There’s less than a week to go now until I start my long walk in Spain along the Via de la Plata. I’ve been getting some preparatory walking in though, most recently in Ticino which is an Italian speaking Canton in the south of Switzerland. This area has been part of Switzerland for around 500 years. Whilst there are strong cultural ties with Italy, there are also many differences, given the long association with the northern parts of Switzerland.  To give but one example, using a zebra crossing in Italy can at times be a life threatening experience. However, in Ticino, you only have to look like you’re thinking about crossing the road, and cars will come to a stop !

I went for two walks over a weekend with a friend who lives near the town of Lugano. The first was a climb up to a rock formation known as “I Denti della Vecchia” or “The Hag’s Teeth”.

On the way upwalking ticino

A bonsai tree.


Wild cyclamens grow in rock crevices.

ticino wild cyclamens

A view of a few of the teeth at around 1,500metres.


The next day we went for a longer walk to the summit of  Garzirola, a mountain of 2,116 metres in the Lugano pre-alps. We were lucky with the weather and were rewarded with splendid views back down towards Lakes Lugano and Maggiore as well as towards the Alps to the north.

The paths are all well sign-posted, though its still not hard to make a mistake. We did the previous day and had an extra 5km to walk to get back to the car!

signs ticino walks

This walk was strangely similar to my recent walks on the Greek island of Ithaca  as there was the frequent sound of bells. This time though it was the deeper sound of cow bells rather than the higher pitched bells carried by goats on Ithaca.

Ticino cattle bells

There were many pretty wild flowers along the way.

wild flowers ticino

Only a few hundred metres of climbing to go!


A view of the Swiss town of Locarno and Lake Maggiore from the peak.

Garzirola Locarno

Looking north towards the Alps.


Looking south into Italy.  


On the way down.


Back down at the San Lucio pass there were two hostels. This area is right on the border and one hostel was in Italy and the other, 100 metres away, was in Switzerland. We had lunch at the one on the Swiss side. Their flag pole had three flags, probably in order of perceived importance, with the Italian one at the bottom, next the Swiss flag and finally the big Canton Ticino flag at the top. Behind the flag pole can be seen the mountain peak from where the previous photos were taken,

flag  ticino

I ordered polenta with venison and this huge plate arrived. Somehow I managed to eat the lot.


The 15h century church of St Lucio sits at 1,542 metres near the pass which shares its name.

San Lucio Gazirola

On the way back down we passed through what seemed to be an “enchanted forest”.


I can certainly recommend Ticino as beautiful place for walking, although it does help to have a local friend! Also you need to choose carefully the season for your visit. I visited earlier in 2016 in late March and we were unable to do these walks in higher altitudes due to recent snowfalls.

Ticino Tesserete