Chased away by the permanent crisis we've been having in our country, my children left our home a few years ago to find a better life and they found it in a small town in Switzerland, Campione d'Italia, close to the Italian border. One day, my daughter announced that she was going to have a baby and that we are going to come and stay with her for at least a month after the baby was born. She had sent me a few pictures with some views of the town she was living in but they were so poor compared to the reality!
When we first entered the town I was amazed to see so many palms. Seemed to me like Beverly Hills! Not only one, but two or three palms were guarding every house! Beautiful fountains with great floral arrangements welcomed us.
The main driveway was going up, sometimes so close to the mountain, then slowly coming down, along the lake.
I was amazed to see how the houses were built by terracing inside the rock going up to the top of the mountain.
On the other side, looking down, there was the Lugano Lake and mountains all around like a huge bucket. The view was fantastic!
The town of Campione d'Italia is an Italian town inside the Swiss territory of the Ticino canton and separated from Italy by the Lugano Lake and the mountains; about 50 miles away from Milan. It is what they are calling an enclave. It has only 2,300 inhabitants who are living a beautiful and serene life. Their houses are mostly old and some of the roads are still paved with rocks, especially the narrow ones, between the buildings where the cars are not allowed. Still, the houses have a beautiful facade, like they had been just painted all in great colors.
The main and most exciting entertainment in Campione d'Italia is definitely the Casino, especially for those who want to gamble. Many gorgeous and expensive cars are parked in the Casino's parking lot, all day and night long, as it is opened from 11:30 a.m. until the next morning.
In 1917, some Italians came here and built a Casino on the lakeshore. The town developed thanks to the taxes which the Casino owners were paying to the City Hall. Moreover, thanks to the same Casino, the inhabitants of Campione d'Italia haven't been paying as many taxes as in other Italian towns. On top of that, each of the locals has the right to get a job inside the Casino and this is not a joke! Many houses were built afterwards and the town grew over the years. Recently the Casino was sold to other owners who decided to colapse the old building and build a new one.
The new Casino is a huge building with 9 floors, not so beautiful though (I don't like it), built a bit farther from the lake, up on the mountain. Now, if you ask me how did it feel to climb all those stairs to get on the other side of the town through the Casino, I'm telling you it was exausting!
My daughter's apartment is on the upper part of the town close to the Casino on the same level with its highest floor, which is about the middle of the mountain's height. They have a great view over the Lugano Lake and the city of Lugano accross the lake. When we were going out, it was easy to climb down on those slopes...I mean, walkways, but when we were coming back home it was like climbing on the most abrupt mountain! I had no exercise and at the beginning I thought my legs won't listen to me anymore for so much effort ...I'm an old grandma, for God's sake! I'm just kidding of course because the beauty of the town overruled any effort. It was so great to walk with all those wonderful views around! I had the camera with me all the time and kept on taking pictures of everything.
The main street, with only one way, goes behind my daughter's building, close to the mountain and through a small tunnel, then turns around and goes back with this dangerous curve.
When we were going out in the morning, to walk the baby, the town was so quiet and only moms, grandmoms and children were out. Many of them were playing and having a bath at the lake on a small beach with tropical palms inside this beautiful facility. They have a tennis and football stadium in there, an area for volleyball, basketball, athletics and a gaming park. In the harbor nearby, a few dozen of motor boats, yachts and sailing ships are always ready for the tourists' entertainment on the lake.
Every morning we had our coffee on one of the terraces near the lake in the Rome Piazza. Mostly tourists were out at that hour having their breakfast and reading the newspapers. While sitting at the table, enjoying the coffee and a fresh croissant, I could see this ship which was making the tour of the lake, coming back in the small harbour to take more guests for the tour and the beautiful cars from the Casino, leaving.
After breakfast, we went for a walk along the lake. The ducks always knew we were going to feed them and they came right at us. They were so used to people, even on the street!
Other restaurants along the same street in the Rome Piazza weren't opened until noon. Later at night, the town came to life and people were out on the streets or at the restaurants having drinks and dinner. This particular corner seemed like a backround on a stage, so private, with the houses so close together. Here was Saint Peter's Church which had many transformations during the years.
The town has other beautiful old churches which can be visited such as the old Sanctuary of Saint Mary of the Ghirli, built in the 8th century, then rebuilt in the 16th century on the shore.
The old Saint Zenone's Church is now an art gallery and a new modern church was built for him.
As a gardener, I was very impressed with the variety of plants growing in every garden of this beautiful town. The tropical palms are growing next to the pinetrees and they seem to be invasive, go figure! They are reseeding and each have baby palms around.
I especially loved the various species of laurel hedges which were everywhere, all trimmed back and very well cared for.
About every house had a huge magnolia 'Little Gem' in their front garden.
The oleanders were trimmed like huge round bushes. Not even a small place was left nude. Bergenia were growing on the rock of the mountain aside the road, close to different ivies.
But the most impressive was seeing all these terraced gardens!
The Star jasmine vine was in bloom on most all fences or balconies. I admired the ivy geraniums hanging on the balconies; they were blooming so well in that humid climate with such big flowers.
Pretty huge pots with plants were on the sidewalk and around the terraces.
People in Campione d'Italia don't have many grocery stores in town, about one or two, so they need a car to drive to another town to buy what they need. They are driving to Italy very often, crossing the border, because the groceries are much cheaper there, but they're buying detergent and other chemicals from the stores in Switzerland, where they have a better price. Driving through the mountains is wonderful! The road goes sometimes through long tunnels, then it continues with several loops very close to the mountain.
We went to buy groceries from Italy once a week. They have severe Customs check-ups at the Swiss border because they are not allowing anyone to bring too much of some specific groceries to Switzerland, such as meat or oil. At first I was worried when passing the border from one country to another, but they are nice people and since we've respected the law, we had no problem. Once we bought the meat and vegetables, I cooked everyday for my children; mostly Romanian meals. Only twice we ate pizza and sea fruits and we had fish quite often. The sword fish was spectacular; the slices were so huge! As for desserts, I made lots of cookies, cakes, pancakes, but we also had everyday the most delicious ice-cream in the world; the Italian ice-cream!
Lugano was a much closer destination for our tours. Our grandson was born there and his mom had to go for her monthly check-ups at the hospital, but we also visited the town on a few other occasions, like on my son's birthday. Lugano has the same vegetation and lovely buildings as in Campione d'Italia and other north Italian towns. The town is bigger and the streets are wider which is why traffic can be crazy sometimes compared to Campione.
Lugano is a famous resort and has many entertainments for the tourists, like playing chess or draughts on the sidewalk! The view over the lake was fantastic, same of this mountain ahead of us, when we were in the car.
We enjoyed very much the tour of the beautiful park near the lake with its old trees and beautiful flower beds, the swans and ducks .
The weather changed while we were there, from hot to cold, windy and rainy, then to too hot again. Some days we couldn't even get out of the house for our daily walks, but I enjoyed taking pictures of the clouds around the mountains.
After all the rain, the temperatures went up and my daughter suggested we should go to the swimming pool. They have several pools, not only in their town, but in all the nearest towns so they can choose where they want to go. She wanted to show us a beautiful place at Carona, a small village on the top of the San Salvatore mountain, the one I kept on seeing and admiring while I was on the balcony.
The facility at Carona has 3 swimming pools, amazing lawns to lie on, many trees and bushes; especially rhododendrons and azaleas. It was such a delight to be there, not only for the pool, but also for the wonderful view and the fresh air. Although we were on the top of a mountain (a 3,200 feet mountain, but still a mountain), it was still hot, but a good bath in the pool cooled us off a bit.
From a special place on the driveway, up on the San Salvatore mountain, we could see this amazing view of the highway and the town of Campione d'Italia.
Another beautiful place we visited near Carona, but at the base of the mountain, was Morcote, a small village on the Ceresio Lake shore. This is a famous place where tourists can have a great vacation and find beautiful souvenirs. I loved the black and white cows, the symbol of Switzerland, also the small slippers for the keys.
Between the trips to different places, for shopping or fun and staying at home with my beautiful grandson Nicholas, the time went by and so did our vacation. But we have such great memories of our first grandson in his first month of life and of the wonderful places that we saw! Our hearts remained there with our children and grandson and the thought of us selling all in Romania and moving to Switzerland crossed our minds. Maybe not this year, but sooner or later this will have to happen.
More information about this beautiful town on their website :
A beautiful video about this town , although speaking in Italian, but the views are worth seeing it :
You can see live webcam from Campione d'Italia, showing the St. Zenone's old church, the clock from the new one and the lake, here :