LAKES, MOUNTAIN VILLAGES, AND HIKING
Ticino is a very special place: it mixes breathtaking Swiss mountain scenery with everyone’s favorites from the Italian cuisine. Could there be a better place on earth?
If you wouldn’t know, you might think you’d be in Italy rather than in Switzerland. The southernmost canton of the Swiss Confederation, Ticino, doesn’t only border on Italy, but their official language is also Italian. The same goes for the ‘Tessin cuisine’: their pizze, pasta, gelato, expresso, … is just as delicious as in Italy. Add some beautiful lakes and the Swiss Alps in the background and you have the perfect travel destination.
Here’s a few highlights of our week in Ticino:
There are endless hiking options in Ticino, which will make any mountain hiker happy: lush green valleys, homely hamlets with Romanesque chapels, roaring mountain streams, overlooking lakes Maggiore and Lugano; always covered under the cool shade of the many chestnut trees. The hiking trails are excellently well-signposted.
A good starting point with free parking is e.g. the hamlet Cademario, near the bus stop “Lisone”.
The very mild climate, compared to the rest of Switzerland, makes hiking extra enjoyable: they have 2,300 sunshine hours every year in Ticino!
Lugano is the largest city in Ticino and the biggest town on lake Lugano. I not only loved its Italian architecture (think pastel-colored mansions along cobblestone streets!), but of course the many piazzas with restaurants and cafés. It’s definitely the best place to have an afternoon espresso or gelato and just taking it all in. The main piazza of Lugano is Piazza della Riforma (pictured above).
For starters, and especially if you arrive by train or bus, take the funicular from the train station down to the center (look for signs that guide you to the railway).
Another highlight is for sure strolling along the flowery, palm fringed promenade on Lake Lugano; from the water jet on the bay of Lugano and the fountain “Fontana dell’Acquaiola” in the Paradiso neighborhood, all the way to the Lungolago gardens with its beautiful park “Parco Civico” (“Parco Ciani”).
Look out for red Vespas scooting along!
Lago di Lugano
This mirror-like Alpine lake is mystically surrounded by steep tree-covered mountains. Admire Lake Lugano from a mountain hike, a stroll along the beautiful lakeside promenade in Lugano, or on the lake itself: Boat rides are available from Lugano’s Piazza della Reforma, or rent a pedal boat for 30 minutes, like we did!
The main castle of the trio, and the closest to the city, is Castelgrande, which is build on a rocky hill above the Old Town. You can easily walk up to the castle from Piazza Collegiata (head up the stairs of Salita San Michele) – there are several signs along the way. Simply enjoy the views of the Old Town and Alps, or have a look into the museum.
On Piazza Collegiata you cannot not notice the huge front of the Renaissance church (Chiesa) Collegiata dei SS Pietro e Stefano: its frescos and baroque stucco will leave you breathless while entering the building.
70% of the Ticino population is Catholic, and there are a lot of stunning churches to visit. You actually cannot miss them while in Ticino: They are very present in the towns of Lugano and Bellinzona, and there are many churches (“chiese”) as well as little chapels (“cappelle”) in the mountain villages.
Local cuisine is found in the so-called “Grottos”: rustic restaurants with tables romantically set up under the area’s famous chestnut trees.
Ticino’s top speciality is most certainly “Polenta”, a dish of savoury boiled cornmeal, served in various forms (e.g. creamy, baked, fried, or grilled). Home made pizza and pasta is of course also always a very good idea while dining in Ticino. Personally, I love my Italian food as basic as possible, to not get too distracted by a lot of ingredients. Home-made gnocchi with butter and sage, or a simple Pizza Marinara with only tomato sauce, oregano, and garlic are sooo so good in Ticino.
Local Ticinese meals are usually accompanied by their Merlot – red or white! For non-alcoholic drinks, opt for their famous lemonade “Gazzosa Ticinese”, that comes in flip-top glass bottles.
Arrivederci and enjoy Ticino! Share your travel experiences in the comments if you’d like!