Apr 3, 2018 - 6:44 PM
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My trip report from Ticino. Hopefully it is useful for our members!
Some select photos will be attached at the end.
- Zurich to Lugano: We bought a Saver Day Pass a few weeks ago for Saturday and our route was as follows: Zurich direct to Brig (went the fast route under the mountain). Changed at Brig for Domodossola & changed at Domodossola for Locarno on the Centovalli Express.
- Lugano to Zurich: The Gotthard Panorama Express wasn’t operating, so we took regional trains back along the same route with changes in Bellinzona & Erstfeld. A few weeks ago, we found a SuperSaver ticket for under 20chf.
We left Zurich on the 7am direct train to Brig. We had a 10-minute connection in Brig where it was snowing quite a bit. The train to Brig was very empty but the Brig train to Domodossola was very busy. We spent an hour in Domodossola to poke around (there was a market going on) but it was, unfortunately, pouring rain; so, we huddled in a café for most of the layover.
**If connecting at Domodossola station you must leave the station out the front doors, turn left and walk to the end of the building and then head downstairs for the Centovalli Express train to Locarno. There are no signs directing you inside the building (the first sign I saw was on the outside of the building).
The Centovalli Express was very scenic and very different from other scenery you will see in the more popular German and French areas of Switzerland. It was raining for the first half of the trip but I managed to be the first to board the train (20 minutes before departure) and was able to sit at the front of the train beside the conductor looking straight out the front of the train. This is possible only on the trains noted as Treno Panoramico Vigezzo Vision on the SBB timetable between Domodossola and Locarno.
Locarno/Ascona (10 degrees and raining on and off)
In Locarno you also arrive underground, and upon exiting, pop up quite close to the city centre and Lago Maggiore (Lake Maggiore). Here I was picked up by friends, and we wandered the downtown area for about an hour before driving on to Ascona (10 minutes away). In Ascona we spent some time on the waterfront which I thought was very nice. We had a coffee inside a restaurant overlooking the lake to stay out of the rain. Both towns are lovely and deserve more time to explore!
From Ascona we drove to Valle Verzasca to check out the Ponte dei Salti (bridge) which is quite famous for the region – really striking but I wish we had some sun for better photos!
Taking a car was really easy – using trains and buses from Locarno will take some time but it is doable. If traveling by train/bus I would add on the Verzasca Dam (located on the same road a bit before the bridge) and plan to make a day of it if the weather is good.
After visiting the bridge and dam, we went to a rather unique stone village (hamlet may be a better word it) called Curogna. My friend spent time there holidaying as a child. The homes here are holiday homes for those living in the Ticino region and usually not lived in during the winter. It was a very winding drive, high up on a mountain overlooking Locarno – some beautiful stone buildings. Due to low clouds we had no views over the valley. After this we drove back to my friend’s house in Lugano for the evening.
Easter Sunday (16 degrees and lots of sun) à We started out the day with getting dropped off at a small village called Gandria, located on the shores of Lake Lugano. From here we walked back to the city along a footpath which keeps you on the waterfront (45-minute walk). There is a boat dock at Gandria as well; which is an excellent option to arrive here. Homes as well as a couple hotels & restaurants dot the footpath (stopping for lunch would be a great idea).
Once back in Lugano we found a sunny café on one of the main squares of Lugano. While it was Easter Sunday and no stores were open, there was a market going on downtown (and a food festival as well).
After coffee we took a 25-minute train ride to Bellinzona where we explored Castelgrande (the largest of the 3 castles in Bellinzona). It was only about a 10-minute walk along the main street of Bellinzona from the train station. The other 2 castles are on the hillside above to town and require more effort to reach (but both are still quite close to town).
After the castle visit we went back to Lugano for lunch. Bellinzona was completely deserted. Hardly anyone on the streets and no shops or restaurants were open. So, on a holiday or Sunday in general I would stay in Lugano unless, like us, you want to visit a castle.
We had lunch at a restaurant across from Lugano train station called AnaCapri. It, along with the station sits on a hillside overlooking Lugano and offer great views while you eat lunch – excellent pizza. J
From the train station to get to the lake and city centre you must walk downhill about 15 minutes (a funicular is also available).
At this point it was late afternoon so we went to my friend’s house to relax before heading to the street food festival for a late dinner.
Day 3: 16 degrees and all sun
On our last morning we drove up to the village of Bre above Lugano. This is also accessible by one of 3 funiculars in Lugano (Bre, San Salvatore & the city centre funicular). While I didn’t have time to go up San Salvatore, my friends indicated it is quite similar– more restaurants and shops at the top though (a bit more touristy).
Mt. Bre offers two restaurants, one at the funicular station with partial views over Lake Lugano and another overlooking Lugano and the lake as well. It is about a 2-minute walk from the funicular station. Walking behind the mountain from the funicular station on a well-signed walking path you find the town of Bre.
Note, that from downtown Lugano you can see a new large neon sign saying BRE but the village is actually on the other side of the mountain. Well-worth the time to walk around Bre as the town is charming and the views are excellent.
After Bre, we went to the train station to start our trip back to Zurich. As the Gotthard Panorama Express wasn’t operating we took regional trains back along the same route: Lugano – Bellinzona –Erstfeld – Zurich.
I wasn’t able to get very good pictures on this route but it was also a lovely trip. The change of scenery from the Southern Switzerland to Central Switzerland being quite extreme as you can see with the snow around Göschenen which just appears as you travel north and pop out of a tunnel.
A word to anyone traveling by car – the Gotthard Tunnel gets extremely busy on Friday evenings and Sundays (especially on long weekends) and delays can be horrific. Yet another reason to travel by train in Switzerland!
Enjoy some pictures below – some turned out great (sunny days) while others on the train suffered from rainy windows and reflections – but it gives you an idea of what to expect.