Sunday, October 04, 2015

2015 Italy Trip, Day One – Lugano, Switzerland

Upon clearing customs at Milan’s Malpensa airport Evie and I boarded a comfortable 22 passenger bus for a 50 minute ride to Lugano, a town of 63,500 in the Italian speaking area of Switzerland. This is not a town with numerous buildings that are more than 200 years old. It is very modern looking town. 

To maximize our one night stay we paid a little more to have a room with a balcony at the Walter au Lac overlooking the lake and the mountains and small towns on the far side. After having a quick lunch we boarded a boat for a relaxing two hour sightseeing cruise of Lake Lugano. If you visit Lugano, though the extra costs of a dinner cruise of the lake may or may not be worthwhile, a two hour cruise is most worthwhile and relaxing.

We would stay at this hotel again...wonderful view of the lake and mountains, a friendly staff, easy to find and get to from the train station, and it is centrally located.  

The Walter au Lac is not only situated overlooking the lake but it is on the edge of the downtown shopping and restaurant district with its picturesque narrow streets. With a local street festival celebrating the harvest starting that night, rather than eating at in a restaurant we enjoyed wondering around listening to the local music and eating various local food items we bought from various street vendors. One of the things that we enjoy doing as we travel is mingling with locals and seeing/participating in some local life and customs. The street festival was just of that order. The balk of tourists had left, and the locals were out to relax and celebrate life.

Lake Lugano is ringed with small picturesque towns hugging the mountain sides at the water’s edge. The town of Lugano is situated in an area of the flattest land in the north central portion of the lake. You would not identify palm trees with Switzerland but along the lake’s shore in Lugano are palm trees and a a handful of other tropical plants. The town of Lugano has a warm micro-climate…on average they only get three days of snow…that make it possible for tropical plants to be sustained along the lake.

Along the water’s edge just two minutes walk south from our hotel we came across a little monument to George Washington. I don’t know why it is there or its history, but it was a nice little find.

While Lugano is a picturesque town it does not have the “wow” factor as some of the other towns further to the north in the heart of Switzerland. That said, it was a lovely place for us to pause, to engage in some low energy activities and then get to bed early to recover from being awake, other than a handful of 30 to 50 minute naps on the airplane, for 31 hours. Though Lugano would not be on the top of my list to revisit, I suspect that we would likely pass through it again on future travels as we travel north from northern Italy towards the western side of northern Europe.  

Though we were exhausted the night before, we both found ourselves up as the first light shot over the mountains to the east. Spending the first minutes of Saturday morning sitting on the balcony watching the light spread across the lake was a wonderful way to set the stage for the new day. I lost track of time sitting at the table, looking over the quiet lake.

Before heading to breakfast at the Walter au Lac’s restaurant we spend half hour walking along the shore and exploring the town's shopping district in daylight. As we strolled along we quietly observed the architectural styles of the buildings and did some window shopping. After breakfast in the restaurant overlooking the lake, we headed off to catch a train to Milan where we transferred to a train bound for Parma and the first town that we have shortlisted as a potential retirement home base.

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