Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Exploring Switzerland's Italian Side in Lugano

Lake Lugano and Monte San Salvatore, http://sleachmouradventures.blogspot.com
Monte San Salvatore across Lake Lugano
Since our arrival in Switzerland, I've been pestering Matt for a trip to Ticino, the Italian region of Switzerland. I hear wonderful things about Tucino - its scenic beauty, the abundant sun, tasty food and wine and the (very un-Swiss) disregard of schedules and clocks by locals and visitors alike. It sounds like the Swiss-Italians could be my people! I couldn't wait to visit.

The first weekend in May, a nice long holiday weekend for Matt, was the perfect opportunity to hop on a train and make our way South. We booked a hotel in Lugano, a small Swiss town located on Lake Lugano, just minutes from the Italian border.

The train ride from Zurich to Lugano was unexpectedly gorgeous. Don't get me wrong. Most train rides in Switzerland are scenic. My twice weekly commutes into the city have beautiful mountain and lake views. But the train to Lugano was special, slowing climbing up into the Swiss Alps. I planned to read, but spent most of the trip with my nose pressed to the window watching snow capped mountains, waterfalls of snow melt and adorable mountain towns. Unfortunately, iPhone photos through windows can't do it justice. You'll just have to take my word, or come visit.

We arrived in Lugano mid-morning and checked into Hotel Federale, conveniently located just below the train station and a few steps from the Old Town. We dropped our things and went straight to the lake.

We took the advice of our hotel's concierge and, after a stroll along the water, hopped on a boat cruise around the bay. 

Lugano and Monte Bre, http://sleachmouradventures.blogspot.com
Lugano and Monte Bre from the boat
Lugano, Switzerland http://sleachmouradventures.blogspot.com
Looking back at Lugano from the boat
Monte Bre http://sleachmouradventures.blogspot.com
Another view of Monte Bre.
Thirty minutes later we docked at Gandria, a tiny town carved into the side of Mounte Bre. We decided to disembark and look for lunch.

Gandria, Switzerland http://sleachmouradventures.blogspot.com
Gandria, Switzerland http://sleachmouradventures.blogspot.com
Gandria, Switzerland http://sleachmouradventures.blogspot.com
After a stroll through the town and a tasty pasta lunch, we decided to walk back to town. It was about an hour walk on a well-marked path around the base of Mounte Bre.
Lugano, Switzerland http://sleachmouradventures.blogspot.com
We ended our walk with amazing pastries at one of the few bakeries open - it was, after all, a public holiday, and everything except restaurants and a few select stores were closed. 
Lugano, Switzerland http://sleachmouradventures.blogspot.com
Probably the best cream puff ever, sorry Schmidt's.
Unfortunately, towards the end of our walk back, dark clouds rolled in.  We gave up our plans to take the funicular to the top of Monte Bre after spotting lightening. 

Lugano, Switzerland http://sleachmouradventures.blogspot.com

We hung out in the hotel, hoping it would pass. It didn't. We braved the rain for delicious pizza and gelato at a restaurant overlooking the Piazza Riforma, but ultimately called it an early night. We woke up the next morning to this:

Lugano, Switzerland http://sleachmouradventures.blogspot.com

Lugano, Switzerland http://sleachmouradventures.blogspot.com

What a difference a day makes! Weather forecasts weren't in our favor, so after nosing into a couple churches and shops, we hopped on an early train home to the pup. Next time, we'll pack more sun!

Lugano, Switzerland http://sleachmouradventures.blogspot.comSleachmour Travel Tips for Lugano

Lugano is easily explored in a day. Add on one or two more to hike a nearby mountain, take a ferry to Italy or a day trip to nearby Lake Cuomo. Interestingly, our friends were in Ticino at the same time, high up in the snowy mountains.... a totally different experience! If you plan to head up into the Alps, pack warm layers and sturdy shoes.

Be sure to check out the two gorgeous churches in the Old Town. Both Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli and Chiesa di San Rocco are easy to miss. The plain facades hide gorgeous frescos. Worth a peak into both.

Also, beware of traveling on Swiss Labor Day. Shops are closed. Also, it's the one day of the year when the Swiss actively protest... anything and everything. Towards the end of the night we heard fireworks and explosives peppering the town. It was a little unnerving.

Where to stay: 
Hotel Federale - We paid CHF 183, or about $200 per night for a double occupancy room including breakfast. The location is fantastic. We spotted the hotel from the train station and the Old Town is just around the corner. Breakfast was sufficient and the room was clean and comfy.

Train from Zurich:
Cheap and easy. They leave every hour from Zurich HB and cost CHF 31-62 per person. The views alone are worth the money.

Navigazione Lake Tour:
The guy selling tickets assumed we were tourists and never offered the half fare tickets we were eligible for. Also, he sold us round trip tickets, despite the fact that we intended to walk back. Thanks, buddy. Tickets cost CHF 14-28 each. Make sure you get only what you need.

1 comment: