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What's Not to Love About Lugano

Lugano lakefront villasA bus trip into city of Lugano from the east involves a scenic ride along Lake Lugano from the town of Porlezza and by the quaint seaside village of Gandria. The coastline with its rugged mountain cliffs, tunnels and bridges, winding narrow roads, adjacent deep blue waters and beautiful villas built precariously on the side of the steep lakeshore is unforgettable. Lugano, where Italian is the primary language, is called the "Queen of the Lake District," It is not only Switzerland's third financial, congress, banking and business centre but also is known as the town of parks and fountains, villas and palaces of worship.

Lugano, which became a part of the Swiss Confederation in 1803, was founded on a picturesque location on the shores of the lake at the southern edge of the Alps. With its Mediterranean flair and outdoor eating establishments called "pavement cafes" along the lake, Lugano offers all the advantages of a large modern city while still offering a small town charm. The ambiance is unique, with a combination of glacier peaks in the distance and palm trees at the edge of the gin-clear lake.

The focal point is beautiful Lake Lugano, but the surrounding hills and mountains offer some very attractive invitations. One of the most interesting sights to visit nearby is Monte Generoso, which peaks at 5,570 feet above sea level. Unfortunately for us, the trip via boat to Mendrisio and then funicular up the mountain, takes a full day of time, of which we did not have enough . Monte Generoso is home to Breggia Falls and Karst Caves which, according to some archaeological digs, used to house prehistoric bears 18-20,000 years ago. The dig can be visited by guided groups, which makes a visit to this area especially interesting.

Lugano from Mt. BreWith somewhat limited time available in Lugano, we turned our sights to another most interesting natural attraction, that being Mount Bre. The restored funicular, built between 1910 and 1912, connects the mountain top village of Bre with its larger neighbor in the valley. From our lakeview accommodations at the Suitenhotel Parco Paradiso (www.parcoparadiso@bestwestern.ch), getting to the Bre funicular station was easy. It was just a fairly short downhill walk to the lakeside promenade where we boarded one of the transportation boats that make regular (hourly) stops at several points around Lake Lugano.

After the short boat ride (again our ticket was included in the Swiss Pass program) across the Lake to the Cassarete dock, we walked a couple of blocks to the Bre funicular. This was the first time we experienced an automatic cable car, which runs every 30 minutes. A bell sounds that allows you to board, and then you simply sit in the car and wait until it starts climbing the mountain.  The first segment is free, and stops at Cassarete. The second segment has a fee of approximately 19 Francs per person and takes you on up to the scenic 3,300-feet high summit.

Lake Lugano A restaurant and a very small church await you when you step out of the funicular. Although the grounds are not as well kept as in other parts of Switzerland, the scenery was truly spectacular. From Mount Bre, we were able to clearly see the magnificent view of the Monte Rosa and the Bernese and Valais Alps.  From here, a variety of hiking and biking trails are the best way to experience the natural beauty and peaceful ambiance. The Nature and Archaeological walk of Gandria is an ideal way to get a closer look at the unique geology and plants thanks to the ease of the trail. Along the way there are 15 numbered information points  outlining particular geological characteristics.

Several panoramic vantage points make you stop and look and the beautiful scenery. There's also an Art Trail, called "an outdoors walking museum of artistic works". The permanent exhibition located throughout the center of the village of Bre includes paintings, sculptures and mosaics of area artists. For more information, check out http://www.montebre.ch/index_en.html.

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Whether you are gazing out at the beautiful mountain peaks on the other side of the lake from your perch on Bre or enjoying a glass of wine at a small bistro along the lakeside promenade, Lugano has become a repeat destination for many travelers.

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