Oh Summer time in Europe is one of the best times of the year. Long days, golden sunsets, endless hikes, afternoon tipples and impromptu swims. And I’ve found one of the best places in Europe to do it.
I’ll raise you one if you’ve never heard of Ticino? Prior to spending a good amount of time being based in Switzerland – Neither have I. But in fact, many of the most beautiful views that Switzerland is known for come from that Italian-speaking region of Switzerland! Plus it is the adventure center of Switzerland. From the many freezing rivers with as many shades of green and blue as you can name, to experiencing canyoning, rock climbing and endless beautiful hikes. Ticino has them all (and more!)
I spent 3 days in Ticino but already have 16 Reasons why Ticino should go straight onto your travel bucket list. Plus, check out how easy it is to make it a side trip off visiting Venice, Milan or Zurich.
This pretty little lakeside town is definitely deserved more than one afternoon of exploration. From the iconic colorful buildings to the amazing Italian food within the city. But Locarno is definitely famous for the Film Festival which takes place in Piazza Grande every August! Hop on over to Ascona as well (just 2km) away for a bit more peace and quiet where you pretty much see the same views of Lake Maggiore but with less tourists.
The Locarno Film Festival descends upon Locarno every August. While I do love me some indie films, I really hate the idea of not being able to enjoy Locarno for the quaint colorful town that it is. But if you’re intending to head there in the busy summer months, please remember to book accommodation ahead of time. We stayed in Hotel Gottardo which had an amazing location (walkable to everywhere) Piazza Grande is definitely the place to take a stroll, have a meal. A budget option would be to walk to the end of the Piazza to have a little picnic in the park!
Recommendations for Accommodation
Budget: Hotel dell’Angelo / Dépendance dell’Angelo
Mid-Range: Hotel Gottardo (I stayed here!) / Hotel Garni Muralto / Caffè dell’Arte Boutique Rooms
I’m on Vacation, Pamper Me!: Hotel Albergo Brione / Hotel Eden Roc (in Ascona) / Hotel Collinetta (in Ascona)
Want to get to know Switzerland but don’t have time to visit it’s 26 cantons. Well check out SwissMiniatur to get to know all the key landmarks beyond Zurich, Jungfraujoch and that fountain in Geneva. Get a quick history lesson about this tiny country while you’re at it. It’s great for both kids and families alike. We didn’t have kids with us in tow but had an absolute blast (even riding the little train for kicks!). There’s even a miniature of the 007 mountain, Schilthorn about to be finished when we were there! Complete with tiny cable cars and all.
Canyoning is one of those things I never did as a kid, or even knew about before I visited Switzerland. Ticino is home to world class canyons where even professionals come from everywhere to canyon. Okay so what is canyoning exactly? It is pretty much getting down the canyon with a mix of jumping, rappelling, abseiling, sliding and a whole lot of splashing. The instructors are really experienced, even with a scaredy cat like me. They even managed to not delay everyone’s afternoon by getting me to jump off 10m rocks while listening to my terrified shrieks. It was such an adrenaline rush though we could not stop talking about it throughout the day! We went with Swiss River Adventures – they really were the best!
Switzerland’s landscape beauty is really unparalleled and being at the top of Monte San Salvatore is no different. To escape the crowds down below in Lugano, we took a cable car up to Monte San Salvatore. You can technically make a hiking day of it but the summer heat was too much for us at high noon and we chose comfort (; Also, nothing annoys me more than huffing and puffing your way to the summit of something only to find that you can drive / bus / cable car there. #truth. We had great views over Lugano and even spotting SwissMiniatur from the top!
If you like castles, UNESCO sites and wandering around in castles on a hill, there are castles to occupy you for days here. While I prefer my castle viewing activities to be from afar, you can walk straight into medieval times in the Castles of Bellinzona here in Ticino.
Full disclaimer: I can’t SUP to save my life. Tried it once in Mexico, remained a joke among my till today. But seeing the many people enjoying their time on their SUP boards on Lake Lugano made me a little jealous to say the least. Almost jealous enough to pick up a board to try it out again. Maybe next time, Switzerland!
Lavertezzo is the Instagram goals of your dreams. I’ve seen this picture a million times but never imagined the shivers that ran down my spine upon dipping my toes into the green glassy waters. Don’t be fooled by the sun and half naked bodies, the water is indeed icy cold. It did come as sweet reprieve from the hot summer days though! One dip was enough for me, and I was content lounging out on the hot stones and watching daredevils throw themselves off the famed Lavertezzo bridge, straight into the icy Verzasca River.
Remember that scene in Golden Eye where 007 hurls himself off the dam and into the abyss below? No? Oh right that was in 1995. But this was the dam where that scene was shot. It’s so deep you almost can’t see the bottom across the steep slanted sides. Between frantically catching my hat which was trying its best to run away from me in the wind, and getting the shock of my life, I was quite the sight. However it was all under control when I realized that they were actual bungy jumpers. I think I’ll take off the bungy off my bucketlist now then! Playing spectator to at least 3 jumpers, I had enough adrenaline in my system to keep me going the rest of the day!
Check out the highest and lowest points of Switzerland on this cable car ride. Ticino is full of cable car rides, thanks to all those rolling hills the land is blessed with. I’ve this thing for cable cars ever since I was a kid (not that Singapore has many hills to ascend..) so it was a nice surprise to ride these cable cars up the steep hillsides. Although I reckon you can probably hike up as well, we were not about to battle the blistering summertime rays. As to my favorite cable car rides, it’s a toss up between this one and Monte San Salvatore
Tired of Switzerland already? Or find you wallet burning a hole into itself? Don’t worry – I was there too. 4 CHF for a 500ml bottle of mineral water..(rips hair out!!) We decided to take a day trip to the famed Lake Como in Italy. I read somewhere that the Clooney has a house somewhere on Lake Como but my main goal was to eat all the gelato and all the pasta. Sorry Clooney! Italian gelato is somewhat of an obsession of mine ever since my first trip to Italy, age 17. It didn’t disappoint one bit, combined with a ton of lazing by the Lake, watching SUP-ers and picnicking like a pro in parks. It is definitely a great day trip on the side from Switzerland. Plus have I mentioned how I love the open borders of Europe? One minute you’re in Switzerland and the next, bam – Gelato Land (I mean … Italy) Can’t finish seeing Lake Como in 1 day? Fret not, stay the night at Lake Como Youth Hostel and continue your adventures back in Switzerland the next day.
This is one thing that I regret not doing more of when I was in Ticino. I’ve heard of the legendary grotto restaurants which serve homemade Ticinese goodness. We were so busy running around, we had most of our lunches and dinners on the go in our time there. Be it a packed lunch while hiking or hotel breakfasts. Having a slow meal at a traditional Grotto will definitely go straight to the top of my to-do list for my next trip to Ticino. Top tip on how to find great restaurants: If the menu is not in English > Eat There! You’ve found gold.
Shopping at Outlets is something that I’ve put behind me in my pursuit for happyness and a life of travel. But Ticino does have less crowded malls than say Milan or Florence. Usually outlet malls take up a whole day’s worth of driving and hanging out, but Foxtown is as close to cities as you can get. A quick hop and skip away, the shopping fix can be easily dealt with here before heading back to the mountains. Shopping vs Mountains? Come on, the choice is easy enough innit?
Back up the Mountains we go! You can get here by train from Lugano via cog railway to a panoramic view of Ticino as far as the eye can see. What can I say, I really do love me some views from above.
Wine lovers, don’t fret, there’s also something in it for you! If you’re fans of Merlot and all that red heady goodness, take some time to put the Ticinese vineyards into your itinerary and you won’t regret it. Combine that with a delicious meal from the traditional Grotto restaurant and you’ve got yourself an amazing day on your hands.
Last but definitely not least, this is one of my favorite initiatives by the Tourism board of Ticino (#VisitTicino). Everytime you book accommodation somewhere, be it a campsite or a 5 star hotel, you get a Ticino Ticket which allows you discounts on the cable cars and free public transport! (to get to Lavertezzo if you don’t have a car!) Definitely worth it and one of the best discount tickets ever to offset the crazy prices Switzerland is so (in)famous for (;
Is Ticino on your bucketlist yet?
We spent slightly over 4 days in Ticino and had an absolute blast, from 360 degree views while hiking to swims in the lake, to adrenaline rushes while canyoning. Ticino definitely has opened up a whole other side to the Switzerland that we hear so much of over social media and hand me down experiences. And I can’t wait to return again one day! Like this article or know someone who loves traveling? Sharing it would mean a lot to me!
This post was brought to you with the help of #visitTicino, but all opinions and musings are as always, authentically my own, like you could expect any less (;