerland, and Italy at the moment, capturing moments and sharing them back here and through my Instagram account.
This post is week 4 and covers what I’ve been up to in Ticino, where Italian is the sole official language. So, that’s a French, Swiss-German, Romansh, and Italian region in a country that’s less than a sixth the size of the UK!
But that’s no bad thing. In fact, it means there’s diversity in a small space without the crowds. Even more so as I’m now in the ‘off-season’ – which isn’t actually ‘off,’ just different…
So far there’s been interesting towns visited, lots of hiking, a Via Ferrata, sun, rain, snow, mountain passes, wine, lakes, food markets, and a lot of coffee. You can read about week one here, week two here, and week three here.
Into week four…
The scenery and feel in this area are noticeably different. It is warmer, forest pine trees and deep valleys have been replaced with something more Mediterranean, and the look of people seems relaxed.
What confirmed that thought was a conversation with a local in a bar one night. He summed up what I was thinking in a sentence: From here we look north to Switzerland for work, and south to Italy for the lifestyle. Best of both worlds then.
I spent a few days exploring the streets of Bellinzona and was impressed with the UNESCO castles and history of the area. The town sits in a prime valley location – so whoever controlled this position-controlled access between the south and the north of Europe!
I was unlucky with the weather but the rain made for spectacular waterfalls and I could see the appeal for outdoor life on a drier day.
Whilst in Locarno I also luxuriated in another Spa and thermal bath (my new addiction), explored the lake and town, had to abandon a mountain pass drive due to the weather and happened upon my first Tango night…
From Locarno, I drove further south to Lugano, stopping first at a farmers’ style market in Mendrisio.
Sourdough bread, local cheese, wine, and a banana and Nutella crepe for the win every time!
I was lucky with the weather here and would love to return to Lugano. The hike up Mount Bre is worthwhile, the town itself is cool, as are the surrounding forest walks, ice-creams, and general lakeside views and atmosphere.
For my final day in Ticino and Switzerland, I decided to finish things on a high. I had heard about a mountain (Monte Generoso) that offered panoramic views of the French and Swiss Alps along with a vista over Italy and perhaps even Milan.
I decided to go for it. And I was not disappointed.
The snow meant the drive to the start of the hike was sketchy but the walk up and the view from the summit was such a good experience. Yet another highlight of this adventure!
So that’s four weeks on the road, 23 of those nights spent in Switzerland. In that time I’ve covered three cantons and, time-wise, it feels about right.
Of course, that’s subjective and dependent on what you want to do. But, for a road trip with a focus on exploration/culture/outdoor activity/time to chill, it feels about right.
Grazie Switzerland, and into Italy…
Just a few tips…
Switzerland is expensive. That much is well known. I saved money by sticking to one region (canton) at a time and exploring an area rather than rushing through.
Eating and drinking in a campervan/hostel will save a lot of money. Supermarkets are actually OK value. Lidl and Aldi especially.
Nature is free! You could always hike a mountain rather than paying for the gondola up. Or ride up and walk down. Switzerland is abundant for its outdoors activity and is so well geared up.
The south did seem more friendly and relaxed than the north. Unless that is, you know a local. This can go a long way to opening doors.
It’s worth keeping in mind opening times of tourist info, restaurants, and lifts, etc. As the seasons change from summer to winter, there is a reduced service in some areas. Don’t let this stop you visiting though.
There’s still plenty to do and, even though the weather can be unpredictable, the lack of crowds and colours of autumn were a real bonus for me. In a lot of ways, this has added to the adventure…