Saturday, July 20, 2013

Lake Lugano

   View of Lugano, Cassarate, Castagnola and Monte Bré

Lugano is definitely one of my favorite places in the world. On my first visit to this lakeside beauty many moons ago, I walked everyday along the lake from Paradiso where I was staying to Piazza della Riforma to have lunch at one of the cafés or restaurants in the city center. On the way back to my hotel, I'd stop by the Church of Santa Maria degli Angioli on Piazza Luini to marvel at the 16th century fresco of the Crucifixion by Bernardino Luini, a follower of Leonardo da Vinci. 

The Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus Christ

In the same nondescript Church of Santa Maria is a painting of the Last Supper which is also attributed to Luini. Whether you're facing the altar or the main door of the Church, you are blessed with a visual treat, one man made, the other, by a divine hand. The Church door opens to Lake Lugano.


If I were staying in Lugano for a few days, I would have stocked my hotel refrigerator with food from this deli shop, D. Gabbani. It has a good selection of meat, poultry, fish, pasta and cheese products at reasonable prices. It is a combination macelleria, salumeria, and charcuterie. What a great place to pick up goodies for a picnic basket!


Many buildings in Lugano are painted in bright or pastel colors and are decorated with religious images like this one. Moreover, the streets are clean and state-of-the-art garbage disposal units are strategically installed throughout the city. We also tested the free wifi available on benches along the waterfront. But though I was connected to their wifi, I couldn't browse at all. 

Drop your 'basura' here

We took one of the ferries from the lakefront to the picturesque village of Gandria which is a pleasant 30-minute cruise away. This village of 200 residents (according to Wikipedia), hugs the slope of Monte Bré and spills down to the water's edge.  It's possible to walk back to Lugano from Gandria through olive groves to Castagnola instead of taking the ferry back. But we didn't do this as we were pressed for time.

Gandria

Many years ago I took the funicular up to Monte San Salvatore for an incomparable view of the lake and surrounding towns including the Lombardian countryside in the distance. This was definitely one of the most memorable adventures I had in Lugano. Missing the funicolare ride up to any of the nearby mountains this  time around, I nevertheless had the opportunity to take a funicular from Piazza Cioccaro up to the train station. This cable railway has a track length of 720 ft. and it takes 2 minutes to reach the top. In comparison, it takes 10 minutes to reach the top of Monte San Salvatore. It's easier to take the funicular than to walk uphill to the bahnhof especially on a rainy day (it started to pour heavily just as we got to the station). One way costs CHF1.20. 


The streets of Lugano are empty and quiet after work hours except for this bar where office workers congregate to unwind and catch up with friends. The shops close its doors as well. The sound of silence everywhere. 
"How beautiful the coolness
Of this lovely summer night!
How the soul fills with happiness
In this true place of quiet!
I can scarcely grasp the bliss!"
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ( from The Lovely Night as translated by A. S. Kline)

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Logistics: 
The bay cruise on Lake Lugano to Gandria may be arranged at the ticket office of Navigazione del Lago di Lugano which is located on the dock at Riva Albertolli, across from the Tourist Information office. It costs CHF26.40 round trip. There are many cruise tours to choose from. Check www.lakelugano.ch for more information.

The train from Milan to Lugano takes approximately one hour. We had to stop for Customs inspection on the Italian side of the border on the return trip and it took a few minutes more to get back to Milan. 

Where to eat:
Manor Department Store on Piazza Dante has a restaurant upstairs with choice offerings. My salmon with rice and contorni (side order of vegetables) was CHF19.30. 
For a view of the rooftops of Lugano, try Coop's cafeteria which has both indoor and outdoor sitting. They have a tempting array of desserts.

Where to shop:
Via Nassa is the shopping street to check out. For leather and travel bags and accessories, Pelleteria Poggioli is my preferred store because of their warm and attentive service. It's on Via G. Luvini 5.

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Images by Charie


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