Lugano or Locarno?

Old Dec 20th, 2018, 04:29 PM
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Lugano or Locarno?

My wife and I plan to spend 16 days in Switzerland in September 2019. A few years ago we spent a couple of days on Lake Como (in Varenna) and enjoyed ourselves immensely. So on this trip we'd like to stop by Lake Lugano (Lugano?) or Lake Maggiore (Locarno?) for two days.

Does anyone have any advice on which lake to chose for views, boat rides, and walking? Can anyone suggest what town to stay in while there? I just named the big ones and a small town on the Italian side might be better. Also, we'll be traveling by car.

Thanks for any advice!
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Old Dec 20th, 2018, 05:46 PM
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We stayed in Lugano (3 nights) and day tripped from there. Loved Hotel Dante at the bottom of the funicular: https://www.hotel-luganodante.com. Pricey (as is all of Switzerland) but central and a great hotel.
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Old Dec 20th, 2018, 07:05 PM
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From Locarno (consider staying in Ascona), you could enjoy the views from Cimetta, hike part/all of the Valle Verzasca; take the train partway into the Centovalli and back; enjoy a lovely lake-front promenade and perhaps a morning market, visit the beautiful Isole di Brissago …

From Lugano you could go to an hike down Monte San Salvatore to Mercote; roam around Lugano; walk the Sentiero dell’Olivo and visit Gandria; see a small collection of works by Arp, visit an interesting castle; admire a lovely lakefront from the strip of land beside a busy traffic-filled road, walk around arcaded streets now lined by shops….

And each has some wonderfully restored churches. And of course you can easily day trip from one to the other.

No need for a car for any of the things I just mentioned.

Hope that helps!
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Old Dec 20th, 2018, 09:48 PM
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Lugano has a beautiful and large city park along the lake with absolutely no traffic. It also has the newly restored and lovely cultural district. We go to Lugano three or four times a year and always enjoy it.
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Old Dec 20th, 2018, 09:49 PM
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did that come up bold faced? wasn't intentional
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Old Dec 21st, 2018, 08:08 AM
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Both, Lugano and Locarno are OK as long as your hotel is not situated in the middle of traffic noise.

For Lugano, you may check Castagnola, Aldesago, Ruvigliana, Suvigliana or even Gandria. Other nice places above Lake Lugano are Carona, Cademario, Serpiano or - tiny and rather isolated - Pugerna. At the Italian side of the lake, you may check Oria, Albogasio, San Mamete or - high above the lake - the isolated Hotel Funicolare at Lanzo.
Morcote is nice, but rather overpriced. Porto Ceresio and Ponte Tresa-Lavena are not too appealing IMO.

Locarno has the mildest climate of Switzerland. Nicest area: Orselina and Brione (both above the city and the lake). The historic center of Ascona is nice, but rather touristy. Ronco and the hotels above Brissago are more silent and offer fine views over the lake. The historic center of Cannobio is nice too. The hotels of Trarego-Viggiona offer panoramic views over the lake and a calm rural athmosphere.
The hotels along the Eastern shore of the lake are often too close to the road and the railway line (international freight trains during the whole night). The villages above (much more afternoon/evening sun than the other side of the lake) are fine: Piazzogna, Vairano, Ronco-Gerra or even the isolated hotel Sass da Grum.
There are tons of hiking trails on and above both lakes, a bit better signmarked in Switzerland than in Italy.

Boat rides: many departures (even evening cruises) between Lugano - Gandria - Melide - Morcote, only 2 daily boats up to Porlezza, Capolago and Ponte Tresa.
Similar for Locarno: many departures from Locarno to Ascona - Brissago Islands - Brissago, only few to San Nazzaro - Gerra or to Cannobio - Luino - Intra - Stresa.

Medieval Bellinzona with the 3 famous castles is equidistant from both, Lugano and Locarno.
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Old Dec 21st, 2018, 08:42 AM
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We are big fans of Lago Maggiore and staying in Stresa. Not sure what you meant by Lake Maggiore (Lucarno).. It's just a small hop on the train from Milan (which is one of our favorite cities in Europe, despite all the dumb went-there-for-ten-minutes-and-didn't-like-it blogs). Stresa is a delightful small town, you have three islands to explore, plus ferries all over the lake to other towns, and mountains above. Lovely.
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Old Dec 21st, 2018, 10:01 AM
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ditto to what StCirq says about Stresa and Lake Maggiore - the three Borromean Islands just off shore each has a different delight:

https://www.google.com/search?q=borr...w=1269&bih=614

Also Italy is much cheaper than Switzerland.
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Old Dec 21st, 2018, 04:50 PM
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Originally Posted by WeisserTee
Lugano has a beautiful and large city park along the lake with absolutely no traffic.
True enough! But I actually liked the waterfront I mentioned better -- it's SW of the park, and even though it's right beside a busy road, it has some lovely modern sculptures scattered among benches and seemed, to me, a very pleasant place to stroll. YMMV.


In case it isn't already clear, the lake upon which Locarno / Ascona sits is Maggiore and the three islands (one being Isole di Brissago, which I mentioned upthread) can be seen from either Stressa or Locarno. Some of these things were not at all clear in the various guidebooks and online resources I used when planning my time in Switzerland!

Last edited by kja; Dec 21st, 2018 at 05:26 PM.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2018, 02:55 AM
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In order to make things clear:

Locarno is the northernmost city of Lake Maggiore with the mildest climate of the whole lake. The average temperature is 13-14 degrees centigrade/56 degrees Fahrenheit, the climate mediterranean (with lemon trees, palm trees, rice fields in the Magadino plain nearby). The whole area lives from all year tourism since more than 130 years. Other industries are much more important, however. The place we call "Locarno" counts 55 thousand inhabitans, spread over the municipalities of Locarno, Orselina, Brione, Mergoscia, Minusio, Muralto, Losone, Ascona, Ronco, Brissago, Pedemonte, Gordola, and Tenero.

Locarno is fully integrated in the Swiss Transport System, with
1-2 trains every hr to Lucerne/Zurich/Basel etc,
2 trains every hr to Bellinzona - Lugano - Chiasso/Como
10 daily trains to Domodossola - Brig - Lake Geneva and Bernese Oberland
12 daily buses to Intra - Pallanza (- Borromean Islands - Stresa)
11 daily trains to Luino - Laveno - Milano Centrale and MXP
3 daily boats to Luino - Borromean Islands - Stresa
tons of local trains resp. buses into the mountain valleys of Centovalli, Onsernone, Maggia, Verzasca and Veddasca
frequent boats up0 to Brissago Islands and Brissago
gondolas to viewpoints:
from Locarno city to Cardada-Cimdetta (5500 ft)
from San Carlo (Vallemaggiabus plus Postbus) to Lake Robiei (6200 ft)
from Intragna (Centovalli railway) to Costa (2000 ft)
from Verdasio (Centovalli railway) to Rasa (3000 ft) and Comino (4000 ft)
from Prestinone (Centovalli railway) to Piana Vigezzo (5700 ft)
from Monte Carasso (bus from Locarno at least every hr) to Mornera (4500 ft)
from Rivera (train from Locarno every 30 min) to Alpe Foppa (5000 ft)

Stresa is situated in the southern part of Lake Maggiore. Stresa counts 12 thousand inhabitants (together with Isola Bella, Isola dei Pescatori, La Sacca, Levo, Baveno, Belgirate, Brovello-Carpugnino, Gignese and Mottarone). Tourism at Stresa began some 200 years ago when rich people from Milan began to build holiday homes (rather luxuruous villas) along the lake. The hotel capacity of Stresa is smaller than that of Locarno. Due du the much smaller population it looks like "closed" in the winter months.

Stresa is fully integrated in the Piemontese transport system:
21 daily trains to both, Milan and Domodossola, most of them stop at Gallarate (short taxi ride from MXP airport)
from Verbania Pallanza (railway line to Domodossola) connecting buses to
Omegna (Lake Orta)
Pallanza - Intra - Premeno/Cannobio
5 daily trains to Switzerland (Geneva/Bern)
tons of boats up to Borromean Islands - Pallanza - Intra - Laveno
a few boats up to Arona and to Luino - Locarno
gondolas:
from Stresa to Monte Mottarone (4900 ft)
from Laveno (boat from Stresa) to Sasso del Ferro (3000 ft)

Islands:
the Borromean Islands are between Stresa and Pallanza
the Brissago Islands are some 20 miles away, close to Locarno
If you want to see both Island groups from the same place, you must climb to a mountain like Monte Lema (5400 ft) or Monte Zeda (7000 ft)

Last edited by neckervd; Dec 22nd, 2018 at 03:00 AM.
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Old Dec 25th, 2018, 08:36 AM
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Many thanks to all of you. Based on the comments here we're planning to stay in Stresa on Lake Maggiore. We'll spend three nights there (late September) and will hike and visit the islands.

We'll be traveling by car, Geneva - St Vincent (Matterhorn views) - Stresa - Davos - Zurich. Any further advice?
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Old Dec 25th, 2018, 08:58 AM
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Matterhorn view from St. Vincent in the Aosta valley?? The famous shape of the Matterhorn is only visible from the northern side (Valais, CH). From the southern side it is a mountain as any other, nothing special.
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Old Dec 26th, 2018, 01:18 AM
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I second Ingo. The Matterhorn cannot be seen from St. Vincent. You must drive up to Breuil at the end of the Valtournenche mountain road, some 10 miles further north. But it's clear, that the Matterhorn (Gran Becca in local dialect) will look completely different form the southern side. For a somewhat more "classical view", take the gondola up to Testa Grigia Italian side of Matterhorn Paradise). It will run until September 8th 2019. RT fare 32 EUR.

Last edited by neckervd; Dec 26th, 2018 at 01:23 AM.
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Old Dec 26th, 2018, 01:38 AM
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St. Vincent - Stresa:
if you like scenic landscapes, don't drive alll along the motorway, but leave it at Quincinetto and drive via Settimo - SP 72 - SP 500 to Biella (may be with a side trip from Biella to the Unesco World Heritage site Sacro Monte di Oropa) - SP 200 - SP 71 - Borgosesia - Varallo (Unesco World Heritage site Sacro Monte di Varallo) - Colmine Pass - Pella/Lake Orta - Orta San Giulio - Armeno - Gignese - Vezzo - Stresa.
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Old Dec 26th, 2018, 01:52 AM
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" We'll be traveling by car, Geneva - St Vincent (Matterhorn views) - Stresa - Davos - Zurich. Any further advice? "

if I had to add the gems along this itinerary:

Geneva - CHAMONIX MONT BLANC - COURMAYEUR MONT BLANC - AOSTA - AOSTA VALLEY CASTLES - St Vincent (NO Matterhorn views) - OROPA - VARALLO - LAKE ORTA - Stresa - ASCONA - LOCARNO - BELLINZONA - ZILLIS - VIA MALA GORGE (old road) - Davos - Zurich.
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Old Dec 26th, 2018, 02:05 AM
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Matterhorn seen from Breuil
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Old Dec 26th, 2018, 08:57 AM
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I wondered about that. Terrific picture, by the way.

So now I have a new question. This is a three legged vacation:
1. Bernese Oberland (5 nights) - more questions later.
2. Lake Geneva (4 nights) - ??
3. Lake Maggiore (4 nights) - got that part settled.

Which is a better base for day trips in the Lake Geneva area, Geneva or Lausanne? We could drive from Interlaken, via Gruyeres, and make Lausanne our base with day trips to Geneva and Vevey / Montreux. Then take a northern route to Viso / Zermatt and on to Stresa (missing Mount Blanc).

Or, we could drive from Interlaken all the way to Geneva and take our day trips from there. Then we would use a southern route from Geneva, past Mont Blanc and Saint Vincent, to Stresa.

Parameters: We like to avoid one-nighters in a hotel, like to limit driving to 4 hours or so per day, and won't be heartbroken if we miss seeing the Matterhorn.

Any advice on how to organize the Lake Geneva trip leg? Thanks.
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Old Dec 26th, 2018, 11:05 AM
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Vevey or Montreux are favored bases for Lake Geneva area - both are close to Lausanne - Geneva would be the less optimal location for day trips most folks take. Use boats to get around if not in a hurry. Vevey and Montreux both lovely seaside towns much smaller than Lausanne and Geneva.

And, don't stay in Interlaken but in say Grindelwald - one place that can be reached by car along with Lauterbrunnen but IMO Grindelwald has best views of glacier-girdled soaring peaks whilst Lauterbrunnen in sunk in a deep gorge - nice vistas too but not as all encompassing. Wengen would be neat but it is car-less.
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Old Dec 26th, 2018, 11:52 AM
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I visited the Matterhorn on the Swiss side from a base in Lausanne (day trip) and on a separate trip from Aosta in Italy. It was spectacular from both.


This trip report contains info on my stay in Lausanne with some of the day trips you mention. Photo Safari to the south of France, the Italian Rivera and the Swiss Alps


Below: Left is from Italian side, right from Swiss side


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Old Dec 26th, 2018, 02:58 PM
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My strong advice would be to start a new thread, as the answers to your new questions have nothing to do with Lugano or Locarno. And please tell us when you will be there, as it can make a huge difference to our answers.

BTW, are you fully committed to driving? Public transportation in Switzerland is comfortable and convenient and has the advantage of allowing everyone to actually see the scenery (which a driver can't necessarily do with any safety).

For most people and for most purposes, Montreux (or just outside it, perhaps in Vevey) is a good base for areas around Lake Geneva -- but it really depends on what you want to see and experience.

I wouldn't take a car into the Bernese Oberland and thought Grindelwald unpleasantly packed with tourists and tour buses when I was there -- but what would work as a base for that area depends on not only what you want to see and experience, but also when you plan to go, as some of the most popular activities in the area are not an option at all times of the year.
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