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Updated: Oct 6, 2018

When Monday blues kicked in a couple of weeks ago, I pointed at the first Airbnb link offering accommodation near the Lake Lugano and asked my sister if she was up for a few-hour drive across Switzerland.

She just couldn't say no to a gorgeous Italian villa "Ahimsa", situated on the hill in Brusimpiano, a charming Italian village by the Italian-Swiss border.

We arrived on Friday evening and were greeted by Susan. She wasn't just an ordinary host who would show around and hand over the keys. In fact, we never received the keys. Instead, she waited for us to come back from the restaurant and spoiled us with home-made hazelnut ice-cream.

Morning views from the balcony of the villa "Ahimsa".

The restaurant "Ristorante Dal Pescatore" is the one to remember: located on the lakeside in Lavena Ponte Tresa village, it offers a decent seafood menu for healthy eaters and pizza lovers. Our taste buds weren't disappointed, we would certainly come back for the star-shaped seafood pizza!

Yummy seafood at the restaurant "Ristorante Dal Pescatore".

After having seafood overload for dinner, light breakfast was a reasonable choice. On Saturday morning Susan was preparing something special for us and and two other ladies who were staying at the villa.

We sat on the balcony overlooking the lake and the mountains and it seemed to me something was missing in this idealistic picture, there was so much tension, one could cut the air with a knife ... To our disappointment, the coffee wasn't available before the breakfast time! We pushed our patience to the limits until Susan called us over to the dining room.

That silly idea about light breakfast was forgotten as soon as Susan had served fruit and home-made banana bread. Totally irresistible!

The host continued to spoil us. While we conversed with the fellow travelers from Poland, who had been traveling across Europe by car, cheese and veggie omelets were in the making.

"The fact that you're an artist reminds me of my mom, who was an artist as well” Susan said whilst refilling our coffee. “She was a wife of a farmer, swamped with household work, and revealed her talent only in her 70's".

Soon we understood it wasn’t going to be just an ordinary breakfast. Evidently, that was only an introduction to the coaching that helps women to lose fears and realise their dreams.

Did I mention that Susan is a psychologist? Most of her patients are women who are held back by fears when it comes to fulfilling their dreams. One of the stories that she told us goes like this:

There was a social worker who came to Susan asking to convince her not to chase her dream. Why? There was a family that needed food on the table and her passion for jewellery making wasn’t going to be the way to make a living. Poor woman didn’t know that Susan had her own agenda. She used her methods to redirect the patient’s thoughts and come up with the action plan which would transform her life by allowing to live her dream. Susan said that woman went from being a social worker to a full-time jeweller whose pieces were exhibited in various galleries in a few months. Isn’t it wonderful?! Slightly surreal though. Why do I always have to be so skeptical?

At the end of the breakfast Susan suggested that every woman who finds excuses not to pursue her dreams, should ask herself: “What if I could? What if it worked out?”

After having some food for thought we grabbed a couple of books written by the host and returned to the balcony. Yes, that’s right, our host Susan Schachterle is also a published writer. A writer, who focuses on the fulfilment of the dreams.

A morning coffee and a glance at one of Susan's books.

We decided to spend the Saturday exploring Lombardy. Started with the street market in Ponte Tresa, where we went crazy for the local fruit and vegetables and bought just the right amount for the whole week.

The next destination was Sacro Monte di Varese, one of the sacred mountains in Lombardy. We drove over there without even checking that navigation would actually be leading up the mountain via the narrow roads.

Furthermore, it didn’t occur to us to check that the mountain has an altitude of 807 metres above sea-level. It was quite a test for my sister! A test which ended up with no parking space so we had to go back to town. What a shame…

The stunning view from Sacro Monte di Varese.

"Wikipedia informs Sacro Monte di Varese represents the Mysteries of Jesus Christ’s life and is inscribed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites so maybe we shouldn’t miss it..." I gave some information to my little sister. We left the car on the street and took a bus back up. It was a pleasant surprise to find out the journey was almost free of charge: 1.5 EUR for the bus ticket and 1 EUR for the funicular.

No entrance fee for the mountaintop, where the Sanctuary, medieval village with restaurants and chapels are located. In spite of the impressive views, the atmosphere was rather oppressive. As if death and tortures, fear and despair of middle ages had soaked the walls and the pebbly roads. The restaurants were closed so we ended our day indulging a glass (or two) of some Italian red wine on the balcony of villa "Ahimsa".

We could have spent the whole weekend just chilling on that balcony, but a sunny Sunday morning came and we were keen to hit the road. We drove back to Switzerland to explore the canton of Ticino. The first stop was Gandria, the last Swiss village before the Italian border.

One can reach this charming fishermen oasis by boat from Lugano city but we decided to leave our car in the car park in Castagnola, where "Gandria Trail" ("Sentiero di Gandria") starts. The trail was a fairly easy walk along the lake, offering the views of the mountains, making us climb some stairs and walk the narrow streets. I think this trail is also called the "Olive Path" ("Parco Degli Ulivi") as there used to be olive plantations before the winter of 1709 had destroyed most of Ticino's olive trees.

The ups and downs of the Gandria hike.

Our destination was an outdoor restaurant at the hotel "Elvezia al Lago", where we finally got to sit in the shade on that hot Sunday afternoon. A cappuccino and the sun-rays playing in the Lake Lugano brought the perfect bliss.

The views from the restaurant at the hotel "Elvezia al Lago".

The last stop of the weekend escape was Monte Brè. Again, my sister was brave enough to drive up the mountain. It’s rather exciting and challenging to pass by another car when you’re squeezed between a cliff and a slope.

This time we managed to park the car in the village Brè and walked our way up to the restaurant called "Ristorante Vetta", located on the mountaintop. The path was a peaceful walk in the forest, a real recharge for us. The views from the mountaintop speak for themselves...

Monte Brè is known as Switzerland's sunniest area.

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