Sunday, July 1, 2007

Traveling between Switzerland and Italy

Milan is very close to the border with Switzerland. As a matter of fact, it takes only 1 hour plus to get to Switzerland, but it takes 5 hours to reach Rome. Today, I took the train to the nearest swiss city - Lugano.

For trains going to other countries, you can't buy the ticket online or using those automatic machines. You have to buy the ticket at the ticket office. I took the 8.25am train, the train's final destination is Zurich. On the way, it stops at Monza, Como and the border town Chiasso. Monza is famous for Ferrari racing, Como is where Lake Como is. From Milan to Monza is only a 20 mins ride, to Lake Como is about 1 hour. From Lake Como to Lugano is just another 20-30 mins.

1/3 of the train journey is wasted at the border town Chiasso. When the train enters Switzerland, the swiss immigration will come on board the train for passport checking & vice versa.

It is quite interesting to see how people in different countries work. When the Swiss came onboard, they practically checked every passenger's passport. When the Italians came onboard, they only selective chose people to check. The usual suspects will get checked, and they are the blacks. On the way to Lugano, one black guy was escorted down the train by the Swiss officers; on the way back to Milan, a black lady was checked by two different batches of Italian officers. I thought they might want to check my passport as well, as I was the few Asians onboard, but then they just walked past and I continued my nap :D By the way, they only check passports, but they do not stamp your passport. I just missed two stamps, one for entering Switzerland, one for entering Italy. :)

Ticino of Switzerland is an Italian speaking state, directly bordering Lombardy of Italy. You would not expect too much difference between the two sides of the border, but you are wrong! Entering to Italy from Switzerland is like entering Johor Bahru from Singapore. The Swiss side has beautiful landscapes, properly maintained gardens, lawns. The streets are clean, filled with luxury cars. Ferrari, BMW, Merz are almost everywhere. Castles, picturesque residences line the picturesque coastline.

One interesting point: with all these Swiss/Italian technology, the toilet in the train is still nothing more than a man-hole. Whatever you pee or shit goes down directly to the track.

The ticket from Milan to Lugano is 15.50 euros, from Lugano to Milan is sFr 25.00.

Last but not least, my opinion on Lugano: If you want to know how paradise looks like, go to Lugano...


I traveled between Switzerland and Italy again on 21-22 July 2007. The scenario is again different. I took the train departing Milan at 7.10am. It is a Swiss train. When we arrived at the border town of Chiasso, the train only stopped there for less than 10 mins, then it continued the journey north. Nobody came onboard to check passports or whatsoever. On the way back, some guards came onboard at Lugano, and started checking passports. Then at Chiasso, another batch of officials came onboard to check passports and luggage. They asked the young guys sitting near me to open their bags for inspection.

An interesting incident here. The guy checking the luggage happened to have the same type of watch as mine. I didn't notice it, but he did. He even specifically came up to me to tell me that we have the same watch! Amazing...

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