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Clare
Clare

Day 5: Locarno

After the slight trauma of trying to obtain our Ticino cards yesterday, the aim for today was to get as much value out of them as possible! Having formulated a plan of action last night, we got up early this morning and arrived for breakfast at 8am - the scheduled breakfast opening time - only to find that they were taking a rather relaxed Italian attitude to timings rather than a punctual Swiss one, and that breakfast wasn't quite ready! When it came it was very Swiss though, complete with extremely buttery croissants and the funny little bin on the table for putting rubbish in :)

Despite the slight delay, we managed to leave the hotel just about on time and set off towards the lake, where we were planning to catch the 09.05 boat to Isole di Brissago. These two island, situated not far off the coast from the town of Brissago, are home to a botanical garden. Boat trips in the Swiss part of Lake Maggiore, as well as entry to the botanical gardens, were all free with our Ticino cards.

I had been expecting the boat to be a bit of a monstrosity, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually quite small. And whether because the islands weren't a terribly popular destination or because it was still quite early in the morning, there was hardly anyone else on it; just us, and a handful of elderly Dutch tourists.

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Needless to say, we had some spectacular views as we sailed away from Locarno, past Ascona and towards Brissago.

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The journey to islands was supposed to take 40 minutes, and after about half and hour we were able to see them looming in the distance.

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We were both slightly taken aback by how small they looked!

Eventually the boat pulled into the island and the crew began tying it up and lowering the platform for passengers to walk to shore. We had stood up to get off as soon as it became clear that we had arrived, but we evidently hadn't looked sufficiently purposeful about disembarking, because a few seconds later we realised that the crew were casting off again without having so much as opened the gates. Oh dear! It looked like we wouldn't be going to the islands then, but perhaps it wasn't such a bad thing; the next boat off them wasn't for another two hours and it looked like they might be a small place to spend that amount of time.

Instead of Isole de Brissago, we found ourselves being deposited ten minutes later at the terminus of the boat; the town of Brissago itself.

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It was a small town, but in a very pretty setting, and we were able to stroll alongside the lake in the sunshine

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We caught the first boat leaving Brissago at 11.35 and were back in the centre of Locarno just before one, where we enjoyed lunch and some more Rivella in the same restaurant in the main square where we ate yesterday. Our plan for the afternoon was to use our passes to go up the mountain behind Locarno.

The first step was to take the Madonna del Sasso funicular, which ascends from the centre of Locarno to the suburb of Orselina, where there is a beautiful church.

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From there we took the Cardada cable car to 1300m. As soon as we stepped out of it there was a beautiful view back towards the lake.

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There was a special viewing platform with even more spectacular views of the mountains.

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Apparently this is the only place from which you can see the lowest point in Switzerland (Locarno) and the highest point in Switzerland (Monte Rosa) at the same time.

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Cardada wasn't the top though! From there a charlift ascends to Cimetta, at 1,670m. It was a rather strange chairlift as the seats were all facing sideways rather than forwards, but it was exciting :)

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The views from here were even more spectacular.

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We had an absolutely amazing day, and we are definitely getting value for money from the Ticino pass. A day ticket on Lake Maggiore would have been CHF 29, the funicular to Madonna del Sasso was CHF 7 and the return fare Orselina-Cardada-Cimetta was a whopping CHF 36. So already in one day we have got CHF 72 of discounts off our CHF 87 cards, so only another CHF 15 tomorrow and we will have saved money :)




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