Lugano

8 Feb

Italian Lakes, the name evokes romantic images of twisty roads and James Bond car chases, palatial lakeside villas owned by movie stars, a daring rowboat escape in A Farewell to Arms, and young Darth Vader in love. Luckily, you don’t have to be a Jedi or George Clooney to enjoy what the region has to offer. The Lakes are best enjoyed at a leisurely pace, but if you only have two days to explore the area you can still cover a lot of ground and get a good taste of both the Swiss and Italian sides of the border.

Throughout the European Union traveling across the border can be boring to the point of blink and you’ll miss it. We’ve all seen the movies, you know? When you drive up to the border of another country and there is a cranky border patrol officer insisting on your passport and papers. That panic as you rifle through your satchel bag ( by the way, real men use them ). You start sweating, where is the bloody passport, all sorts of visions go through your overdriven imagination. Oh here it is, only a glance and your through. Switzerland has that type of border control, although as luck would have it, for us not the case. Giuseppe had informed his family on the bus to have our passports at the ready, put away your cameras and phones. The border patrol through Switzerland is expensive and can be at times annoying. Normally as a rule of thumb the busses are normally not stopped for more than a few minutes and waved through, on a previous tour we were told of a tourist who silly enough to take a photograph from the bus, border security is strict. The bus was boarded and passports asked for and the offending camera had photos deleted. You can imagine the weird silence on the bus as we wind our way down to the crossing. It sounded exciting to me, although it was business as usual, we were waved through.

The city of Lugano lies on Lake Lugano, surrounded by the mountains of the Lugano Prealps. Its warm summers and the fact that in recent years it has attracted an ever growing number of celebrities, entertainers and successful athletes have given it the nickname of the “Monte Carlo of Switzerland”. The shores of Lake Lugano have been inhabited since the Stone Age. Within the modern city limits a number of ground stones or quern-stones have been found. In the area surrounding Lugano, items from the Copper Age and the Iron Age have been found. There are Etruscan monuments at Davesco-Soragno (5th to 2nd century BC), Pregassona (3rd to 2nd century BC), and Viganello (3rd to 2nd century BC). Graves with jewelry and household items have been found in Aldesago, Davesco, Pazzallo and Pregassona along with Celtic money in Viganello.
The region around Lake Lugano was settled by the Romans by the 1st century BC. There was an important Roman city north of Lugano at Bioggio.There are fewer traces of the Romans in Lugano, but several inscriptions, graves and coins indicate that some Romans lived in what would become Lugano.

Lugano is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Switzerland. The city is home to a number of historic buildings and museums, whilst the surrounding area has many natural sights. Both Lake Lugano and the surrounding mountains provide a wide variety of outdoor activities. The area surrounding Lugano is home to over 300 kilometres of mountain biking trails, the largest net of trails in Switzerland. There are 17 sites in Lugano that are part of the Swiss heritage site of national significance. The city of Lugano, the villages of Barbengo, Brè, Gandria and Biogno, and the sites of Cantine di Gandria and Castagnola are all part of the Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites. The heritage sites of national significance included two libraries, the Biblioteca Cantonale and the Biblioteca Salita dei Frati as well as the Swiss National Recording Archives (Fonoteca nazionale svizzera). There were three churches; Cathedral of S. Lorenzo, Church of S. Maria degli Angioli and the Church of S. Rocco. There were three museums; the Museo cantonale d’arte, the Museo cantonale di storia naturale and the Villa Ciani complex with the Museo civico. The cemetery complex at via Trevano is also one of the sites, as is the Radiotelevisione svizzera di lingua italiana (RTSI) Italian-language broadcast facility. The rest of the sites are notable houses throughout the city. They include; the Palazzo civico at piazza della Riforma, the Palazzo e cinema Corso at via Pioda, the Palazzo Riva at via Francesco Soave, the Palazzo Riva at via Massimiliano Magatti, the Palazzo Riva at via Pretorio 7 and Villa Favorita in Castagnola.

The Palazzo dei Congressi is the performing arts center for Lugano. It is a main hall for the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana. The Lugano Festival runs during April and May, followed by the related “Progetto Martha Argerich” in June. Estival Jazz arrives in July. The Blues-to-Bop Festival in late August and early September turns the city into a hive of activity as thousands crowd the streets and piazzas for free open-air concerts.

The footpath along the waters edge or boardwalk is truly one of the highlights. The mountains are covered in snow and are close enough to touch, better yet the tulips are in flower, all the way along the water. The light for taking photos was fantastic. Some of my best photos were taken this day.

The Swiss are quite famous for their chocolate, something I have a liking for whenever put in front of me, so we trudged into the local department store to stock up on kilos and kilos of chocolate to hopefully bring home and give out as pressies. Yes, you can buy chocolate anywhere in the world but this was Swiss. The next thing to tick off was a nice mug of hot chocolate out in the town square where its freezing. So four mugs ordered and we are rubbing our hands in expectation and delight. Hmmm, what a let down, out came 4 mugs of hot milk with a sachet of that powdery chocolate you only use when on picnics. Oh well we at least had an interesting story to tell later on.

Once again back on the bus, time to travel back to Italy, it sounds bizarre, we are starting to learn just how small some of these countries are, our next place of visit will be lake Como, famous for many places whether it be celebrities living there to which movie was filmed. Looking forward to our small little cruise. This post was relatively short as we weren’t in Lugano for very long, although its another place to go back and see more of.

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