Quick note: hopefully, I’ll include pictures in this post soon.
I’ve been spending the last days of my summer here in Switzerland taking a much-needed vacation. Due to some unforeseen circumstances requiring me to make some changes to my master’s thesis, it’s not a complete vacation, but it’s been very relaxing and rejuvenating. I’ve even found myself able to think much more clearly than I could last week, which is a bit surprising.
Anyway, tomorrow the traveling portion of my vacation comes to an end. I’ve spent the last two days in Ticino, the canton which covers almost all of the Italian part of Switzerland (and the only canton where Italian is the only official language). I spent most of yesterday in Locarno, riding the funicular (or incline for those of you from Pittsburgh) up to Orselina (home to the Madonna del Sasso sanctuary) and then a cable car and chairlift to Cardada/Cimetta. Cimetta is more than a mile high, and offers a beautiful view of Locarno and Lago Maggiore (a lake bordering Locarno and extending into Italy, because let’s face it, what Swiss town would be complete without a bordering lake?) as well as other peaks of the Alps.
Having grown up in Southern California, I’ve always been partial to the ocean rather than the mountains, but there was something simply magical about the chairlift to Cimetta that really took my breath away. There are few things like experiencing the air rushing through the chairlift car, breathing fresh mountain air, and watching as more of the turquoise lake and distant towns come into view. The city of Locarno was also nice, with its narrow, twisting streets, colorful buildings, and various piazzas, but that ride on the chairlift to Cimetta is one that I will never forget.
Today I spent most of the day in Bellinzona, the capital of Ticino. As you might guess from the title of this post, Bellinzona has become one of my favorite cities. Like most cities in Switzerland, it’s rather small, with fewer than 18,000 people, but it’s a beautiful city. There are three castles quite close to each other which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the pride of the city. Today I got the chance to see two of them – the Castelgrande and the Castello Montebello – and they were stunning.
The Castelgrande has a wall which extends way out into the city, with the top of the wall covered in a beautiful lawn of grass. You can walk along the lawn on top, or walk inside a dimly-lit tunnel in the wall. Both were quite fascinating experiences. In addition, there were two tall towers from which you could get a great view of the city. And the history of the place is amazing! It’s been around since at least the 1st century BC, and was fought over by the Milanese and the Swiss, among others.
And of course, Bellinzona’s food is cheaper than Zurich (well, pretty much every Swiss city is cheaper than Zurich) and delicious. I’ve also found the people to be a bit friendlier than in Zurich – even though much fewer of them speak English, they are a bit warmer and don’t mind striking up a conversation. I even had a lovely conversation in a cafe today with an old Italian Swiss man who spoke to me in German (though having only studied German for a couple months, I still have a long way to go), and I was able to pick up a bit of Italian just by listening to him talk to another random guy and the bartender behind the counter. Of course, things are a bit more disorganized than in the German part of Switzerland (I’ve personally found that the German Swiss are extremely attentive to even the smallest of details), but for some reason I feel very comfortable here in Bellinzona.
In any case, I hope tomorrow is as good a day as the others have been, and I’ll definitely miss beautiful Ticino – especially Bellinzona. Till next time.