Europe in a Van Part 5 – italy and Switzerland: Cannobio and Zurich

The time has come, I finally get to award an accessibility score of 5! I wondered if this day would ever come, and to my delight it has! This weeks blog post is about a couple of nights in Cannobio Italy and our 2.5 week stay in Zurich. We only have one campsite to review this week, as we spent most of our time in a house!

Highlights and Lowlights


  • Zurich was so wonderfully accessible with audio and tactile pedestrian crossings and tactile signs
  • Cat cuddles!
  • The inflatable obstacle course in Cannobio


  • We had a massive (and slightly terrifying) thunderstorm one night and lots of our stuff got completely soaked
  • It is still very warm

Below, I have listed some of the extra facilities available at the campsites we’ve stayed at. Each campsite also had the basics – toilets, showers, sinks for dish washing (a god send as we don’t have running hot water), laundry facilities, bins, grey water disposal, chemical toilets and fresh water.

Climbing Obstacles in Cannobio

Campsite Camping del Sole
Cost – €34 per night for 2 people with electric hook up
Facilities – bar, restaurant, playground and pool
Accessibility score – 4 / 5

We ended up staying here just as a stop gap between two places but had we had more time, we probably would have stayed longer. It was a compact site overall, with pitches in a variety of sizes depending on your needs. As our camper is quite small, we fit into one of the little pitches which definitely helped save a few quid. The bigger the pitch, the higher the price you paid.

A view from our lunch table in Cannobio. We are sitting at a cafe beside the lake whcih can be seen in the background under blue skies. the tables are black, the umbrellas are white and our table has glassware, cutlery and a plant on it. Market stalls are set up in the background
The view from our lunch table in Cannobio, Italy

For us, the main selling point of this campsite was its proximity to Lake Maggiore, and the local Lido, the road to which was bright red so it was very hard to get lost. A purpose built beach and recreational area at the side of the lake, the Lido was the perfect place to hang out for the day. This one even had a gigantic inflatable slide and a floating obstacle course, which we HAD to try.

The site itself was lovely, with clean facilities and one of the best toilet signs I’ve seen so far. It was so good, I could see it from quite far off, which is almost never the case! Once you got into the toilets however, they gave up on the signs so I had to wander around a bit to find out where I was supposed to be going. On the other hand, if you needed a companion to guide you, the bathroom area was just one room for male and female, with one end for male and the other end for female. So it would be easy enough to have a companion guide you if needs be.

An example of a good toilet sign which is a yellow background, with black writing and in large font.
An example of a good bathroom sign in Camping del Sole, Cannobio

In addition, the roads to each set of pitches were sign posted, the numbers of the pitches were easy to read and the small size of the site made it very easy to get around. However, there was no tactile paving and the map handed out was tiny and hard to read. The staff were very nice however!

Exploring Zurich, the most accessible city so far

Well here it is, a 5 out of 5 – Fabuloso! It was a joy to wander around this city, feeling comfortable, safe and in control. Tactile paving stretched as far as the eye could see, tactile signage was within arms reach, signs were big and contrasted, train information was at eye level and the pedestrian crossing had the most amazing vibrating disk underneath that buzzed when the light turned green. This last one was my favourite as I struggle to see and keep an eye on the traffic light colours, especially in sunlight. I used it even when The Driver was with me, just for the fun of it.

Its hard to express how much of a difference being in an accessible place is. It feels like safety and freedom all at the one time, its like a welcome hug and someone saying “we thought of your needs and did this just for people like you”. Its such a powerful feeling. I also noticed that a lot of the accessible features were retro fitted, or added on to existing infrastructure. This can be seen in the tactile signs on the handrails and on some of the tactile paving. Therefore, installing them doesn’t require a new floor, handrail or the likes. I think this is important to note to show that it can be done relatively easily, when the will is there to do it.

We had the great pleasure of staying in a house for the 2.5 weeks we were here. Going from a one roomed home to a family home with a toaster and an oven was the height of luxury. That said, I am looking forward to moving back into our tiny home this week.

We took these two weeks to completely relax and enjoy the space we had, so we didn’t get up to much! We visited the neighbouring village for a wander, installed 4 new vents in the van, went for a couple of swims in Lake Zurich and explored Zurich itself but nothing too wild!

I took myself for a walk around the local forest and nature reserve which was glorious in the sunshine. It also had marked out loop walks and trails which made it easy to navigate. I also visited Zurich alone one day, to pick up my sunglasses and hair dye – eek!

Another view over Lake Zurich showing blue skies, blue water and mountains. Bright green grass is in the foreground
The view over Lake Zurich from the nature reserve

In some ways, this trip feels like a coming of age trip for me. These trips are normally done in your early 20s, where you head off with a group of friends interrailing or on a J1 visa to the US. For a variety of reasons, I never made it on those trips, so this one feels like my chance! Seeing as I was embracing my youth, I decided it was time to finally dye my hair – pink! It was a home job, so its not perfect but I LOVE it. I just did the ends but I want a whole head done next. In the spirit of finding myself, I also have plans to get my tattoo re-done and I got my nose pierced recently. I would never have had the confidence to do this when I was younger!

Things to see and do – Our favourite activity was floating down the River Limmat in an inflatable pineapple and a pink donut. We looked very cool. This was a great way to spend a day. It started in Zurich itself, just behind the main train station at Platzspitz Park and ended in Glanzenberg Train Station. Its about 10km from start to finish and takes 2 – 3 hours to do.

Accessibility wise, I would say it was pretty good but I would recommend doing it with a companion in a boat or double ring if you require a mobility aid when on dry land. I say this because there is a big dam you have to avoid and the current can be pretty strong in places, which makes it a bit difficult to navigate. It is a multi sensory experience as you are floating along, feeling the water underneath, the sun above and listening to the changing sounds around you as you leave Zurich city and head into the sticks! I’d highly recommend it!

So, it was a pretty chilled 2 weeks in Switzerland. It is by far the most expensive place so far, with an americano costing €6 in a Starbucks – worth it as it was the biggest and most homelike coffee we have had since we left. That said, it is a lovely place to visit if you ever get the chance!

Thanks for reading, Aoife x

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