Le Chic En Rose

Diaries of an independent traveller

One of my favourite pastimes, whether I’m in holiday planning mode or not, is to study maps and destinations and try to work out what would be a possible itinerary for future travels! We were going to be staying a few nights in St Moritz nearly 5 years ago. To finish off our trip, I thought it would be interesting to visit Locarno on the northern shore of Lake Maggiore, still in Switzerland but part of the southern canton of Ticino where Italian is the sole official language. Getting there from St Moritz, whilst not intrepid by many standards, was still a little more complicated than I had bargained for. We caught a train from St Moritz to the little town of Thusis and then embarked on a Swiss Post Bus journey through the San Bernardino Pass (fortunately via a tunnel these days) down into Ticino and its regional capital of Bellinzona. Although the tunnel has greatly improved the communication between the remote Hinterrhein and Mescolina Valleys, you follow the route of the old Viamala, which drove fear into the hearts of travellers of yore. The so-called “Bad Path” took its name back in the middle ages, coined by those traversing this wild rugged terrain. It was the only way to cross the Alps at this point, with their high peaks and deep gorges, and must have felt a remote and godforsaken place – not surprisingly a number of unfortunate folk succumbed to illness, accidents and other mishaps.

Our Swiss Post Bus in Mescolina having a quick pitstop! Although Italian speaking, this remote valley is still in the predominately German speaking canton of Graubuenden in Switzerland.

 

As it was a particularly wet and rainy day for most of the journey, we were glad to arrive in Bellinzona safe and sound! Here we picked up the local train that shuttles back and forth between Bellinzona and Locarno. Once we stepped out of the station, it was something of a culture shock; the buzz of rapid fire Italian voices, mopeds and cars competing for right of way in the narrow streets and the distinct warmer vibe of a Mediterranean climate! We caught a taxi to our hotel, the Albergo Remorino, checkedΒ in, opened the doors to the balcony and were greeted with a wonderful view!

 

View from hotel balcony Albergo Remorino Locarno Switzerland

View from hotel balcony Albergo Remorino Locarno Switzerland

 

The family run Albergo Remorino is actually in the lakeside suburb of Minusio, which is about 5 minutes drive outside Locarno itself. Such a distance did not bother us at all as we were quite happy to walk along Lake Maggiore to and from town, which took about 15 to 20 minutes. There are also regular buses into town, which stop close by the hotel or the hotel staff will provide you with bikes free of charge. The Remorino had a lovely welcoming feel about it and also the most gorgeous breakfast terrace set among lush gardens (which included a pool). There was a slight feel of faded glory about the place, but having checked out the website (see here), the rooms and lobby were all refurbished a couple of years ago and now look effortlessly modern and chic. The ratings have remained high on Tripadvisor too with 4 and a half star approval. We loved the laid-back feel to the area and preferred to be away from the hustle and bustle of central Locarno.

 

 

Locarno, whilst still an Alpine town, enjoys Switzerland’s warmest climate and is blessed with over 2300 hours of sunshine each year! It is famous for its annual International Film Festival held in August and the Moon and Stars (pop and rock) Festival held each July. Historically it was the venue for the signing of the Locarno Treaty in 1925 when Germany, France and Belgium agreed to honour the reorganisation of their frontiers, as laid down by the Treaty of Versailles, following the end of the First World War (the pact didn’t last!). Whilst distinctly Italian in language and culture, the Swiss side of Locarno is very evident. The town was immaculate with pristinely maintained gardens and public amenities. There was a feeling of order and routine here too despite our first impressions coming out of the railway station. All paths gravitated to the old centre with the charming Piazza Grande at its heart.

 

Piazza Grande Locarno

Piazza Grande Locarno

 

In terms of food you’re very much in Italian territory with a multitude of pizzerias and restaurants to choose from. The bars also indulge the Italian habit of afternoon drinks and nibbles with their “Happy Hours” and you can walk everything off with a stroll around the pretty Old Town or along the shores of the lake. One feature we did notice was that whilst Italian is the native language, German was the default second language, not English, which came in third. This southern part of Switzerland is hugely popular with the Swiss Germans who flock here to escape the rather greyer and cooler northern climate, hence the need for the locals to speak German! Menus were in both Italian and German and whilst most hospitality staff had at least a smattering of English, on occasions Monsieur Le Chic had to resort to using his high school German (neither of us speaking any more than a few words of Italian). Since then I have taken up German language classes myself so would be more prepared for future visits though you’ll definitely be able to get by using English – it just may take a little more time with food orders! For more enlightenment on the “lingua franca” in Switzerland see my earlier article here!

 

 

At the edge of the old town you’ll find the Castello Visconteo, a castle which has its origins in the 12th century. Some of the buildings here were reputedly designed by Leonardo Da Vinci. Although this suggestion made by an Italian historian has yet to be officially proved, the citizens of Locarno are proud to claim the link! An archaelogical museum is housed within the castle walls, although on this occasion we didn’t have the time to visit it, so just had a wander round the old ruins.

 

 

I should also point out that there are far more direct ways of getting to Locarno than the circuitous route that we took. Direct trains go there from Zurich Hauptbahnhof and as I mentioned earlier in this article, there is a regular rail service from Bellinzona, which is on the main Milan/Zurich rail line. There are also shuttle bus options to and from Malpensa airport in Milan or car rentals if you prefer to drive yourself!

Next week we’ll head off by funicular, to visit another of Locarno’s main attractions, the church of Madonna del Sasso in Orselina, which also affords a wonderful lookout point over Lake Maggiore. Ciao for now!

 

Copyright Β© 2015 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

30 thoughts on “The Swiss End Of Lake Maggiore

  1. haha, I can totally relate ! I love planning as well πŸ™‚ I think it’s a good way to make the most of your trip. I’ve never been in that part of the world, but it’s very tempting ! The flower displays look gorgeous. And the atmosphere looks nice, with the mountains in the background πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Gin am glad someone else enjoys the planning side too – I think it’s great fun to put together itineraries! It’s a lovely part of the world – the Alps are still nearby though you’re getting the Mediterranean warmth creeping in plus it’s so pretty and relaxing πŸ™‚ I was just heading over your way to catch up on your posts then I saw you’d put a comment here! Have had such a busy week and need to catch up on everyone else’s blog posts! Enjoy your weekend πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, it’s great fun to discover new places, and planning is already part of that fun πŸ™‚ I hope you will be able to relax this weekend πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks Gin hope you also have a relaxing weekend πŸ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

          1. The sun is shinning, it’s not raining, it has been a perfect weekend so far ! πŸ™‚

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Excellent sounds great πŸ™‚ Here it’s a long weekend as there is a public holiday tomorrow and with the start of autumn a bit cooler I always love this time of year!

              Liked by 1 person

            2. You will less suffocate, that’s good πŸ™‚ I love beginning of autumn, with the coloured tree and the sun that doesn’t burn you anymore :p

              Liked by 1 person

            3. Exactly it’s much more pleasant than January and February though actually it’s not been too bad a summer we haven’t had many extended hot spells just a day or two at a time. I always love autumnal colours πŸ˜ƒ

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  2. Looks gorgeous Rosemary. We’ve been to Lake Garda and Lake Como but never here – now I can’t imagine why that is having seen your pictures. Very tempting for sure. Love the sound of the hotel too – that balcony view! Also love the sound of being away from the hustle and bustle but a walk by the lake brings you into the town – what could be better! Planning is one of my favourite parts of a holiday – I am also forever making lists of new places and this will go straight on there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Joy am glad you liked the post Locarno really is a gorgeous place πŸ™‚ The hotel has been updated since we were there too and having checked out their website I’m tempted to go back there ourselves – still has all the charm but with modernised rooms and wifi which we couldn’t get before. The walk by the lake was also a good way of getting in exercise it was just lovely. We’ve also been to Lake Como but not Lake Garda – they are all so pretty! Locarno definitely has a Swiss German feel mingled with Italian culture, which we found interesting. Am glad I’m not the only one who makes travel lists I am also forever adding possible new destinations!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. megtraveling says:

    This is a fantastic post and what beautiful pictures! I’m going to be visiting Lake Maggiore when I visit Italy this May – I can’t wait… πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Meg it’s a stunning place you will love Lake Maggiore! My parents have stayed there a few times on the Italian side. My dad recently took himself off to Stresa by himself as my mum can’t travel any more and that looked picturesque too πŸ™‚ Have some more Maggiore posts to come including some beautiful botanic gardens on an island. Will look forward to seeing all your pictures too! πŸ™‚

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  4. Such beauty as always Rosemary – another place to add to my ‘must visit list. My favorites were the breakfast terrace, the alps behind the city center, Lake Maggiore, and the last photo of Castello Viscateo. Was nice to enjoy a little of Europe before I return to boat work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lisa am so glad you enjoy my posts! I do love the way we can all share our travel stories and photos here in the blogosphere – it’s wonderful for getting ideas or just dreaming of possible destinations! I will do some NZ posts I promise – will just have to wait until after my trip now I will mix them in with my new ones! Have loved your South Island travel series and hope the return to boat work goes well for you! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  5. KerryCan says:

    What a fascinating area to visit! Your photos are just great–the one of that wisteria amazes me. The scenery is so lovely in general!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Kerry yes it’s so interesting with the eclectic blend of Italian/Swiss German influences and the flowers were absolutely gorgeous! I always love lakes and mountains! Hope you have a lovely weekend πŸ™‚

      Like

  6. Lucy says:

    Wow, what a beautiful place!! I am not a person who likes to make plans, but I usually leave and see where the road takes me πŸ™‚ This is how I got in some isolated but gorgeous locations. However, sometimes is good to have an idea about what you want to see. Makes the trip smoother. Thanks for sharing your trip with us! Gorgeous pictures ❀ Have a great weekend!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lucy isn’t it stunning?! We make some plans eg with flights, rail journeys, accommodation but go with the flow when we get to a place I’m never going to be someone who can just leave it all to chance but it’s great if you can! I can well understand how you’d get to see some isolated but beautiful places if you can do the latter! Am glad you enjoyed the trip and photos and have a great weekend too! πŸ™‚

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  7. Sam Rappaz says:

    Welcome to Switzerland πŸ™‚ I love Locarno, well Ticino in general to be honest. The canton has a completely different vibe to it when compared to the rest of the country. Ticinese are the most fun Swiss people! Thank you for sharing your lovely photographs. I hope we make to the film festival this year, it’s on my Swiss Bucket List πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sam! That’s exactly how we felt Ticino was so different to anywhere else we’d been to in Switzerland that’s why it was a bit of a culture shock when we stepped out of the station. Also felt the same way in Lugano which we’ve been to a couple of times but only for half a day not really long enough to do it justice. We preferred Locarno though smaller and more relaxing πŸ™‚ It would be wonderful if you could get to the film festival this year that would be an amazing experience! We would definitely like to go back and explore more of the Ticino area at some point – you are so lucky living not too far away! Have a lovely weekend πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sam Rappaz says:

        I love Lugano and it’s my favourite city in Ticino because of personal connections. We would like to retire in Ticino! πŸ™‚
        I wish you a great start to the week.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I don’t think we really gave ourselves enough time in Lugano – we only went there for half a day and it was pouring with rain the whole time. The only other visit was just passing through by train en route to Lake Como and we had some time in the station waiting for our train. We need to go back at some point and look round more of the Ticino region!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Sam Rappaz says:

            Yes, you should! πŸ™‚

            Liked by 1 person

  8. What a beautiful place. Felt like being there right now. Loved the pictures of the lake and flowers. The pool and the garden seems like a relaxing places as as well! I also think it looked so wonderful with the mountains in the back.
    I am not as good planner as you though. However, with time maybe I will be πŸ™‚
    Wish you a great weekend to come, Rosemary.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Hanne it was a beautiful and lovely place to relax πŸ™‚ I was never a very good planner at all that’s come as I’ve got older – often we’e so time poor so it makes it easier though we like to go with the flow once we get to a place! We have had a long weekend so I keep thinking it’s Sunday today whereas it’s Monday! Wishing you a great week ahead! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think I will be a better planner with time as well! And as you say, when you do not have so much time you need to plan for see as much as possible. However, if you have time you can take it more as it comes..
        Thanks, wish you a great week as well πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  9. restlessjo says:

    I did enjoy this, Rosemay. The scenery is so beautiful in a gentle laidback way. πŸ™‚
    I like plotting itineraries too and they often don’t run quite as easily as you’d like, but it’s part of the fun, isn’t it? Lovely post! Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jo and yes that’s part of the fun…the best laid plans of mice and men! I find it so relaxing just looking at photos of lakes and mountains then I can dream of being there again! Am so glad you enjoyed it too have a lovely week πŸ™‚

      Like

  10. avibrantday says:

    Beautiful photos! This sounds like an idyllic destination! (you’ve made me hungry, as well… LOL). :o)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jacqueline! It was a gorgeous destination and probably not as widely known as the Italian end of Lake Maggiore. The food was delicious lots of Italian influences! Have a lovely weekend πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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