Days: 5 - 7
June 17 - 19
What We Had
Sunny and Warm
High: 72°
Low:52°
Averages
High: 74°
Low: 59°
Currently
CHF
Conversion rate on
our visit:
CHF1.00 = $.9625
Lugano
                       
   
  Overview
Days 5-7

Days 5-7
   
Luzern Engelberg Lugano Murren Lausanne Bern
•  Italy Inside Switzerland

•  Boat Ride To and Hike Back
From Gandria
•  Castelgrande
•  Gathering of our group
•  Gotthard Pass
•  Verzasca Valley

•  Breakfast at the hotel
•  Grotto Redorta
•  Manora Restaurant
•  Ristorante Soave 10

•  Hotel Walter au Lac

Boat to Gandria
  What We Learned
Italy Inside Switzerland

The first picture above is a long distance shot of the opposite shore of Lake Lugano. The second picture is a close-up view of the circled area. The large building in the middle is a casino. The casino is located in Italy. The third picture is a portion of a map of Lake Lugano. Note the area clearly marked as Italy. This is the reason the casino is located where it is. This is unusual for Switzerland. There are a number of "islands" inside Switzerland. There's another one, for example, in the north of Switzerland, that is actually part of Germany. Go figure.

  What We Saw
Gotthard Pass

Our route to Laguno took us over the Gotthard Massif via the Gotthard pass. We were initially told that the pass was closed and that we would make the transition via the Gotthard auto tunnel, but the pass opened up at the last minute. What luck! We left the clouds and rain behind. As we approached the highest point on the pass, blue skies and snowy ground cover greeted us. As you can see from the pictures the summit is at 6,860 feet. Clearly not the highest altitude we saw on the trip, but one of the prettiest. Like a bunch of kids we played in the snow, i.e., snow angels, snow balls and took lots of pictures.

Want to know more about the Gotthard Pass?

There are a couple of pictures of the Medieval road originally used to traverse the pass. We were told it took more than five days to use the original road and that this pass was (and is) one of the main routes between Germany and Italy.

As I researched the map, I noticed that the auto tunnel (we would have taken) ran directly under our path at many points. It would have been a much faster passage, but what we would have missed!

We also passed the entrance and exit for the new 35 mile long high speed Gotthard Base (train) Tunnel that just opened. While it is in use, the traffic load will take some time to build. Fabian believes Switzerland can only do so much to get the trains (everything through the new tunnel goes by train) loaded and unloaded and that Germany and Italy are going to have to set up stations to maximize the flow. Interesting! Switzerland builds the tunnel but expects Germany and Italy to make it work?

Want to know more about the new Gotthard Base Tunnel?

  What We Saw
Castelgrande

The next stop on our way to Lugano was at Castelgrande, Bellinzona. We walked around a bit and then watched a video about the castle and the history of the area highlighting why it's so important. From Wikipedia:
Bellinzona has always occupied an important geographic location in the Swiss Alps. It is situated a few kilometres south of Arbedo, where the Ticino and Moesa meet. Several key Alpine pass routes, connecting northern to southern Europe, including the Nufenen, St. Gotthard, Lukmanier and San Bernardino, all converge in the area around Bellinzona making it a key trading center.

We didn't spend a lot of time here. None the less, we became well aware of the significants of this region of Switzerland. One more important point...we did take a moment for gelato.
Want to know more about the Castles of Bellinzona?

Castelgrande
Bellinzona
  What We Saw
Verzasca Valley

The final two stops on the way to Lugano were just for fun. The first is to get some pictures of the Ponte dei salti (translate to bridge jump) a funky little bridge over the River Verzasca. The bridge dates back to the seventeenth century and is built on the site of an ancient Roman bridge. It was partially destroyed in 1868 and rebuilt in 1960.

Our second stop was the Verzasca Dam. The 220 meter (721 feet) dam is used primarily for flood control. The dam (fourth largest in Europe) was built between 1960-1965. But what the dam is most famous for is being a star in the opening scene of the 1995 James Bond Movie GoldenEye. In fact you can "recreate" the scene by jumping yourself...all summer long on Saturday or Sunday at 1:00 pm. They also do costume jumps and full moon jumps if you need another reason to give it a try. Make your reservation at the number below.
Post Cards

Verzasca Valley
Tel: +41 79 6 007 007
      
  What We Saw
Boat Ride To and Hike Back From Gandria

Today was basically a free day in Laguno. We decided to take a ferry ride to Gandria and then hike back from there. There's not a whole lot to say. The boat ride lasted about a half hour giving us a nice view of Lugano and the coast. We headed south at first and then turned north to Gandria. The ferry boats go around the Swiss side of the lake in a clockwise (the long way) or counter clockwise (the shorter way...the one we took) direction to a number of the small towns on the lake. Some in our group stopped off at some of the towns and then reboarded the boat to continue around. We just traveled up to Gandria and got off for the walk back.

We stopped for a small snack at the restaurant of the Hotel Elvezia al Lago. This was the same place that we saw Ben, Geoffrey, Rebecca and Josh (only Ben and Geoffrey can be seen in the picture). Nothing special but we spent a VERY relaxing hour there.

The hike was an easy one with some uphill (not much really), some nice views of the lake and a pleasant way to spend the couple of hours on a beautiful day.

Boat Ride To and Hike Back From Gandria
  What We Saw
Gathering of our group

Our free day ended (actually we played cards after this gathering) with roof top gathering put on by Fabian and Robyn. A little wine and some treats. We all talked about what we had done on our free day and on the trip thus far. A great time to catch up.

   
  Where We Ate
Grotto Redorta

We stopped for lunch in the small town of Sonogno. We discovered this stop was an experiment. No tour had every gone to this restaurant for a meal. So it was trial by fire (so to speak). We all agreed that the experiment was a success. The restaurant is lovely and the found was delicious. They served a platter of cheeses and meats to start (which frankly sort of looked like a fish) followed by the main course which was fresh trout. AT our table the only one that appeared to know how to fillet the fish was Fabian. He showed us how it was done and with little effort we enjoyed a very tasty meal.

Grotto Redorta
Via Redorta 8
6637 Sonogno
Tel: +41 91 746 13 34
      
  Where We Ate
Ristorante Soave 10

At the end of a long day we all gathered together for a pizza dinner. There were more than a half dozen choices on the menu. The service was good and so was the pizza. While the food was good, it was just too much following our yummy lunch.

There was one other thing of note. The table used by the larger of the group was cut from a Kauri wood log which was more than 3,000 years old. I have read stories about such lumber but this was the first time I actually saw a piece. Very interesting.

Ristorante Soave 10
via Soave 10
6900 Lugano
Tel: 091 922 01 70
FAX: 091 922 07 56
      
  Where We Ate
Manora Restaurant

Since we skipped lunch (other than the same treat on our hike) we decided to have an early meal at the Manor store in their Monora Restaurant. The food, served buffet style, was very good at a reasonable price.

Here's what Rick's website has to say:
Manora is an enticing self-service restaurant offering affordable, healthy food, i.e., a salad bar, pasta bar, dessert bar, and lots more. Choose to sit inside or out on the covered terrace (with a playground). It's on Salita Chiattone, up the stairs ((100 yards) from the bottom of the train-station funicular; during business hours, you can also enter via the bridge from the third floor of the Manor department store (12 17-SF main dishes, free Wi-Fi, Mon Sat 7:30 22:00, Sun 10:00 22:00, last orders at 21:00).

Manora Restaurant
Salita M. e A. Chiattone 10
6900 Lugano
Tel: +41 91 912 76 82
  Where We Ate
Breakfast at the hotel

Before we left Lugano we had breakfast at the hotel. Typical European breakfast. It's almost like there is a rule book for breakfasts in Europe. Croissants, rolls, cold cuts, hard boiled eggs, juices, jellies, etc. Filling but not memorable, if breakfast is your special meal.

Breakfast at the hotel
   
  Where We Stayed
Hotel Walter au Lac

This was one of the nicest hotels in which we stayed. Right along the water front with a balcony. However, since we didn't spend much time in our room, we weren't able to take much advantage of the balcony. As you can see the inside of the room was very comfortable. We enjoyed it a great deal.

Post Cards

Hotel Walter au Lac
Piazza Rezzonico 7
Lugano, 6900
Tel: 011 41 91 922 74 25
            
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