Saturday, 23 August 2014

Alluring Lugano

Simply beautiful: Lake Lugano is a glacial lake. Two-thirds of it is in Switzerland, and the rest, in Italy. - TOH AN NEE

Simply beautiful: Lake Lugano is a glacial lake. Two-thirds of it is in Switzerland, and the rest, in Italy. - TOH AN NEE

A reader waxes lyrical about the visual delights of the city of Lugano and its famous lake.

WE had arrived at Milan at the tail-end of our whirlwind Italian tour when a friend offered us an opportunity for a change of scenery – a day trip to Lake Lugano and its namesake city. As Lugano was located barely an hour’s drive across the Swiss-Italian border north of Milan, we readily accepted.

We left the bustling roads of Milan and entered the A9 motorway, part of the world’s oldest expressway built in 1925. Throughout the 60-minute journey, the landscape slowly transformed from flat plains to rolling hills with snow-capped mountains buttressed in the background.

As we crossed the border, the highway now started ascending up the mountainside and we were rewarded with spectacular views of the valley below. Finally we reached the shores of the lake which was connected to Lugano city via the 1km-long Melide Causeway which separates the northern and southern basins in half.

Lugano city is comparatively small, with a population of below 100,000. Being so close to the Italian border, it is the largest Italian-speaking town outside Italy. Lake Lugano is a glacial lake named after the city. Two-thirds of the lake is in Switzerland, and the rest, in Italy.

We parked near the Centro bus station and decided to explore Lugano by foot, as many of the streets were for pedestrians only.

Lugano is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world. It is easy to see why. Lugano offers picture postcard views of shady trees, boulevards, the lake and the Alps. The lake is almost 50 sq km in size, and cruising on its waters is a favourite pastime for many people.

Lugano is also surrounded by mountains which are ideal for sports or sightseeing. Two mountains, both providing excellent views over the city and lake, bracket each end of the city’s waterfront. I always thought a view as good as this could only be found on postcards and not in real life.

As it was a beautiful day – sun blazing in the clear blue sky, without a single cloud in sight – we decided to walk along the waterfront from one end of the city to the other, taking in the sights and snapping pictures.

The lake was a lovely blue, and we saw swans swimming in it, as well as schools of fish. It’s hard to imagine this very lake was so polluted in the 1960s and 1970s that swimming in it was forbidden.

Although autumn was just creeping in, the weather was still cold due to the air coming from the mountain. Be warned, though – although it is cool, the sunlight can burn your skin so it would be wise to wear a hat or carry an umbrella or wear a long-sleeved shirt.

After lunch, we headed back to Milan. On our way back, we made our last stop at the stunning Lake Como. The Y-shaped lake is the third largest in Italy and, at over 400m deep, is reputed to be among Europe’s deepest lakes. Lake Como has been a popular tourist attraction since Roman times, and one can see why.

So beautiful is the resort that stars such as George Clooney and Madonna own homes on the waterfront. The scene in Casino Royale in which James Bond confronts villain Mr White at the latter’s home was shot here, too.

We only had time to mill about the lakeside and the jetty; there was no time to cruise around the lake or even go on a cable-car ride between the hills surrounding the lake. Viewing the two lakes proved to be a fitting finale for our Italian sojourn, and we hoped to return soon for a longer visit.

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle , Travel , Europe , Travel Share , Lugano , Lake Lugano , Switzerland , Italy , Lake Como

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