Relais Castello di Morcote

The final leg of my trip to Ticino was to be four nights at the gorgeous Relais Castello di Morcote. It did not happen and I feel so strange about it. I have never cut a trip short. Ever. So, to do so at a gorgeous hotel for the part of a trip that I was looking forward to most, just feels odd and honestly, so unlike me, but it had to be done, as it just didn’t feel right.

There are no photos for this hotel review, as it the whole experience was a blank.

I’d been corresponding directly with the hotel for nearly three months. Originally, I’d booked via Expedia, but cancelled and booked directly when I realized that I could get a far-more upgraded room and at a lesser price than even a basic room with Expedia. The hotel was aware of this and confirmed they saw the one cancellation and indeed had the other reservation.

The front desk was most kind the last few months, helping me to arrange dinners, talk me through a wine tasting, advised on hikes and beaches, and most importantly, transportation to the hotel, since it’s rather remote. In short, we knew each other. I was going to take long walks in the mornings, write in the private garden I’d booked in the afternoons, lounge in the soaking tub before dinners on property in the evenings. They knew me, because they helped to direct this itinerary.

When I arrived, I was greeted with a laugh at the size of my luggage. Had I been travelling for weeks? Well, actually, yes I had. I then walked into a very oddly placed wall sconce. More laughs from the hotel manager. Not going to lie, didn’t love these transactions after a three hour journey that included a car, a train, and two buses. When we realized it was 13:45, they quickly shooed me away from checking in and into the restaurant as the kitchen closed at 14:00. No issue there, though the restaurant had one. They refused to feed me. What kind of high end hotel can’t even set a cheese plate aside for an afternoon arrival? Come to think of it, I wasn’t even offered a glass of water, or wine, (this was a winery after all), upon arrival. Meanwhile Eden Roc is doling out multiple glasses of rose bubbles. So, I did what any traveler would do who had this 2PM curfew who think she saw another restaurant down the street, she ran for it. It was also closed.

The laughing manager asked me if I wanted to be driven to another location. Thanks, but no. First of all, I instantly didn’t trust him based on his interactions with me so far. Also, Covid. I wasn’t getting in a car with a stranger. So, I just decided to be hungry until dinner. Once I decided this, well, whatever. Laughing manager showed me to my room and I knew instantly it wasn’t what I booked. Again, this wouldn’t normally be a big deal, but this place was a splurge for me, the culmination of my trip. I’d booked this precise room months ago. Well, turns out they sold it to someone else.

I was finally able to shake the laughing hotel manager and received help from the kind front desk girl. They just kept saying a mistake had been made. Ok, I get it, we all make mistakes, but didn’t offer any possible fixes until I asked what the options were. All I knew, was that there was no way I was paying what I’d committed to for that room. I offered that I’d be happy to just fully cancel if I could be refunded and thankfully, they agreed; no doubt, happy to be done with me. I’m certain they thought I was crazy and offered to help me look for another hotel, but I was itching to get out of there. The girl apologized and also offered me to stay at a very generous discount, but I just couldn’t see staying around these people – the unwelcoming restaurant lady and the laughing manager. Running into these people for four days would not make for a vacation. So, I went with my gut and hightailed it back down the mountain for another six hours of travel. And thankfully, a very late lunch!

Here’s some advice to consider if you’re a solo traveler or even several travelers using public transit to arrive at Relais Castello di Morcote. Again, I haven’t actually stayed there, but I did learn a lot upon checking in:

  • Arriving to the hotel: Like all of Switzerland, there is great public transit that gets you to Morcote. However, this village is teeny tiny. The buses are very infrequent so make sure that you check the time tables in advance and plan accordingly. Honestly, you would be best suited to have a car here.
  • Check-In: Make sure that you arrive during early in the lunch service if you are planning on eating. The restaurant doesn’t play games with their kitchen time. Actually, probably best to make a reservation. There are no food shops or other restaurants at the top of the mountain in Morcote, so you’re a bit stuck if you don’t plan.
  • Rooms: Confirm your room a second time, well in advance of your arrival.
  • The two restaurants: The website leads you to believe they are both part of the hotel. One is attached to the hotel, but not run by the hotel, so it has it’s own rules. Clearly. The other is far away and not easily walked to, so transport must be arranged. Why wasn’t this disclosed when we were planning? This alone probably would have pushed me to book elsewhere.
  • The wine tasting: Another red flag as it’s not an option for solo travelers. Only available for groups of two or more. I did know this up front and was hoping to tag onto another group.

All in all, this was just a shockingly weird experience at a hotel that I know plenty of people love. It’s a first world problem that I realize I’m quite lucky to have. I did want to share in case this helps out anyone else brave enough to spend the investment worthy time and money go to Morcote for some relaxation. I appreciate the full cancellation and maybe I’ll try this again another day with a partner, in a car, with a picnic.


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