Then let’s keep driving the RV! Below you will find our report from the next stage of the trip – the canton of Ticino, where, in addition to mountain landscapes, we saw two interesting towns: Lugano and Bellinzona.
Our campervan journey in Switzerland continues! After visiting St Gallen and Bad Ragaz, we headed north toward Italy, and the closer we got to the border the more Italian it got. Finally, we reached the largest Italian-speaking city in Switzerland, Lugano, with a population of more than 60,000. The next destination in this part of Switzerland was Bellinzona, the capital of the canton of Ticino, with its medieval fortifications.
Our plan was as follows: From Bad Ragaz we drove straight to Lugano, and planned one day to get there and explore the city. We had hoped that we might also be able to see Bellinzona on the same day, but unfortunately we were too optimistic. Again, it turned out that the trip between towns took us significantly more than the planned 2 hours, and in Lugano we lost a lot of time looking for a parking space for the camper.
It was hard to maneuver in the tight streets, and the closer to the center the worse it got. Eventually, we managed to find a place for passenger cars, where we squeezed the camper in. Between towns, we were therefore forced to stop for the night, so we stopped at a roadside self-catering campsite – Area Sosta Tamaro (you can read more about this place in our post about campsites in Switzerland). No luxuries, one night stay, breakfast in the morning and then on the road to Bellinzona :)
And it is about the impressions of these two localities that we would like to write to you today. About two almost Italian villages, one squeezed between hills, on a lake, and the other more historic with castle ruins. We visited both of them in rather unfavorable weather conditions: these were the coldest and rainiest days, which probably affected our impressions and, unfortunately, the quality of the photos.
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The city is beautifully located: on the lake of the same name, between mountains reaching up to more than 1,300 meters. Unfortunately, we were not able to fully enjoy the views due to inclement weather, and the visibility was certainly not dreamlike.
We did not plan to stay here for a long time, there were still many interesting regions in Switzerland ahead of us, so we decided not to stay an extra night on site. Despite the bad weather, we decided to set off on foot towards the historic part of the city. The narrow, tight streets are closed to traffic and fully reflect the Italian atmosphere of the town.
Lugano is regarded not only as a typical Italian city, but also a city full of greenery. There are many gardens and parks abounding with countless trees and flowers, with the Parco Civico at the forefront, considered the green lungs of Lugano. It is a park located right on the shore of the lake, full of flowers, statues and fountains. We are sure that with a little more favorable weather, many people spend their leisure time here family and active, among the greenery.
Our exploration of the city was limited to walking the aforementioned streets, looking into churches we came across along the way, admiring a few squares and strolling along the promenade, along the shore of the lake.
Finally, we had to climb stairs along the tracks of the now-defunct railroad. Climbing with the stroller was an ordeal, but it was the fastest way to get to the top, where our camper was waiting.
What impression did Lugano make on us? First of all, we were surprised by the small number of tourists on the streets, the general peace and quiet. What was missing here were speeding scooters and noisy Italians to complete the vibe of the city. We expected more Italian touches and even more vegetation. It is likely that in better weather conditions the city flourishes and is vibrant, but we were not able to check it out. We definitely enjoyed the lake and the surrounding hills the most – surely the views from there must be unearthly! :)
In both guidebooks and travel reports, you can read about the picturesque yet strategic location of this village. Unfortunately, here, too, we did not have the opportunity to enjoy views of the surrounding mountains – the clouds were so low that they obscured the tops of the nearest hills, not to mention the further, higher ones.
Unlike in Lugano, in Bellinzona we had a fairly specific plan and knew in advance what we wanted to see. And fortunately, the main target was not the viewpoints, but the historic sites in the village itself.Please define valid width and height attributes for remote images. This will also optimize the loading time of the remote panorama.
Bellinzona’s most important sites are the ruins of 3 castles: Castelgrande, Montebello, and Sasso Corbaro, and we decided to focus on the first two (we knew that moving without walking we would not be able to go to all three).
The first, and oldest, Castelgrande, which dates back as far as the 1st century BC, is located in the central part of the city. Back in the days of the Roman Empire, there was a growing awareness of the strategic location of the pass, so a fortress was erected here to protect against the Germanic tribes.
Another one, the Montebello Castle, was built in the 13th century, and at the end of the 15th century another castle, the Sasso Corbaro Castle, was designed away from the other two structures (it is located the highest of the three castles). You can learn about the detailed history of the facilities on this page, and we will focus on the practical tour.
As mentioned, Castelgrande is located in the center of Bellinzona, and this is where we directed our first steps. The weather again did not favor us, the rain broke up in earnest, but here we found shelter from it. Interestingly, the facility has a fairly modern elevator that will take you up to the top, to the castle (entrance from Piazza del Sole). Visiting parts of the castle is free (the courtyard and walls), but you have to pay to enter the tower or the museum. There is also a restaurant in the castle.
To get to Montebello Castle you have to climb some stairs. With less rainy weather, it might even be enjoyable! We, however, did not give up and reached this castle as well (it is also possible to get there by car or even by public transport – the stop is on the other side of the castle). There is a fee to enter Monebello, but the approach to the walls and the views of the surrounding area alone make it worth the climb.
We will not write to you: “go to one castle, and to the other – not necessarily”. Both are worth seeing, and even if you are not interested in fortresses, it is worth taking the challenge if only for the views alone :) And we are writing this after we ourselves ended up in poor weather, but we still saw the city from above, from two different perspectives, and we are convinced that it is even more beautiful in sunny weather.
In Bellinzona, we also spent some time walking the streets of the old part of town admiring the Renaissance and Art Nouveau townhouses (the Collegiate Church of Santi Pietro e Stefano is also worth a look!), and we stopped for an almost Italian ice cream, but the endless rain soon convinced us to return. Although we spent a good few hours in the city anyway.
In terms of weather, these were the two worst days during our camper trip. We visited both Lugano and Bellinzone in the rain, but that doesn’t mean we had spoiled days. As a rule, we are well prepared for rain, so the weather doesn’t make us let go, but only takes away some of the pleasure.
Nevertheless, we remember both places very well. On the one hand, Italy’s Lugano with its picturesque views, and on the other, Bellinzona with its impressive fortresses – there’s something for everyone!
See also our entry: Switzerland – what to see, TOP 5 most beautiful places.
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