A capital of international financial services and congresses, it enjoys elite tourism and its beautiful landscapes and elegance continue to inspire writers and artists.
The city of Lugano is set on the banks of the Lake with the same name, also called Cerisio, in the Italian canton of Switzerland. A perfect marriage of Swiss quality and Italian lifestyle, Lugano is an elegant city, the third Swiss financial capital and an important congress center, and a point of departure for magnificent excursions around the Ticino area to discover exciting places and deeply rooted traditions.
Lugano is set between two banks of the lake, and two mountains, Monte Salvatore and Monte Bré, and is the most important of all cities in the Italian part of Switzerland. A capital of international financial services and congresses, it enjoys elite tourism and its beautiful landscapes and elegance continue to inspire writers and artists of the caliber of Hermann Hesse who lived in the village of Montagnola for 43 years, writing some of his most important works there.
In the city of Lugano there is a perfect mix of cosmopolitan living and urban lifestyle, typified by the mild temperatures and Mediterranean climate with many days of sunshine all through the year regaling an enviably fine quality of life to those who are lucky enough to live here or spend time here. A walk through parks and gardens in the rich greenery while admiring views of the lakes or glimpses of splendid palaces is something that just cannot be missed. The surprising variety of botanical plants, very often including palms and olive trees, is probably quite unique in Switzerland.
The city center offers many fascinating places such as the San Lorenzo Cathedral which goes back to the 9th century, the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor monastery of the Holy Trinity, the neo-classical St Mary’s Church of the Immaculate Conception, just to mention a few examples of devotional buildings. The center of town also has the lively Piazza Riforma, often defined as Lugano’s salon because of the numerous cafés and restaurants, an ideal scene for an aperitif or a real Italian coffee, once a favorite place of the nation’s politicians.
The lake of Lugano, which has a summer water temperature of 20° to 24°, is not only the fastest way to get around the lovely villages and towns nestling on its banks, such as Gandria, the romantic little fishermans’ villages at the foot of Mount Brè or the lake village of Gaslano, it is also the call of nature for tourism thanks to the many sports and relaxation opportunities it offers. There are numerous saiing schools for lessons, clubs for true sailors and yachtsmen as well as canoeing, windsurfing and water ski-ing. There are also opportunities for underwater activity such as subaqua diving.
Just like the city of Lugano, with its rich calendar of events, shows, exhibitions, museums etc, the lake, villages and valleys too offer many open air activities from biking of various kinds to walking and hiking and much more that will reveal the multi-facetted character of these gorgeous places.
So Mountain bike riding takes on an important role here, thanks to the over 300 km of paths with varying levels of difficulty and distance, all perfectly marked and maintained and set in the most wonderful scenery. For lovers of acrobatics there is the Bike Park, between one of the intermediate stops on the cable car (at Piano di Mora, altitude 1129 meters) and the woods to the north, which has artificial structures of all kinds for all kinds of leaps and loops. Speed lovers will enjoy the downhill track which starts at the cable car stop, Alpe Foppa (altitude1532 meters), and the finish line at the Piano di Mora stop (altitude 1131 meters) measuring 1610 meters in length and a difference of altitude of 382 meters.
For walkers, there are a great many opportunities to discover the natural beauties of the area with numerous themed paths like the Chestnut Trail taking walkers through richly colorful woods and chestnut trees, or the Monte San Salvatore nature trail where you will see local flora and fauna in their natural habitat while admiring the breathtaking views of the lake from the peak of the mount, and much more besides. For lovers of history and architecture while appreciating nature, the Wonder Trail is for you: a chance to stop and have a look at old mills, castles, furnaces and mines on the way, a glimpse of what life here was all about in the past.
There is something here in the Canton of Ticino that is unique to the region, the rustic grotto restaurants which are usually in quiet, out of the way, shady places. They typically have a cellar and a large outside area with tables and benches in granite to enjoy the alfesco lifestyle, under the trees. Usually they serve local Ticino products, local cured meats, much appreciated salame and mini salame made with pork, horse, venison and boar. Great dried meat specialties (beef and horse), coppa, lardo, rolled pancetta, fresh sausage, and a smaller version of sausage both of which are fantastic in risotto or cooked on the grill, liver sausage, both raw and cooked, zampone or stuffed pig’s trotter, and the much sought after goat violino. Dishes that are simply a delight for all foodies are the renowned osso buco, braised beef and pork shin served with polenta or risotto, grilled spare ribs, kid and lamb from the mountain meadows and tripe.
Chestnuts are another typical specialty of the Ticino canton, as they are in most of the Alpine regions where the tree grows profusely and naturally. This fruit of nature gives local food many products, flour to make specialty bread, beer and much more. There are also many goats cheeses made here which have a special brand “Capra Ticino”. And yet another excellence here is the fresh cheese called “Zincarlin”, which you add salt and pepper to so as to enhance the intense natural flavor. A stronger version is the “Zincarlin della Val da Mücc”, which is mixed with wine and matured for over two months according to an ancient tradition.
The final touch is added to these gastronomic delights by the honey, herbs, river fish from the upper mountain valleys, cereals, oil and balsamic vinegar.
Vines are cultivated here and wines produced, which in order of importance are the following: Merlot (82%), Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon, Gamaret, Bondola and Pinot Noir. Only 8% are white skinned grapes, among which we find mainly Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
The calendar of events arranged all year round by Lugano is richly varied and covers all interests: sport, food and wine, art, music, etc. Some concerts and festivals have become regulars in the calendar both for connoisseurs and the general public. Particularly in summer, there are open air concerts and shows in the piazzas and parks of the city which become veritable theaters to entertain thousands for free. In July the Summer Jazz Festival called Estival Jazz lights up streets and squares with color and music and celebrates the finest of contemporary music from the 70’s onwards, with artistes of world renown.
For classical music fans there are summer long concerts organized by Ceresio, held in the lovely churches of the city and in some of the public rooms of the charming villages along lake Ceresio. And to finish off from Blues to Bop, a rich variety of jazz concerts in the squares of the city and much more besides.
Other top entertainment dates are Lugano Cavalli, a horse show open not only to experts but also to the general public and people who are simply curious. During the first weekend of October, Lugano celebrates the beginning of autumn with a festival dedicated to local products. In the classic town scene in a mass of color and flavors, there are typical little grotto restaurants, lots of folk music, local food and wine and above all a great celebration of grapes and wine.
For a day’s shopping, the smart street called via Nassa is historically the main place to see and be seen in downtown Lugano. Centuries ago it was a street where lake fishermen lived and it takes its name from the tool they then used to catch fish , a Nassa, similar to the fish trap they still use today. The new Via Nassa initially saw development between 1850 and 1900 where general improvement began with the building of beautiful palazzi. The buildings were not just along the hillside but extended to the lake side and the Via Nassa started to take on an appearance that is recognizable today.
Further development after the First World War led to commercial activity which developed rapidly over the course of time. The artisan workshops and merchants gradually gave way to important shops and later the finest labels and brands saw Via Nassa as a natural place for them to settle with their luxury shops and stores. Today the street is splendidly attired, atemple to luxury, excellence and elegance.
If you leave the center of town behind you and walk up the Lugano hill towards the station, the via Cattedrale offers little boutiques, artisan jewellers, art galleries, antique shops, gift shops and charming little corners of the town. There is a spirit of truly Ticino authenticity here that is simply not to be missed.
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