After a very relaxing stay in Dijon and Zurich with the parents, I finally met up with the friend who has made Switzerland her temporary home. This is the same girl who hiked Ireland with me 😀 4 other friends joined us for this trip!
We spent 4 days in Ticino, and another 4 days in the Bernese Oberland. Days of sunny weather were reserved for hiking and touristy stuff were done when the weather wasn’t so pleasant.
I only realised I had been to Lugano before when we went to the Foxtown Factory Stores. I was standing in a shop and I recognised the layout lol. But anyway, we only made a pitstop in the past (that was a good…. 5 years ago I think?) which explains why I can barely remember anything.
Our accommodation was quite a character in itself. It’s perched on a cliff facing lake Maggiore and the decor revolved around Dea’s (our host) travels in India. The views were stunning especially from the outdoor bbq in the garden. Granted, it’s not the cleanest or most comfortable place to sleep in (a friend found bugs under his covers and there were many garden lizards) but we (i.e. the girl and I) had no problems with it- I’m not so sure about the rest though 😛
Hiking in Switzerland can be made easier with chairlifts and cablecars. We use these for our downhill journeys but if you are really too tired to continue hiking you can also sit them uphill. The most economical way to gain access to these amenities would be to obtain the Ticino Discovery Card. This 87 chf card also includes bus and train rides within Ticino.
Ascona is the nearest town from our accommodation. The piazza facing the lake is lined with many hotels and restaurants. The friend told us that many tourists are actually Swiss from other parts of the country who come here for the warmer weather.
Our first hike was in the Bavona Valley where we passed a couple of abandoned villages with stone houses (though some were converted into holiday homes). Our final destination was the Casacata di Foroglio, a waterfall in a village called Foroglio. We had intended to hike further but unfortunately the friend’s shoe fell apart! Well, we were tired anyway 😉 There’s a very pleasant slow food restaurant in the village which is popular with hikers, travellers and locals. It faces the waterfall- a perfect backdrop for delicious foods.
Be sure to take that 10 min hike to the base of the waterfall!
Fortunately we managed to hitchhike our way back to a bus stop. We sat in a school bus with small kids who came for an excursion. One of the kids stayed in Singapore for 6 years before returning back to Switzerland! Small world indeed.
One product that the Swiss are mad about is Ovomaltine (say: ovo-mal-ti-nee). Here in Singapore it’s called Ovaltine but that was actually due to a misspelling in its trademark registration in the UK! In the Co-op (a swiss supermarket), you can find a whole range of products like Ovomaltine chocolate (LOVE THIS BUY IT), cornflakes, spread (think malty chocolate spread), chocolate wafer bars and powder. In Macs they are selling ovomaltine macflurry- delicious of course.
Our second hike brought us to the Cardada Cimetta where we had our usual packed lunch. The panorama of Ascona and the Lake Maggiore was just gorgeous. Utilised our pass for a chairlift up to the peak, and chairlift and cablecar ride down to Orselina, Lucarno. If hiking is not for you, you can sit the chairlift and cablecar to the peak instead.
One of the famous confections in the area is the panettone. I had one from our neighbourhood bakery- Al Porto. It’s brioche-like- buttery and soft bread- with bits of dried fruit like candied orange and raisins.
On another rainy day we visited Bellinzona which is famous for its medieval castles that are UNESCO world heritage sites. Because of the rain we only visited one, the Castlegrande. Had a delicious lunch in Grotto Castelgrande. I had Perch Fillets with almonds and a side of Polenta, both local specialties. The polenta had a wholemeal, nutty taste. Fish was good too- soft texture, clear taste.
Before you leave, don’t forget to pick up some local chestnut related products. I got chestnut honey and chestnut honey biscotti. I can’t get enough of the biscotti. It’s crunchy yet not tooth-breakingly so unlike so many honey-based biscuits and the musky sweetness of the chestnut honey is evident. Perfect with a long black!