Off the back of recommendations from my well-traveled friends, like Paris and Rome, Ticino tends to sneak into your heart. So obviously, I’m enthused to relish in what they call the paradise of the alps. An ever-unfolding love story of wavering palm trees, medieval grottos, and browned butter ravioli.
Day 1: Swisstainable road to Ticino (via Basel)
Rhine and shine
After spending a rejuvenating night at the Jakarta Hotel in Amsterdam, I’m ready to venture out. It’s 7.30 am when I arrive at the Central Station. Coffee in hand, I enter the train direction, Basel. In my mind, traveling by train is sustainable and hassle-free. It’s also why, over the last decade, Switzerland has become synonymous with its sustainable travel scene. I would highly advise getting fixed tickets instead of flexible ones. Unfortunately, many travelers with the latter option must leave the train due to an AC malfunction. Bringing an old-fashioned hand-held fan on board for those hot days will also make your trip more enjoyable.
I use public transport as my only form of transportation. Besides traveling sustainably by train, boat, or bus, the Swiss Travel Pass gives you access to over 480 museums and exhibitions. For more information & pricing, click here.
About 7 hours later, Basel appears. As a culture-centric city, it managed to find its unique way to remain tradition-conscious and open-minded simultaneously. Any visitor can tell the city went to great lengths to preserve the architectural integrity of its historical past. The urban excitement is astonishing.
I step inside the charming lobby of the Gaia Hotel, classified as a Green Living Hotel. Sweet summer hues decorate my room, equipped with a comfy bed and a matching desk. To my surprise, the minibar and the bright, airy bathroom only contain eco products. Next, an authentic wooden boat called the Weidling takes me to Le Rhin Blue Restaurant. After a plunge in the Rhin, a delicious dinner and a Spritz accompany the first sunset on Swiss ground.
Must do: floating along the Rhine on the gentle current. A ‘Wickelfisch swim bag keeps your clothes and valuables dry. You can also use the lockers in the changing rooms of Le Thin Blue.
As the old town awakes to unblemished blue skies the following morning, I pause and take a sip of my freshly pressed orange juice like a guest in an eye-catching family home. The train to Ticino will arrive any minute now.
Day 2: Swims in Osogna & Castles in Bellinzona
Travelers often describe Ticino as elegant, sun-drenched, and laid-back. So, all set to match their enthusiasm, I arrive at the train station. Nestled up against Italy, the southernmost canton of Switzerland shares striking similarities with its neighboring country – except for the euro coin.
‘Benvenuta in Bellinzona’. Even words sound like a song here in the capital of Ticino. My home for the week, the pink-hued Hotel & Spa Internationale, lies conveniently opposite the station. Homemade pizza Funghi at Ristorante Croce Federale is the first thing on the agenda. Italian cuisine and Italian style it’s all spectacular. Don’t you agree?
Natural pools with waterfall views
The pathway to the pozzon in Osogna is infused with Mediterranean accents and yellow stucco walls embraced by wisteria and grapevines. In about 20 minutes, I arrive at the naturally shaped stones surrounding the waterfall. Locals of Ticino and visitors from around the world immerse in its flora’s stillness and the crystal-clear waters of the Nála stream. Sub-tropical natural pools and vigorous mountain tops. That’s Osogna in a nutshell.
Refreshed after dinner at the hotel, I take in the 360° views from the battlement of the 13th-century fortress Castelgrande. One chestnut tree, in particular, catches my undivided attention. It’s planted majestically in the middle of the courtyard. Then, swept up by its medieval history, romance, and intrigue, I return to my hotel. The three castles of Bellinzona are lit dreamlike in the gathering darkness.
Day 3: Botanical Garden + Wine tasting in Morcote
A glistering morning sun washes over Bellinzona when I take the early train to Lugano. I see why those who walk through the palm-lined promenades speak fondly of this lake city. Excited, I hop on a boat to Morcote, considered one of the most beautiful villages in Switzerland. Pastel-colored facades stand out against the bright blue summer sky, and gracefully arched restaurant windows reflect the remaining shards of light.
Amidst the Vines and Wavering palms
The wind catches Mount Arbostora’s coat of lemon trees as I make my way to the entrance of Parco Scherrer. In the first place, the Garden of Wonder extends over seven levels. It homes exotic plants, Mexican pines, and terraces covered in cypresses. Not omitting tranquil Greek pools, an Egyptian temple, and a Siamese tea house. All in the company of oriental sculptures and architectural masterpieces. Textile merchant and art amateur Hermann Arthur Scherrer dreamt up this opulent extravaganza in 1930. His goal? To savor his Mediterranean and Asian travels. Many, including me, will agree he grandly succeeded. However, given the steep 1,5 hour hike in the middle of a hot day, I admit I could have done better with my outfit choice. Sandals and a maxi dress may look cute on a picture but are not hiking appropriate 😉
Ticino’s organic & biodynamic Viticulture
After a pit stop at the Church of Santa Maria del Sasso, I arrive at the Tenuta Castello Di Morcote for a wine tasting. As I am led towards the wine cellar, I feel inspired by their organic and biodynamic agriculture principles. In addition, the 150-hectare family-owned estate is located between the Pre-Alps and the Po Valley, offering 360° views overlooking lake Lugano. I marvel over the 15th-century Morcote castle as I sip their Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. The fresh and fragrant Bianca Maria is my favorite, but focaccia bread served with the wines deserves a trademark on its own.
Where to Stay: the winery exploits an adult-only hotel found around the corner. Relais Castello di Morcote is elegantly decorated with natural and refined materials. The views are just as spectacular.
Day 4: Discovering Bavona Valley + Foroglio
Quitetude in Foroglio
Life slows down at Val Bavona. Nearby the 110-meter high Foroglio waterfall gazes over the rockiest valley in the Alpine region. The summer breeze brushes past my skin as I follow the road from the bus stop toward the archaic stone houses. The remnants of the 16th century are seasonally inhabited and deprived of electricity. However, there is the opportunity to wander through Bavona’s valleys, hike past waterfalls, and swing through oak tree forests pierced by pristine water streams. At the foot of the waterfall, clouds of mist soften the edges of the bucolic scene painted before my eyes.
Day 5: Monte Generoso Hike + Dolce Vita in Lugano
The cog railway soars through the mountain’s rugged plateau carrying passengers from Capolago to the summit. The valley mist ebbs over the dewy meadows as cowbells ring. Monte Generoso majestically awakens to a hot summer day among the hills and forests of pines. Greeted by a couple of mountain goats, I make my way to the 1704 m top. Its windswept plateaus stretch from the Apennines to the Alps, allowing astonishing views of the lakes of northern Italy and the Gran Paradiso chain. A panoramic show-off from the Jungfrau to the Gotthard Massif and from Monte Rosa to the Matterhorn.
Lunch is served at Fiore di Pietra, well-known for its impeccable cuisine with views of the staggering landscapes. I return to Lugano for a stroll when the sun dips beneath the horizon. Nibbling on my Cannolo, I inhale the last bits of its brimming vibrancy. A thunderstorm strikes that night, ending my Ticino trip with a bang and a desire for more.
*This trip is part of MySwitzerland.nl and (Swisstainable/Hey Honeyguide/#toeaanzwitserland) sponsored program. I received compensation as a thank you for my participation. This post reflects my personal opinion about the experiences provided by the sponsors.