Mar 23, 2012 - 9:55 AM
Maggie, I just returned to the USA from 2 weeks in Switzerland, my third trip since September 2010, I'm crazy about it! Our favorite place has become Locarno, which we discovered quite by accident because I wanted only to ride the Centovali train. Once there, we didn't want to leave. So, we've been renting Fewo's there right on the lake. The hiking, the boating, the palm trees, the river rapids and the trains/busses are awesome, as is the food. We also use the Swiss Pass, and on our last stay, rode the Centovalli to various villages to do hikes, pretty much every day. You'll like it, I'm sure.
My primary advice is that on the Centovalli, be sure to sit on the correct side of the train. From Domodossola toward Locarno, sit on the right; from Locarno toward Domodossola, sit on the left. If you had more time, I would also recommend taking the local version of the Centovalli, not the express, as the local stops at every little station and makes the stunning views go by a bit more slowly. It will get you to Locarno a bit later, but it's worth it to me. Also, hope that you get on one of the older trains where the windows can be opened, that makes photography/videos much easier to do. Just don't stick your head out of the window, the high number of short tunnels makes that a risky proposition!
Finally, if you have time, the Swiss Pass would allow you to take the boat (ideally) or even a local bus to Ascona, it's also very lovely. Their old town sits right on the lake and is picture perfect. The Ascona/Locarno website is pretty good at detailing all there is to do in the two towns and environs. Once there, it's a quick trip via boat to Isola Brissago's botanic gardens, also a great place for lunch.
By the way, this old article first triggered thoughts of visiting Ticino for me; it's arguments still hold true all these years later. I've done everything he mentions (and more) and it has been lovely:http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/examiner/archive/1998/06/14/TRAVEL6903.dtl