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Apr 23, 2024

10 min. read

All text and images courtesy of Stephanie Foden.

In a country smaller than Nova Scotia, it’s incredible to find the kind of beauty that’s condensed into Switzerland’s borders. And as we rolled along the roadways, each turn revealed something new, set against the majesty of the Alps. In a vintage Volkswagen van, my partner and I set out to explore the cultural mosaic that is Switzerland.

Close ties with France, Italy and Germany have made the languages and traditions of these neighbouring countries an intrinsic part of Swiss culture. Our trip took us from a delightful world of pasta, gelato and Vespas in Ticino to the cobblestone streets of Lucerne and on to the shores of Lake Geneva, where we savoured croissants in a French café. And although the roads got steep, travel time from one spectacular place to the next was minimal—just a two-hour drive from Ticino to Lucerne, then two more hours to reach Lake Geneva.

The medieval-style Ponte dei Salti spans the Verzasca River for a view that seems straight from a fairy tale.
A stone bridge between mountains covered in bushes and trees with people standing all along it.


In the canton of Ticino, Swiss precision meets la dolce vita. Here, the Alpine backdrop seamlessly blends into palm trees and shockingly blue glacier-fed lakes that look like they could be part of the Mediterranean. Italian language and culture take centre stage, and the local cuisine’s delightful fusion of flavours was exemplified by a saffron risotto I won’t soon forget. Walk the shores of lakes Lugano and Maggiore, stroll through the subtropical botanical garden on the Brissago Islands and explore vibrant towns in the Verzasca Valley.

The Mount Pilatus Aerial Cableway climbs to the top of the mountain, at an elevation of over 2,000 metres (6,900 feet) above sea level. On clear days, visitors can marvel at the panorama of 73 Alpine peaks.
An overhead shot of a red cable car making its way up from one mountain to another. Below and behind it are green fields with dense trees.


Every Swiss-German cobblestone street in Lucerne tells a story. This enchanting city, situated on the shores of Lake Lucerne and surrounded by snow-capped mountains, combines Germanic charms from the Middle Ages with modern sophistication. Stroll across the picturesque Chapel Bridge, charter a boat to explore the lake and visit nearby traditional villages. Don’t miss out on the breathtaking views from above—the summit of Mount Pilatus is accessible by cable car or cogwheel railway.

The sunny terraced vineyards of Lavaux are warmed by light reflected off the surface of Lake Geneva and heat stored in the surrounding stone walls.
An overhead shot of a large vineyard next to a lake. In the background, the sun is setting.


Sample world-class wines and indulge in gourmet delights here, in Switzerland’s French-speaking region, nestled within a mild microclimate. It boasts picturesque lake vistas, charming small towns and the famous Lavaux Vineyard Terraces— a UNESCO World Heritage site, where grapes have been grown since the 11th century. Some of these wineries now produce the country’s prestigious Grands Crus vintages. From the upscale restaurants and accommodations to the spas and museums, our every encounter along Lake Geneva’s shores exuded a distinctly French flair.

Planning a European road trip? Familiarize yourself with local driving laws and, before you go, don’t forget to obtain your International Driving Permit (IDP) from a CAA Store. CAA is the only authorized source of IDPs in Canada. A CAA Travel Consultant can help you book your trip, including car rentals, flights and accommodations. Visit caasco.com/travel or caamanitoba.com/travel to learn more.