This post was originally written for my old travel blog Dream Explore Wander on 19 July 2013.
After finishing everything, I decided to give myself a one week break to enjoy Switzerland. I wanted to do a trip to Interlaken, or anywhere nice, by myself. The great thing about being a travel blogger is that you always can rely on your fellow traveller friends to give opinions on where to go. Some places besides Interlaken were suggested, but my partner in crime, Aiko, suggested Lugano. She wanted to make a trip there when she was in Geneva but never had the chance and she managed to talk me into it.
I searched for Lugano and picked up some keywords including charming, villages, walking, beautiful scenery, old town.
As I was searching for some information, one particular fact stood up: olive trail and a hidden village called Gandria. The village is so small that there are only about 200 people living there and can only be reached by foot/bike/boat. The picture of a village perched by the side of Lake Lugano looked too stunning to be missed. It was suggested that people take the walking trail called the olive trail from the small village of Castagnola which shows off the beauty of Lake Lugano. I am so in!
So the plan was simple, take a bus number 2 from Lugano and stop at Castagnola. Then follow the sign Sentiero Dell’Olivio which will take me to Gandria. From Gandria, I will take a boat to go back to Lugano (or if I’m feeling ambitious, walk back to Castagnola – did NOT happen, way too ambitious!).
I stopped at Castagnola, and there was a board explaining the olive trail, in Italian, but there was no sign of the trail. I started walking towards the big road and saw a road sign which has “Olivio” on it, so I thought “this has got to be it!” – it was a road leading to a private house. I looked extremely silly.
I really didn’t know where I was going, only trusting my gut. At one point I was frustrated and just wanted to go back to Lugano. However, I made a plan, and I have to stick to it. Usually I hate asking people for directions but I was desperate and so I decided to stop and asked a man who seemed to be just getting back from his work, full on suit and all. He was so nice, he showed me the path, which was hidden and I was going almost the right way. From there I was relieved to find the sign and followed it.
It was as stunning as everyone boasted. The footpath went through houses, luxurious hidden hotels, rocky hills but most of all throughout the path, I was accompanied by a great view of Lake Lugano. It was simply breathtaking, I almost cried.
The Olive path was created by “Friends of the Olive Tree” and it shows ancient olive trees. There are also “points” along the path. In each point, there is an information board giving facts on olive. Not only was my walk surrounded by amazing view, I also learned a lot of new facts about olives.
I was actually expecting more tourists walking through this path, but I was all alone. It was a little bit daunting but I felt safe. That is until I found lizards, a lot of them. I have huge phobia on gecko, lizard, komodo – anything that looks like that. I found myself jumping and screaming every time I found one on the road. It was definitely the scariest part of the walk. I would actually do it again, in Autumn, when those lizards are tucked away hibernating. (Shivers).
Finally I reached Gandria. A gush of excitement filled my body. The village was almost empty when I got there but boy was it unbelievably full of character. A quiet little village, Italian-influenced with so many tiny alleys which can only fit a person at a time. I love untouched villages like this, isolated from the crowd and cannot be easily reached. The tranquility filled my ear and I felt comfortable
You can literally get lost in this little village for the many secret passages and intriguing signs which lead you to unexpected views. After satisfying my curiosity, I went to find the boat back to Lugano which I failed to find. I went inside a shop selling cheese and asked the middle-aged man who owns the shop. He spoke little English but understood my request. He didn’t only tell me where it was, he actually went out of his shop and walked with me down the path and showed me where the boat is. How I love hospitality from strangers!
As I sat on the boat going back to Lugano, I was extremely happy to have done the olive trail. It felt like an achievement. The getting lost, asking strangers, finding the prettiest village – it was all that I needed after a long break of travelling. This is what travelling should be about, connecting with the locals, feeling lost and then finding your destination, which for me was like finding treasure.
What a feeling!
Have you ever found a hidden treasure while travelling?