Lake Lugano: Switzerland’s Sunnier, Italian Side

Lugano

After our thrilling panoramic rail journey on the Bernina Express, we opted to board the connecting bus from the train’s terminus in Tirano, Italy to Lugano, Switzerland, the sunny lakeside city straddling the Swiss and Italian borders where Italian is the spoken language and one can laze among palm trees.

The picture postcard views from the bus as we zipped west through the cheery Italian countryside along the Italian Alps toward the northern banks of Lake Como rivalled that of our rail trip over the Swiss Alps. We stopped in Sorico on the northern tip of Lake Como for a cappuccino break before snaking along the western banks of northern Lake Como passing million dollar Tuscan colored lakeside villas and palm trees. We were definitely in the Mediterranean now! Breaking off at Menaggio, we headed due west toward Lake Lugano. After a long day of mostly sitting, Dan and I were anxious to get out and stretch our legs so we walked along the lakefront in search of a pasta dinner and the first of many cones of pistachio gelato before calling it a night.

Lugano

Lugano

Lugano

Lugano

Lugano

Lugano

Lugano

Lugano

Lugano

Lugano

Lugano

After a leisurely start the next morning, we stepped out into the warmest weather we had enjoyed since the tail end of last summer. In the afternoon, we hopped aboard the ferry for a circular cruise around the lake to the neighboring little cliffside town of Gandria across the expanse of teal water. It felt good to get out on the water and feel the wind on our faces though we quickly found out that there’s not much to do in Gandria beside dine at one of the few restaurants boasting superb lakeside views, however, we enjoyed the journey regardless of the destination.

Lugano

Lugano

Lugano

Lugano

Lugano

As we tethered back up to the dock, we spotted a floating outdoor bar at the neighboring Grand Hotel Eden so we made a beeline for the few remaining waterside seats and ordered the most expensive Manhattan cocktails we have ever imbibed, 38 Swiss Francs for two drinks or roughly $40. I wasn’t kidding when I said that Switzerland was ridiculously expensive! However, we found out from the waiter that the buffet of hor d’oeuvres and canapes set out next to the bar was included with the price of the drinks so we loaded up a plate (ok more like five!) and enjoyed an ad hoc dinner with our drinks for a bargain. Oh and if you’re still hungry there is a 28 Swiss Franc burger on the menu! Fries are extra. Ketchup and mayonnaise likely are too.

So here’s the part where I provide my honest critique of Switzerland, at least of the parts that we visited.

At the risk of sounding harsh, I felt it to be a bit lackluster overall with limited things to do. Though it boasts some gorgeous scenery, Dan and I have both agreed that it has not been our favorite travel destination by far. The Bernina Express aside of course, that is a must do!

We walked away feeling like the enjoyment of the country was hampered quite a bit by its extortionate prices. Its hard to enjoy your mediocre tasting dinner at a low to mid-priced level restaurant when you’re trying to swallow the gourmet tasting price tag. Even spending a low key day taking the funicular up to the surrounding mountain peaks and then relaxing with a drink or two in the evening will easily set you back at least a 100 Swiss Francs (ouch!). We found we were less inclined to do a few things in the area that had interested us because we were turned off by the cost which then made for a less than worthwhile visit.

Tell me, have you visited somewhere that left you slightly disappointed as to what the hype was all about? Or was there a destination that took you by surprise and exceeded your expectations?

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2 comments

  1. Funnily enough I was in Switzerland last week and despite the beautiful scenery I was left a little underwhelmed by a trip to Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe. Even with a half fare card the trip cost 85 Francs and it was incredibly crowded and over commercialised.
    I’ve never stayed in Lugano, but I do like it for a day trip and usually hop over on the bus from Menaggio, taking a packed lunch with me. Sadly it’s usually my luck that it pours down when I visit.

    1. Yeah it’s hard to enjoy beer when you paid champagne prices! We definitely enjoyed the more livelier atmosphere of the Italian Lakes over Lugano.