YOU say ‘Switzerland’ and you generally think of stout lederhosen clad men strapping cheese wheels to their chests whilst scaling the snow-drenched slopes of the Alps – right?
By no means am I intending to reduce a rich and vibrant culture to simple stereotype, but the last thing I expected when travelling through Switzerlandwas to be greeted with a “Buongiorno Signorina.”
Lugano is Switzerland’s Italian capital, and while showcasing an unexpectedly Mediterranean flair and boasting some of the most spectacular views in Europe, it’s no wonder this delightful crossroads of cultures is the go-to destination when the Swiss themselves need a holiday.
Nestled between towering snow-capped mountains and the depths of a pristinely blue lake, Lugano is situated in the nation’s only Italian speaking canton. With the influence of the language and architecture of their neighbours to the south, Lugano has all the charm of a small Italian town,minus the pigeon filled piazzas, unsightly potholes and general crumbly decline.
But comparisons aside, what makes Lugano such an intriguing holiday destination are the inviting passageways that wind their way through its historical centre. As you make your way deeper into the heart of the city, it becomes apparent that behind the immaculate exterior of spotless streets and punishingly punctual public transport, lies a bustling melting pot of culture, elegance, good food and better chocolate.
Littered with colourful fresh fruit stalls and big brand fashion houses, Lugano’s city centre is an interesting mix of rustic meets luxury that would tickle the fancy of high end and humble shoppers alike. Blocked off to traffic, the streets are free to be wandered in absolute tranquillity, allowing you to better appreciate the sights, smells and unique sounds of the local vendors.
Away from the patisseries and fine chocolatiers, various water sports are on offer by the lake, while the surrounding mountainsides hold no shortage of amusements for the more outdoor-inclined traveller. One of Lugano’s tallest peaks, Monte Bre, holds the happy title of the sunniest mountain in Switzerland. One thousand metres above sea level at its summit, it offers spectacular views over Lake Lugano and the Alps, and lucky hikers may even catch a glimpse of the rare Christmas Rose that grows on its slopes.
Whether visited in the full bloom of spring or the depths of a snowy winter, the culture-rich centre and captivating natural beauty of this southern Swiss city make it an absolute must-see for travellers making their way through central Europe.