Bond’s bungee jump from the 220-meter high Verzasca Dam – who doesn’t remember it? However, we would just as soon not book this ultimate adrenaline rush by Lago di Vogorno — because a helicopter ride to “Rustico del Sole,” a restaurant located a scant 5 km as the crow flies from the dam, is no less spectacular!
This time around we are lodging in the Castello del Sole in Ascona, where they specialize in spoiling their guests all day long. Living up their motto “Best of Castello,” a noontime excursion to the hotel-owned Rustico is on offer, for a rustic dining experience in what might be called difficult terrain.
Not unexpectedly, Walter is head over heels for the idea, with me trailing along behind to keep him out of getting into too much trouble. But let’s take it one step at a time…
The Rustico – a country cottage counterpoint to your usual 5-star hotel – sits at an altitude of nearly 1,000 meters, offering a breathtaking view that sweeps from the dam over the Maggia delta all the way to Lago Maggiore with its famous Brissago islands.
The only way there is by helicopter. Or on foot, to be sure. But, hey, even James Bond would not have hiked up, but, true to type, would have let himself be lofted to those heights by an aircraft.
Hence, a ride in a Swiss Helicopter whirlybird awaits us now on the Castello del Sole’s own heliport. Let the airborne adventure begin!
By Helicopter to Rustico del Sole
Once hotel manager Jenny has issued his final instructions, the action starts. Walter, complete film studio strapped to his back, readies himself as if he will be directing the next James Bond film. Whew… only pure chance keeps the helicopter’s rotor wash from whipping his huge directional mic past his ears!
Once we are all strapped into our seats, the pilot lifts off. We fly over Ascona and Locarno toward Brione above Minusio. As Walter catches sight of the Verzcasa Dam, he is fully caught up in the fantasy! I, on the other hand, sit there mute with the jitters as I see the pilot heading straight for the mountain on which the Rustico sits.
Where, for heaven’s sake, is there room for him to put the machine down?
Will we, in fact, have to bail out of the helicopter like Bond with a parachute? When he typically doesn’t even wear a chute? I can already see myself over the abyss hanging on for dear life to the helicopter skids. But, with my fellow flyers acting all enthused, I, too, pretend I’m cool with it and force a smile. No doubt, Bond will materialize to rescue me – or maybe he won’t?
After the accomplished landing, first I need a drink, now please, and make that stirred, not shaken!
Culinary Flights of Fancy
Host Antonio Ferriroli and the Castello del Sole team around chef de cuisine Mattias Roock are all smiles already waiting for us. In these lofty environs (no electricity!) they have prepared a traditional meal from regional ingredients. First, they serve up delicious Ticino antipasti, before dishing out for us a ragout with polenta from Castello del Sole’s own Terreni alla Maggia estate.
The Terreni alla Maggia estate is known not only for growing maize and for being the only area in Switzerland where rice is cultivated, but also for its nearly 26 acre vineyard where agronomist Fabio del Pietro oversees cultivation of Merlot grapes and other flavorful varieties like Kerner, Chardonnay, and Bondola.
Ha! Bond would never have the time to indulge in a leisurely lunch at such an idyllic place. Whereas I do! And, while I’m at it, I am not going to pass up the fine apple cake prepared by chef de cuisine Roock from his grandmother’s recipe!
We are told that, next year, they plan to expand the Rustico so that the exclusive retreat can accommodate up to six overnight guests by 2018. But, for now, we let Swiss Helicopters take us back to Ascona and the Castello.
It goes without saying that the excursion to Rustico is not included in the standard room rate. And let it be understood that it is not inexpensive either. But hey, then Bond had the government to pick up his tabs…
Our Thanks go to…
…Simon Jenny, manager of the Castello del Sole Ascona, for the generous invitation, and to Julia Faulhaber of Faulhaber Marketing Services for organizing this travel experience!
Sincere thanks also to FeiyuTech for the SPG Smartphone Gimbal: the sequences shot with smartphone on the run “Hollywood in Ticino” style using the gimbal really turned out impressively well.