June 9: Visp Over the Simplon Pass to Lugano
We left camp at 7:45 and drove to Brig and started over the Simplon Pass. We had a rather steep climb with windings for several miles. We traveled beside a deep gorge but didn't get the full impact of it because it was again very cloudy and foggy. We could catch glimpses of towering crags above us, with a patchwork of snow, but the clouds only tantalized us with these views - they never opened up. Near the top we went through a couple of miles of roadwork with one lane traffic, rough roads and moving machinery. To top this off, it was so foggy we had to turn our lights on at times. It was a very interesting, if not scenic crossing. It really is a well-engineered road. The clouds lifted a bit as we were coming down toward the Italian border but we had passed the most spectacular part.
We turned east from Domodossola, Italy on the recommendation of an Australian couple at Visp who had just come over the road. We had misgivings at first since it was very narrow, but it was well paved and very interesting. It twisted and turned through narrow gorges and valleys, occasionally passing through a small Italian village perched on the side of the mountain.
We decided to turn to the south at Malesco because this route would allow us to travel along Lake Maggiore for a short distance. This was a departure from the Australians' route and we had no knowledge about it except a small line on the map. After 2 or 3 miles it turned into a dirt road, about 1 1/2 car widths wide, and I was afraid that we had gotten on the wrong road. We perservered and it turned out to be the right road. It was 25 km of the most fantastic road that I have ever seen - all but about the last 5 km was narrow dirt road.
The road ws evidently well engineered. The were many switchbacks, some almost too sharp for the lock of the car. The road twisted and turned its torturous way up and down mountains, through gorges, over streams to the little Italian villages. Often we could see the road in several places across the valley. We would see a tiny village with its church steeple about a mile straight across the valley, and after probably 5 or 6 miles of the winding road we would reach it.
The weather had turned nice and warm and the scenery was lovely. The mountains were covered with green trees and there were nice streams. Here and there you would see the white steeple tower of a village church with a few houses clustered around it - made more attractive by contrast to the green foliage around them. The houses were rather poor looking and old, but for the most part clean. They had either tile roofs or the rock roofs like those we observed near St. Nicklaus and Zermatt.
We finally came out on Lake Maggiore at Connobio and started along the lake shore. The lake was very nice but quite built up along most of its length. We drove through Locarno and started south to Lugano. As we climbed the mountain to the south we got a terrific view of Locarno and the lake.
We drove down to Agno near Lugano and camped at "La Palma" campsite on Lake Lugano. It was highly recommended by all the books, but we didn't think it was so great - no hot showers for one thing and it was very expensive. It was right on the shore - we camped about 20 yards from Lake Lugano.
We drove into Lugano briefly and it is an impressively beautiful city - more beautiful than Lucerne in its setting on the lake shore. It is on a rather steep hillside by the lake and its uniform tile roofs make it a very pretty picture.