Skiing Carì in Switzerland (Ticino/Tessin)

It’s no secret, Switzerland is full of ski resorts (over 300), from small local hills, to massive resorts. Ticino hosts a few of these ski areas with many of them being smaller family-friendly ski areas. Carì is a small resort and about an hour drive from Lugano, Switzerland.

The ski hill offers 2 ski lifts and a small Kid’s Village (with a magic carpet) at both the bottom of the mountain and middle station. Other winter sports like sledding and snow shoeing are also possible.

Adults:43 CHF
Teens (13-20):35 CHF
Kids (6-12):27 CHF
Family (2 Adults + children to 11)95 CHF

Skiing can be an expensive sport, especially if you are skiing as a family. In the past Carì was a family favorite as it was very affordable for a family of 5, with their family discount ticket. Unfortunately, they have lowered the age limit for the family ticket to only include children under 11, making it more expensive for families with teenagers, but it’s still affordable.

The trails are quite picturesque. The above trail winds through small cabins and is possible to snowshoe, sled, or ski on. You can access the trail from the mid-mountain or snowshoe up from the bottom.

Two drawbacks we have found when skiing Carì:

  1. The long lines at the bottom of the hill. The 2-person lift can get quite long. Once you reach mid mountain, it is not so bad, as there is a quad lift to the top (Black and Red runs only).
  2. The parking situation. If you do not arrive early, it is possible you will have to park on the side of the road and be bused up. Or worse, we have arrived at 10 am and have been turned away as no more parking. My advice: arrive early or don’t go on peak days.

The Lodge sits mid-mountain with fantastic views over the valley. They offer a large outdoor seating patio which makes the dining experience comfortable. Inside there are also many tables and a cafeteria serving hearty Swiss lunches.

On top of the mountain sits a small cabin with a few benches inside and out. You are able to purchase a few snacks here along with drinks. It’s the perfect setting for an afternoon aperitivo with incredible views.

Carì has blue, red and black runs for all levels of skiers. The resort is quite small (20km) but we have enjoyed skiing Carì as it is an easy, affordable option when skiing as a family.

Have you been? What did you think?

Christmas Markets in Switzerland

Christmastime can feel quite magical. Ever since we’ve moved to Europe we have really started to embrace the Christmas Markets. Each canton in Switzerland have different traditions and specialties they offer. From warm chestnuts to mulled-wine, the feeling of Christmas is in the air.

Zurich, Switzerland Christmas Market Nov 21, 2019 – Dec 24, 2019

Zurich has a few Christmas Markets scattered throughout the city. The train station hosts a gorgeous Swarvoski Christmas Tree surrounded by booths. Each year since we’ve lived in Switzerland the markets seem to improve. There are food booths of many, traditional Christmas crafts and many pop-up fondue and raclette restaurants throughout the city, a winter favorite.

Sunday – Wednesday, 10.30 – 21.00
Thursday – Saturday, 10.30 – 22.00

Wienachtsdorf at Sechseläutenplatz

The market at Sechseläutenplatz has an ice rink, food booths and a few fondue chalets. I prefer this market over the one in the train station as there seems to be a bit more action, but both are lovely to visit. In addition to the ice rink, there is a fantastic play area (Santa’s workshop) just above the market for the younger crowd.

Monday – Saturday, 11.00 – 22.00
Sunday, 11.00 – 20.00

Zurich is definitely a must visit city around Christmastime, with the magically lit Conelli circus tent on the river, to the singing Christmas Tree, the feeling of Christmas surrounds you in this beautiful city.

Lugano, Switzerland Christmas Market Nov 30, 2019 – Jan 06, 2020

The Christmas market begins with the lighting of the Christmas tree in the main square of Piazza Reforma and continues throughout the New Year.

This year Lugano has really stepped it up by adding an ice rink, sledding ramp, and holiday projections on their buildings. Almost every evening there is a DJ and drinks in the square. There is also a Christmas craft area for the children.

Many booths are set up in Piazza Reforma and continue to wind throughout the cobble-stoned streets. The moderate climate in Ticino makes for very enjoyable evenings celebrating Christmas festivities out in the plaza.

Montreux , Switzerland. Nov 21, 2019 – Dec 24, 2019

I have not had the chance to visit this market yet, but this year my friend, Tanya, from Swiss Family Fun enjoyed a visit to the Montreux Christmas market. You can link to her blog for a more detailed write-up.

Sunday – Thursday, 11.00 – 20.00
Friday – Saturday, 11.00 – 22.00

One of the highlights of this market is Santa and his reindeer soaring high above the Christmas market. (How awesome is that?) This market is definitely high on our list to visit next year.

Locarno on Ice, Switzerland Nov 21, 2019 – Jan 06, 2020

Locarno has a beautiful ice rink installed in the middle of the town square. The town is full of Christmas events, food booths, goodies, etc. The ice rink is open daily through the holiday season. You can bring your own skates or there are also skates for hire.

Saturday – Sunday, 10.00 – 1.00 (the hours are fantastic and open daily!)

Locarno on Ice is packed full of action, from musical events to a New Year’s celebration, this is the place to be. Such a lovely city to visit during the holiday season in Switzerland.

It’s hard to pick a favorite Christmas market in Switzerland, they are all so magical and each has it’s own unique flare. No matter which one you decide to visit, I think it will get you into the holiday spirit.


Cervino – The Italian-side of the Matterhorn

When most people think of the Matterhorn they think of Switzerland, but the Matterhorn shares a border with both Switzerland and Italy.  It is located between the Canton of Valais in Switzerland and the Aosta Valley in Italy.

The famous peak may look a little different from the back-side but  the views will still leave you in awe. The Breuil-Cervinia-Valtournenche -Zermatt ski-area is one of the largest in the Alps. We have skied many resorts but Cervino tops the list of favorites.

By car  Cervino Resort  can easily be reached in less than 2.5 hours from Milan.  The drive into the valley is absolutely breathtaking.  When driving make sure you have winter tires and chains. This is obligatory during the winter-months in Italy and you can be fined if caught without.

Cervino is a popular destination and hotels  fill up quickly.  There are smaller villages if you are not able to secure a hotel within Cervino.  Valtournenche is a popular nearby village and the ski slopes are still accessible from the town.

Although parking is centrally located, finding parking can be an issue.  Cervino offers a reasonably priced (2 Euro) shuttle bus , which is a good alternative to the hassle of not finding parking.  The bus shuttles to  surrounding  villages and runs into the evening (9.00- 23.00). Another alternative for parking is Valtournenche as you can access the mountain from the their lift.

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There  are 50 ski-lifts between Breuil-Cervinia-Valtournenche and Zermatt.  Basically you can ski all day and never hit the same slope twice.  Between the two resorts there are 150 ski runs which you have full access to. If 150 ski runs seems overwhelming, you can always settle for a day pass at either Cervino OR Zermatt. Both resorts have over 70+ runs each.  In total, the ski-runs cover over 200 km (125 miles). Wow, that is a lot of ground to cover in one day!

Different ticket prices are available depending on which part of the mountain you want to ski. We skied only on the Breuil-Cervinia-Valtournenche side and did not have time to ski the whole mountain in one day.

Tickets for Breuil-Cervinia-Valtournenche:

Adult  €43,00

Teen:  €38,00

Child: €31,00

Tickets for Breuil-Cervinia-Valtournenche and Zermatt

Adult  €62,00

Teen:  €55,00

Child: €44,00

*During high-season (Christmas and February) the rates increase by a few Euros. You can also purchase multi-day tickets for a reduced rate.

The ski-mountain is littered with charming mountain huts and restaurants. Many of the restaurants are self-serve and have breathtaking views looking over the Cervino Resort and The Matterhorn.

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One of our top picks for an Apero-ski is  Chalet Plantorrette which is centrally located on the mountain. The relaxed atmosphere and lounge chairs in the snow, makes for the perfect break.

There are dozens of restaurants to choose from, so the crowds are not near as bad as some resorts.  Most restaurants are in an easy ski-in/ski-out location, making for an easy pit-stop.

How can you go wrong with those views? The Matterhorn as a backdrop and views of the mountains and valley below.  Chalet Plantorrette is the perfect place to take a ski-break on the Mountain.

Next time you think of the Matterhorn and Switzerland, consider giving the Italian-side of the Matterhorn a go.  Both the Swiss and Italian-sides are breathtaking and worth a visit.  The resort of Cervino makes it easy to enjoy both countires.

Santa Caterina del Sasso

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Perched on a rocky ledge above Lago Maggiore , is the beautiful Monastery of Santa Caterina del Sasso. The Monastery is only a short distance from Milan, Italy (1.5 hr) and Lugano, Switzerland (1 hr). It is the perfect little place to visit if you are in the area.

During the winter months the Monastery is only open on weekends, but during the peak-season it opens daily.

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There are about 300 steps leading down to the church.  Be prepared with proper shoes, as the stairway leading down is quite rocky, but easily doable.  Although, I would not recommend taking a stroller down the steps.

You can access the Monastery by a public/private boat, which run during the tourist season.  (Spring/ Summer/early Fall months). It can also be accessed by car.

Almost directly across from the church is Isola Bella making a visit to this Monastery the perfect side-trip from Stresa.  I like to think of Lake Maggiore as a secret gem. Not near as many tourist flock to Lake Maggiore, compared to Lake Como, which makes the area quite desirable.  There are plenty of day hikes and gorgeous little villages to visit. During the tourist season there are car and people ferries running on the lake daily.

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If you are not up for the hike down from the parking lot to the Monastery, an elevator has been recently installed for easy access. The ride down is very affordable at 1 euro, per person. The visit to the Monastery is free.

 

 

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The surrounding area has plenty of open space to run around. There are hiking maps posted through-out the park which indicates hiking trails around the mountain. There is also a small cafe and plenty of picnic tables to enjoy an afternoon snack.

 

The frescos inside the church are well preserved, most do not date back until the 14th century but are still impressive.

A Short history behind the Monastery: A small church was built in the 13th century by a local merchant to give thanks for being saved during a rough storm, where he was clinging to the rocky cliffs.  In the 14th century Augustinian monks came to live in the church and built the convent.

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I would recommend to add this Monastery to your list of  sites to visit around Lake Maggiore, the history and the views are well worth it.

5 must-do hikes in Ticino, Switzerland

1. Monte Generoso

Mount Generoso offers breathtaking views of both Switzerland and Italy.

There are many different hikes leading  to the top, most of which you can find here.  We have taken the shorter (4 hour) hike from the Bella Vista parking lot. 

You can take the train from Riva San Vitale, hike from Mendriso, or drive to the Bella Vista station. From the Bella Vista station you can park in the parking lot and begin the hike. It is about 2 hours to the top.

Once you arrive to the top you can see Lake Lugano below. You can enjoy a self serve restaurant or a sit down restaurant with 360 degree views below.  You can also access the roof for even more incredible views.

We thoroughly enjoyed this hike and the views it had to offer. The hike down takes about half the time, which makes it a little under a 4 hour hike round-trip from the Bella Vista parking lot.

2. Tibetan Bridge Carasc

The Tibetan bridge is a pretty impressive 270 meter long bridge that connects from Curzùtt to Via delle Vigne.

We found the easiest way to hike to the bridge was to take up the cable car. It is a small car so on busy days the wait may be long. This is not a problem if you decide to hike up. The hike from the top of the cable car to the Tibetan bridge is about an hour.

When the cable-car reaches Curzùtt you can hike through this darling little village. There is a small restaurant and restrooms. There are also picnic benches and a park where we enjoyed a picnic before starting our hike to the bridge.

The trails are easily marked and pass  beautiful scenery along the way. There is an 11th century church along the trail that is pretty impressive.

When we reached the bridge there was hardly anyone on it because we were late in the season. The kids enjoyed running back and forth, but I must say this is not a bridge for those afraid of heights.

To return from this hike you do have to turn around if you want to get to your car.  There isn’t a decent loop that is kid friendly, or at least what we found. It took us about 2 more hours to hike back down to our car but the hike and views from the bridge were well worth it.

3. Valle Verzasca

I would like to say this is a hidden-gem but unfortunately it is not. In the summer the crowds come flocking to this famous bridge over Valley Verzasca. Thankfully, the Valley has many hikes away from the crowds.

I do recommend taking a dip in the glacier cold water either before or after your hike. It is very refreshing in the summer-time.

We have managed to do a few hikes within this valley. There are trail markers throughout but many of the trails require climbing up some rocks to get to the trails. We have never found this to be a problem, even with our youngest at the time (7).

There are buses which service the valley which make it possible to just hike one way and take a bus back down to your car. This is a useful website for  more hiking and information in the area.

The river winds throughout the valley so you can follow it along many of your hikes.  This is such a beautiful area to hike through.

 

4. Mounte Tamaro

The easiest way to experience this Mountain is to first take the funicular up the mountain, from there you can branch off into easy, intermediate or difficult hikes. There is over 90 km of hiking options.

Monte Tamaro is a popular mountain for paragliding and it is entertaining to watch them glide over the valley while hiking along the trails.  There is a restaurant and restrooms available at the top of Tamaro. Many of the hiking trails branch out from here.

One of the most popular hiking trails goes from Monte Tamaro to Monte Lema. This trail is an almost 13 km trail, along the ridge-line, which can take the average hiker 5 hours one way.  You can purchase a ticket to have the bus take you back at the end of the hike but make sure you check the schedules.

If you are feeling energized after hiking there are plenty of other activities. There is a zip-line, rodelbahn and also a rope park. This is a great Mountain for the seasoned hiker and even those who just like to take in the views.

 

5. Monte San Salvatore

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If you want a workout with breathtaking views this is the hike for you.  To begin the hike, you can park in the Funicolare parking lot. From there, walk out of the parking lot in the direction towards the lake & Lugano Paradiso train station.  Once you start up the road Via Corona there will be signs directing you to the top. The signs estimate it to take about 2 hours and 40 minutes.

 

The trail is marked with trail markers the whole way up.  In the beginning, you take a short trail through the forest passing some houses along the way.

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The halfway point seems to be a bit after you reach the end of the trail following the tracks.

Along the trail, there are a number of panoramic viewpoints. The trail winds around the Lugano side of the mountain so you are able to see many beautiful views of the city and the lake below. On a clear day, you can see Monte Rosa and other snow-capped Alps in the distance.

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When you finally reach the top you will come out by the Funicular.  There is a restaurant where you can sit and admire your accomplishment. Just past the restaurant, you can take the trail about 5 minutes more to the very top. On the top, there is a little church and the most amazing panoramic views over Lugano. You can see parts of Italy, the Swiss Alps, and the winding Lugano Lake below. (Pictured above is the first look out, you have to climb a little higher for the best view of all. )

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There is also a church by the viewpoint. It is open to the public and you can go inside to see the little chapel. If you go around the backside of the church you will see a small door with stairs leading to the roof.

Once you’re done enjoying the views, decide if you are going to hike or ride down on the Funicolare. The hike down is about an hour.

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If you’re going to take the Funicolare down, it departs every half hour. During spring and fall, the last train down is at 5 pm. In summer the last train down is at 11 pm! If you miss the tram you have no choice but to hike down. The Funicolare ride is only a 10-minute ride to the top versus the 2 1/2 hour hike, although you miss out on some fantastic views.

 

5 things I wished we knew before moving to a foreign country…

 

It is hard to believe we have been living abroad for 11 years. Our kids are bilingual, one trilingual, and our life as an American family has been forever changed.

Sometimes it is hard to explain what to expect living life abroad. When reflecting back on our move abroad, there are some things I wish we would have known before moving.

 

1. It will not feel like a vacation

This should have been obvious to me, but I chose to let the excitement of moving abroad overshadow the reality that this was “real life”and not a vacation.

As much as we would like our vacations to last forever, they don’t. Overseas vacations are often characterized by funny stories about asking for directions or ordering food in another language. Our move abroad had a short honeymoon period, where we felt like we were on vacation, but this ended quickly. For the first few years there’s a constant friction in dealing with a new language and culture that makes everything in life more difficult. We anticipated stumbling through the language for trivial things like ordering food. We didn’t anticipate things like reading and negotiating apartment contracts, interacting with doctors, mechanics, and school teachers, or dealing with issues with service providers like the cable company. Also, we didn’t anticipate the persistent fatigue that comes with not understanding a language. This was most evident for the kids, who had to endure being pushed to comprehend and communicate for many hours every day at school. Our kids came home crying many times because it was difficult for them, or worse because they were ridiculed for not understanding.

 

 

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2. You may feel like you lose your identity a bit.

In some ways, there is a sense of losing an identity, but do I feel like our life has been enriched by experiencing cultures outside of the one we knew. We still celebrate Thanksgiving and give our kids American traditions, yet, we also celebrate Swiss traditions. Our middle son was once told at school he was not American. To which his response was, “Of, course I am.”  We feel a love for both cultures but also feel like we are floating between both. When we return to America to visit we feel somewhat out of place. But likewise, living in a country where we (at least as parents) will always have strong accents when speaking Italian, gives us away as foreigners. The sense for identity gets lost between cultures.

Everything changes. Before we moved abroad, as Americans, we felt as if we coming from one of the best places. Thinking we had the best of everything. The first couple years abroad were characterized by noticing things that we wished were more like they are in America. Now, when visiting America, we notice things we wish were more like Switzerland. There are things we love about both places, and we are able to pick out the things we like and dislike without the cultural biases.

Montbéliard & Belfort, France

3. Everyone can be a foreigner

I know it may have been naive of me to think this, but for some reason I just thought we would be accepted wherever we went.

Coming from California we felt like we came from a pretty open minded, accepting culture. However, it took living abroad to realize that, unfortunately, there are stereotypes about people from almost every nation, even *gasp* our own. Regardless of where you are from, you are subject to having to deal with those stereotypes.

I remember an experience when we first moved to Zurich. We were confronted by a man on the train that decided he needed to tell us why he didn’t like Americans. It was surprising to us at the time. We were just as surprised when we were turned down from renting an apartment because we were not native Swiss.

The feeling of being a foreigner helps you gain more empathy for those who are foreign in your own home county.

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4. It will change your life in many ways

You leave your old life behind. Being immersed in a new culture enriches your life in many ways. The languages you speak, people you interact with, thoughts about your country, your way of thinking changes. You can see both your countries as an outsider looking in. See what you may have once thought was perfect, maybe is not.

When you move abroad the first few years are spent thinking, I wish this was like it is at home. But then a few more years of living abroad, you find yourself returning to visit ‘home’ and find yourself saying I wish it was like (they country you are now living in) Home will never feel the same.

 

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5. Be Flexible

Eat pizza on the beach.  Make friends with the locals.  Integrate into the new culture. Learn the language and speak it, even when not correct. It is more important to try instead of waiting to be perfect when you speak, it will never happen.

The inability to communicate can feel very isolating. There will be times of loneliness and discouragement, therefore learning the language is very important.

Learn to roll with the punches. You need to be flexible as life abroad brings many things you do not anticipate. The way things work will probably be totally foreign. What might be seen as being rude in your country, such a cutting in line, may be an accepted practice in another country.  

What once was just a crazy idea to move abroad has since become a life changing event for us. We wanted our children to grow up and see a world outside the one they knew. A world that would broaden their perspective and open their eyes to new languages and cultures. Moving abroad has forever changed who we are and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Winter wonderland in Lugano

Lugano may not have snowcapped trees but it definitely has its share of a winter wonderland. It is hard not to to embrace the Christmas spirt in this quaint city.

The Christmas market begins with the lighting of the Christmas tree in the main square of Piazza Reforma and continues throughout the New Year.

(2018 Season 22.11.2018 – 06.01.2019).  Market hours are from 11.00 until 19.00 throughout the season.

Many booths are set up in Piazza Reforma and continue to wind throughout the cobblestoned streets.

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The side-streets are lined with booths and twinkling lights, making one feel the magic of Christmas.  Even after the stands close, the festivities continue in the Piazzas. Bars and restaurants offer Champagne, food and wine. The mulled-wine is perfect to keep one warm in the crisp winter air.

A stroll through Lugano can almost feel magical. Most of the restaurants have outdoor seating that seems to inctise you to cuddle up with their cozy blankets and candlelit tables .

Right outside Piazza Cioccaro  you can find the Gabbini cafe. In the Piazza there are adorable gondola-lifts where you can order fondue and have drinks. I highly recommend to reserve a gondola for dinner, as this is a popular hang-out in the evenings.

Many of the stores participate in the holiday traditions, even offering their own Christmas drinks to their clients. Wether you are just visiting this darling town for the day or for week,  you will quickly fall in love with the spirit of the holidays in Lugano.

The Magic of Christmas in

Lugano Switzerland


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