June 19, 2012

Gandria, Switzerland- an Italian style town

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:43 pm by newsurroundings

Here’s a really nice excursion from Lugano that doesn’t take very long, requires minimal effort, and really delivers the scenery.  The village of Gandria clings to the edge of Lake Lugano near the Swiss-Italian border.  Gandria is only a few kilometers from Lugano and you can take a boat from the center of Lugano or walk the path from Castagnola, a little village just east of Lugano.  As you wander around the small village along the narrow walkways, you will feel like you are in Italy.It’s worth taking the boat at least one way because you’ll get a view of Gandria that you can’t get otherwise.

Gandria, Switzerland

The olive-themed walk from Gandria to Castagnola (Sentiero di Gandria) is a well-marked, wide, stone path with hotels and water-front cafes along the way and a roped-off area for swimming and sun-bathing.

An inviting place to take a break and cool off.

Learning all about olive trees on the Sentiero di Gandria.

It took us about 45 minutes to walk from Gandria to Castagnola.  It is a beautiful walkway and the view of Lake Lugano and the surrounding mountains is amazing.



June 3, 2012

A Weekend in the Cinque Terre

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:59 am by newsurroundings

It’s hard to believe that places I used to read about and imagine visiting someday are now so close that I can just go for the weekend.  The Cinque Terre in Italy is one such place.  It is a beautiful stretch of Italian coast line where five colorful villages are built into the hillsides.  From north to south, there is Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manorola, and Riomaggiore.

the Italian Riviera

Since Bryan was away last weekend, Erin and I planned another mother-daughter trip.  The good thing about traveling with her is that we almost always have the same interests and agree on how much time to spend sight-seeing (or in this case, hiking) and when to just relax and do nothing except maybe sit on the beach and talk and make up for being apart for the last 6 months.

I prefer not to drive in other countries when I don’t have to, so we took the train from Lugano to Milan and then from Milan to Levanto, a town just north of the Cinque Terre.  We arrived at the train station in Levanto and, armed with our gps on walking mode, were determined to save money and walk to our hotel.  Neither one of us is good with directions (I guess it runs in the family) and we couldn’t figure out which way to even begin walking, so we quickly gave in and took a taxi.  Levanto is a resort town with a beach, nice shops and restaurants, and best of all, away from the crowds of the Cinque Terre, yet only a few minutes away by train.  The trip was easy and we arrived mid-afternoon, plenty of time left in the day to walk on the beach (no soft sand here though-the beaches are very pebbly) and explore the town.


We got up early the following morning, had breakfast at the hotel, and then took the boat to the furthest village, Riomaggore.  We stopped at the villages along the way, so we were able to view each one from the water.  I definitely recommend a boat ride along the coast for the best views and picture-taking.  The towns are spaced just a few kilometers from each other and are made  up of colorful buildings clustered together and are connected by hiking trails and a regional train line.  The walk from Riomaggiore to Manarola is the easiest walk and the one most traveled, so we started with it.  It’s called the Via dell’Amore, a sort of “lover’s lane” because of all the amorous graffiti along the way (even inscribed on the cactus leaves).  We spent the most time in Manorola, where we walked on the upper trails, away from the crowds, surrounded by vineyards, olive trees, fruit trees (mainly lemon), and beautiful views in all directions.


Via dell’Amore

the walk between villages

The upper trails- among vineyards and fruit trees

The path to Corniglia was closed due to flooding in 2011, so we decided we would skip seeing this village up close.  It is high on the hill and you can take the train and then a bus will take you up, or you can walk up many, many steps if you so desire.  We did not.  Our feet were pretty sore at this point, so we just took the train to Vernazza and sat  on a rock in the harbor and people-watched for a while.



The next day we went to Monterosso, which completed our visit of the five lands.  It’s the most touristy and has a beach and lots of hotels.  After a couple of hours, we went back to Levanto and spent the rest of the day there.  Of course, food is always a big part of our holidays, and we did sample a few good dishes.  We had pizza a couple of times, and maybe we just didn’t go to the right places, but we were both disappointed.  After living in Lugano for all of one month, we have become pizza critics and it just didn’t compare with the pizza we’ve had here.  But, I should also add that the cost didn’t compare either.  We thought the food was very inexpensive in Italy.  You could get a whole pizza for 5 euros!  Erin had one of the regional specialties, trofie, a pasta with potato in it that is made especially for pesto.  She has become a fairly adventurous eater and ordered the mixed fish one night and really liked it.  My favorite meal was a fish lasagna served at a little out-of-the-way inn in Levanto.  We had gelato more times than necessary and that is always good.  I brought home a couple of items from the region- olive oil and pesto- two of my favorite things.

beach at Monterosso

making eye contact with dinner

You could “do” the Cinque Terre in a day if really pressed for time, but it sure is nice to have time to linger.