Italian-speaking Lugano is tucked into the southernmost point of Switzerland, sprawled around the waterfront of Lake Lugano a stone’s throw from the Italian border. It is within striking distance of the better-known lakes of Como and Maggiore and just south of the Alpine peaks of San Salvatore and Bre. This affluent city is home to many foreign residents, thanks to its importance as a Swiss banking center.
Highlights of Lugano include fine frescoes in San Lorenzo cathedral and the largely medieval Centro Storico (Historic Center); the Piazza della Riforma lies at its heart and is a delightful jumble of architecture from Renaissance to Baroque. However, the standout attractions of any sightseeing tour is undoubtedly the simple, Romanesque church of Santa Maria degli Angioli; its interior is swathed in masterpiece frescoes of the Passion and Crucifixion by Renaissance master Bernardino Luini.
A sophisticated city of high-end boutiques, chic bars late-night clubs and expensive restaurants – it is heavily involved in the Slow Food movement – Lugano has a leafy waterside promenade that extends the length of the city and provides breathtaking views across the sparkling lake to the mountains. In summer there are frequent cruises to the cute village of Gandria, full of twisting alleyways and enticing restaurants, and the lake becomes the playground of wealthy tourists who flock in from across Europe.
Lugano is 80 km (50 miles) north of Milan in southern Switzerland, easily accessible in less than 90 minutes through glorious lakeside landscapes. Travelers between Italy and Switzerland need to show their passports at the border, as Switzerland is not a member of the European Union.