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Lugano Oh Lugano!

Updated: May 3, 2023

Our journey to Lugano was not the most conventional Swiss train experience. We

woke up early, at 6 a.m., thinking we would beat the crowds, but we were wrong.

The train was packed with travelers, many of them headed to Milan. The scene on the train was chaotic with people reserving seats and others being forced to move due to the overbooking. Unfortunately, we even witnessed two women making a woman with her infant baby get up and move to another seat in another cart, which left me feeling disgusted by their behavior. Despite the confusion on the train, the views of the lakes and mountains were truly breathtaking from Zug to Bellinzona. Even though it was fall, the flat land was still lush with a beautiful forest green color, and the leaves on the trees were a mix of red, orange, and yellow.

Instead of taking the scenic train, we opted for the fast train, which took us through the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the longest railway tunnel in the world. The 57-kilometer journey took only 20 minutes, but it was dark the entire time.

The train made a stop in Bellinzona before continuing on towards Lugano. As soon as we stepped off the train in Lugano and walked out of the station, we were greeted by the beautiful lakeside town, ready to explore its charm and beauty.

As soon as we stepped out onto the streets of Lugano, our eyes were immediately drawn to the stunning view of Lake Lugano and the majestic mountains. The morning mist only added to the picturesque scene, making it feel almost too beautiful to be real. My husband couldn't help but comment on how unfair Switzerland is with its stunning natural beauty.

Our first stop on our explorations was the Lugano Cathedral, also known as Cathedral of St Lawrence. While we didn't go inside, the church's location provided a breathtaking view of the lake. After taking in the views, we made our way towards the center of town. We were lucky to arrive early as the streets were still quiet and the shops were yet to open, giving us a more authentic experience of the town.

As we strolled through the charming streets of Lugano, we stopped at Passion Lugano. Despite some mixed reviews online, the vibrant floral decor and stunning Instagrammable area drew us in. And we were not disappointed! We indulged in delicious coffee and pastries, all served in adorable cups that we could not help but admire. I wish we had them at home. From there, we made our way to Parco Ciani, a popular destination for visitors and locals alike. The highlight of the park is the iconic Cancello, or "Gate of Lugano's Lake," a picturesque spot that's a must-see on any travel itinerary. As we walked towards the gate, we were delighted to see local vendors setting up to sell their wares, and a musician playing his guitar, adding to the lively atmosphere. But what truly struck us was the abundance of runners and fitness enthusiasts all around Lugano. Everywhere we looked, there were groups of people jogging and stretching, taking advantage of the town's many inclines and hiking trails. Whether you're a seasoned runner or just looking to get in a good workout, Lugano is the perfect destination for an active vacation. The town's hilly terrain and winding streets offer endless opportunities for exercise and exploration.

After taking in the sights at Parco Ciani, we made our way to the bustling town square to check out the festive market happening in honor of Halloween. We browsed the stalls, admiring the unique trinkets and crafts on offer before deciding on a spot for lunch.

We stumbled upon Restorante Argentino Bistrot & Pizza and were impressed by both the menu and the incredible view of the town center. We indulged in the Controfiletto Di Cervo, a delicious venison sirloin dish with sautéed mushrooms, chamomile cloud and chocolate dirt and the Pavé Di Salmone in Crosta, a crusted salmon pavé with sautéed vegetables. Both dishes were absolutely delicious and the prices at Argentino were a pleasant surprise, much more reasonable compared to other parts of Switzerland. Overall, it was a great dining experience and one we highly recommend to other travelers visiting Lugano.

Leaving Argentino, we headed to the Church of Santa Maria degli Angioli. The church is full of very detailed paintings. The one that stands out the most is the picture of the three crosses with Jesus in the center and the two thieves. As described from The Guide to Italian Swiss Art, "at the foot of the Cross, Saint John and the kneeling Mary Magdalene; to the left, a group of pious women comfort the Virgin; on the opposite side of the cross, Roman soldiers throw the dices for the garments of Christ; all around, soldiers on horseback and a large, excited crowd of people. Two loggias on columns are painted in the background depicting episodes of the Meeting with doubting Thomas and the Derision; among these, Christ Carrying the Cross and the Lamentation of the dead. In the background: on the left, Prayer in the Olive Garden; at the centre, a landscape and, on the right, the Ascension". (picture below as an example)

The left side of the wall at the church is a mural of the Lords Supper and the right side of the wall is full of paintings in each area.

Leaving the church, we headed to San Salvatore.

Our hike to the summit of Monte San Salvatore was a challenging but rewarding experience. We started at the summit and made our way down to the charming towns of Ciona, Carona, and Melide. The hike took us about an hour and thirty-five minutes and offered breathtaking views of the surrounding area.

Although the hike was challenging, it was also incredibly relaxing. The small towns we visited were charming and offered a unique perspective on Switzerland. Despite a small injury, I couldn't help but appreciate the natural beauty of the area.

The highlight of the hike was definitely the miniature Switzerland park at the end of the trail. It offered an informative look at the different cantons of Switzerland and allowed us to see how the country is operated from the railway and cantons. Overall, it was a great way to gain a new perspective on Switzerland and see the country from a different angle.

A few tips if you plan on traveling to Lugano.

You can take the SBB Train "Direction Como S. Giovanni" or "Direction Chiasso" straight from Zurich HB to Lugano which takes around an hour and fifty seven minutes. So approximately 2 hours!

If you are leaving from Zug, you can take SBB "Direction Lugano", "Direction Chiasso", and "Direction Como S. Giovanni" straight to Lugano without having to switch trains. If you do not care if you switch trains, you can also take SBB "Direction Bellinzona".

I would say to try to get on the earliest train ride because the ride to Lugano is always full of people. Many are traveling to the Italian Switzerland area and/or trying to get to Milan, Italy.

If you reach Lugano before 9 AM, you get to explore the town before shops and restaurants open up. You can explore without the large crowds and perhaps window shop around. Once the crowd comes, they come strong. I feel that crowds are all over Switzerland. I have not been to a town or area in Switzerland without a crowd. I feel that Switzerland is loved by it's own people and tourist.

If you head towards Lugano on the weekend, there is a market that you can find in town selling different types of items. When we went they were selling wine, desserts, and many antiques.

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