Lugano and Surrounds
We arrived late afternoon in Lugano after a long but very enjoyable day on the Bernina Express from Chur via Tirano (see previous report https://goo.gl/LTkZjT)
From Lugano Station the super-efficient TPL funicular (photo #1) deposited us in Piazza Cioccaro around 17:45. Negotiating the narrow streets, none of which run in a straight line or at right angles to each other, meant that locating our hotel was more challenging than expected. A glimpse of Lake Lugano set us on the right track.
The Hotel Walter du Lac (photo #2), where we would stay the next five nights, was a welcome sight. The young lady at reception was wonderfully friendly and we were soon armed with a room key and two Ticino Tickets (https://goo.gl/jmkY3S) offering free public transport on buses and trains around most of the region surrounding Lugano.
By the time we had unpacked and freshened up it was time for dinner. We stepped out onto Riva Vincenzo Vela, turned right and immediately took a table at the Walter Snack Bar (photo #3) attached to the hotel. Snack Bar is a bit of a misnomer as they do very nice meals at a reasonable price (though limited pretty much to pasta and pizza). Dinner was followed by our very first authentic passagiata along the waterfront.
The following day we set off to get our bearings and pretty soon located the Manor department store and its fantastic food hall (photo #4, #5). Australians familiar with the David Jones food hall in Sydney or the Myer food hall in Melbourne will get the idea. We also found a fantastic deli in Via Pessina (photo #6).
To get back to the main station you can take the funicular, walk up the many steps to the left of the Cathedral or follow the winding lanes to the right (photo #7). We preferred to catch the train up and saunter down the hill.
In such beautifully warm sunny weather the lake is a focal point and a hive of activity (photos #8, #9). The Art and Culture Centre (photo #10) is a fine piece of architecture seamlessly blended in to the older surrounding buildings.
A picnic lunch under a shady tree by the waterfront in Parco Civico was just what the doctor ordered. After lunch we continued our walk along the waterfront and decided we were already so close to Cassarate that we may as well continue on and catch the funicular from there up to Monte Brè.
At the top we set off to explore and I fell over. Too busy gawking at the view, missed a low step and down I went. Luckily just a few cuts and grazes but no major damage. My wife was more shaken than I was as she had visions of me being medivac-ed off the mountain by helicopter. A cold beer at the mountain-top taverna put things to rights but the photos I took turned out too blurry for publication.
The following day we set off for Locarno but decided we may as well go first to Bellinzona to suss out where we would need to go to catch the Gotthard Panorama Express later in the week. The train to Bellinzona was deserted (photo #1) and so was Bellinzona when we arrived (photo #2). We eventually tumbled to the fact it was a public holiday! Anyway Bellinzona was well worth the detour. The town is very pleasing and its three castles splendid (see several photos).
After the calm of Bellinzona, Locarno was another story. The train (photo #10) was packed as every man and his dog (photo #2) seemed intent on going to the beach. We wandered the waterfront (photo #3) and enjoyed the gelato. On another day we may have wandered the old town or ridden the Madonna del Sasso funicular, but it was really too hot for our taste so we headed back to Lugano.
We had heard good things about Ristorante La Tinera in Via dei Gorini but on arrival for dinner found it closed due to the public holiday. Darn! We soon found an alternative and enjoyed a very nice meal. The silver lining to missing out on our preferred venue was that the new restaurant had run out of sangiovese and instead introduced us to a grape variety we had not previously experienced - Primitivo. Hooked would be the best description.
The next day we spent the morning exploring the city and then decided a cruise on the lake was in order. Società Navigazione del Lago di Lugano (SNL) runs numerous ferries and lake cruises (see https://goo.gl/5GTcXq). Regular ferry routes are fully covered by the Swiss Travel Pass or Ticino Ticket holders can purchase a day pass at 25% discount.
We took the Scenic Tour to Porlezza and back. The boat calls in at several villages along the way including Gandria (photo #1) and Osteno (photo #2) before reaching Porlezza (photo #3) at the eastern end of Lake Lugano. You get a chance to go ashore at Porlezza for a short while and confirm you are in Italy (photo #4). On the way back the village of Castello (photo #5) was particularly well lit. Back at Gandria the captain of our boat was cheered on by a gentleman who we took to be the proprietor of the waterfront taverna (photo #6). Or perhaps he was exhorting the captain to look after a couple of his patrons who rolled on board after what had obviously been a long lunch.
On our final day in Lugano we took a train to Ponte Tresa. The train leaves from the Lugano FLP station which is across the road and down a short ramp from the main station. FLP is obviously a happy railway company (photo #1). It was market day in Ponte Tresa but the market was on the Italian side of the border and a fair distance so we just walked the few hundred metres to the ferry jetty on the Swiss side of the border (photos #2, #3) and awaited the boat to take us back to Lugano.
The village of Morcote (photos #4, #5, #6) is very attractive and looks well worth a wander about. We like boats and on Lake Lugano they come in all shapes and sizes including the one we changed to at Melide (photo #8). Between Melide and Paradiso you get a good views of San Salvatore (photo #7) from differing angles.
That evening for our final passagiata we strolled the 3km round-trip to Paradiso and back as twilight descended over Lake Lugano (see photos). A fitting end to a great stay in this beautiful city.
Coming up next . . . . To Luzern by Gotthard Panorama Express
For earlier editions of The Reluctant Travellers' Swiss Adventure see
Part 1 - Initial Report (https://goo.gl/8bw51n), Part 2 - Basel to Brig (https://goo.gl/626K1i), Part 3 - The Glacier Express (https://goo.gl/K9hHfR), Part 4 - The Bernina Express (https://goo.gl/LTkZjT)