Quiet holiday in Morcote, Lugano and Locarno (this time in vlog form)


Here’s the last installment of my trip from Geneva to Canton Graubünden and then Canton Ticino. (Part I and Part II here.)

The full text is below, but here is a short video of the whole journey from Chur to Locarno, in case you’re interested. It’s a very low-effort vlog with no voiceovers or fancy camerawork, but does give a good sense of the whole trip.

When I’m travelling, it’s hard for me to stay put in one location for more than two nights, unless it’s a huge metropolis with tons of sights to explore, like Tokyo or Beijing. This restlessness stems from FOMO, the fear of missing out: I’ve only got X days of vacation, I have to make it count and squeeze in as many locations as possible. This definitely comes from my days working in the US, when I had very limited vacation time and would also lose a day each way for international travel.

This is why I only stayed for one night in each of the four locations: Chur, Le Prese, Morcote, and Locarno. Although it would have been nice to have stayed longer, I’m actually OK with it because with the exception of Locarno, all of the other three hotels I’d booked had some issues, varying from a shower that flooded the bathroom to an A/C that only worked if the window was open (??), to the point where I actually started to miss my own apartment at home.

Anyways, I arrived in Morcote after 5pm, sweating heavily after a half-hour boat ride under the sun. I looked around for my hotel, Al Battello, but the only establishment by that name was a restaurant, which was empty save for two women sitting at a table and smoking casually. I approached them. “Buongiorno,” I said, exhausting the limit of my Italian knowledge. “Is this the hotel?”

One of them was the owner, it turned out. She did not speak English, but could speak a little French, and a little more Spanish. Despite the language barrier, she was super sweet. She grabbed my duffel bag from me and led me up a labyrinth of stone stairways concealed behind the restaurant. It would have been impossible for me to find the hotel on my own, and indeed that same night I got lost trying to come back and had to ask the restaurant server (who was maybe also the restaurant/hotel owner, it was unclear) to lead me upstairs again.


Upon entering the room, I was surprised to find a portable A/C on full blast, with its giant pipe running through the open window. It was very strange to have both things happening at the same time.


However, the actual view from the window was very nice. No catfish there.


I ate dinner at the hotel restaurant, which was right next to the lake and the same dock I’d disembarked from.

To the left, just out of frame, is a public bathroom, LOL

After dinner, I took a stroll around town. Morcote is a small village, so it wasn’t much ground to cover. There are a lot of alleys, and many of the residents live along the hill, with small, lovely gardens. An old man tending his garden called out “Buona sera” to me as I walked past.


It was about a 10-minute walk uphill to the local church, Chiesa di Santa Maria del Sasso, also the tallest point of the village.

That’s Italy right there, on the opposite bank. So close and yet so far!

At the top, there is a nice view of the quaint village below, as well as the lush green hills on the other side of the lake.


There is a very nice cemetery to the left of the church, with generations of families buried in the same plots. See the fancy-looking yellow and teal structures on the right in the photo below? Those are mausoleums for some of the richest families in town. In the whole cemetery, I only found one person who died in 2020; not surprising, as the town has fewer than 800 residents.


The next morning I had a quick breakfast at the hotel, which was a very hastily thrown together plate of ham and cheese slices, plus a croissant, orange juice and coffee. I took a final morning walk around the waterfront before checking out.


Instead of taking the boat again, this time I took the bus to Melide train station (only 15-ish minutes away), and then took the train to Lugano, where I stored my duffel bag in one of the train station lockers. I had only been to Lugano once before, and I wanted to spend some more time in the city. It definitely felt busier, happier, and more relaxed than last year.


Along the lake was a photography exhibition of ancient homes and landscapes from somewhere in Saudi Arabia. And across the street was the Lugano Art and Culture Center. I have to say that this place was a little misleading, because in most cities, this type of establishment is usually government-funded and free to the public. But here you have to pay to access the exhibits, and frankly I thought they were a bit underwhelming; the building was massive, and yet there were only three active exhibits. They have a second location a few minutes away that can be accessed under the same ticket, but that place was similarly sparse and underwhelming. I do understand that the COVID situation has impacted museums pretty significantly, so hopefully they will be coming back stronger.

They do have a nice view of Lugano, though

For lunch I went to a Thai restaurant in downtown Lugano. With tentative hope, I asked if they could make pad kee mao (drunken noodles), which was not on the menu, and they kindly agreed to do so. It was the first time I had eaten pad kee mao in over two years!


In the afternoon I took the train to Locarno, my last destination of this trip. I truly did nothing in Locarno, because it rained heavily, and also because it was really only tacked on to the end of my trip so that I could avoid coming back to Geneva on the same day as the Biden-Putin summit. I did find that the hotel (Hotel Millennium) was super nice, with spacious rooms and a lovely view of the lake.


The only thing I did in Locarno was walk from the hotel to the Piazza Grande, the main square, to pick up dinner. I thought the name “Piazza Grande” was a bit of a catfish, because in reality it looks much smaller and emptier than the pictures online.

Molto grande
This place actually looks a lot like the Tokyo Disneysea hotel (which is modelled after Italy anyways, so it’s all a circle)

Locarno is quite touristy compared to many other villages in Ticino (judging by the crowds I ran into), which probably also explains why the hotel was nicer. Unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to explore the city further, since it rained heavily for most of my visit there.

This was breakfast the following morning. Not a buffet, but brought individually by hotel staff due to COVID. The woman who helped me was super nice and spoke perfect French.


And that’s a wrap on this trip! I came back to Geneva feeling relieved, energized, and somewhat ready to start my new job.

As much as I’ve loved travelling domestically around Switzerland this past year and supporting the Swiss tourism industry, I think I am starting to crave a different type of scenery. If I’m able to take another vacation at the end of the summer, I think I’d like to go to a different country — maybe Spain? Here’s hoping!

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