The first time I ever left the country, I traveled to Switzerland. It was the summer of 1986, and I was seven years old. My mom, sister, and I visited my grandmother’s sister- my great aunt- and her husband that summer. They lived in beautiful Lugano, in Ticino, the southernmost canton of Switzerland and near the Italian border. My great aunt has lived in Lugano for more than half a century now. She is the only one from our more immediate family who did not immigrate to the United States.

Since that first trip to Switzerland in 1986, I have been back to Lugano many times. Like much of Switzerland, Lugano is absolutely stunning and is a beautiful destination year-round. My great aunt, now 90 years old, still lives in this picturesque town. I last visited her there in 2012, and it was as gorgeous as ever.

Her apartment, in the Massagno neighborhood, sits about halfway up a hillside and overlooks Lake Lugano below. This is what you see when you look out of her living room window:


I think I could wake up to this view every morning.

My great aunt has always described the winding street on which she lives as romantic. With mosses and flowers growing from the stone walls that follow the twists and turns of the road, I have to agree. What do you think?


The winding hill leading up to my great aunt’s house. At 90, my great aunt still walks up this hill from the bus stop at the bottom.

One of my favorite things to do while visiting Lugano is, of course, to run. The hills can be tough, but the scenery provides a glorious distraction. These are some of the views I encountered on one particularly sunny morning.

Lugano 1

View from near the crest of the hill on my great aunt’s street.

Lugano 5

The tiny St. Vicente chapel sits at the top of one of the hilly streets on my run.

Lugano 3

Beautiful Massagno countryside, Lugano.

Lugano 6

Vineyards along the hills of Massagno.

Lugano 4

Lush green vineyards of Massagno.

Lugano 2

These deep purple grapes are almost ready for harvest.

A visit to Lugano is never complete without many hours spent strolling downtown along Lake Lugano, where there is no shortage of shopping opportunities, museums, and restaurants.


The pedestrian path along Lake Lugano offers breathtaking views of the area where mountains and water come together.


Lake Lugano.


Homes are built into the hillsides surrounding Lake Lugano.


Boat rides of all kinds, including pedal boats, are available on Lake Lugano.


Traversing the calm waters of Lake Lugano is a beautiful way to send a summer afternoon.


Typical building facades in downtown Lugano.


I just love the ubiquitous window flower boxes that decorate many of downtown Lugano’s buildings.


A typical street in downtown Lugano.


One of Lugano’s art museums. We visited the Hermann Hesse exhibit. I didn’t know that this famous German author was also a painter and lived in Lugano for many years.

In July 2011, I visited my great aunt and spent her 87th birthday with her. We celebrated with a boat ride on Lake Lugano and crossed the Italian border, on the other side of which we had lunch at a quaint restaurant in the tiny village of Gandria, built into the hillside.


In the boat on the way to Gandria.


The Swiss-Italian border on Lake Lugano.


One of many villages dotting the banks Lake Lugano.


Grotto San Rocco on the Italian side of Lake Lugano.


Grotto Teresa, Lake Lugano.


The view from our restaurant table in Gandria.


Table side flowers while dining in Gandria.


Typical architecture in quaint Gandria.


Beautiful Gandria.


Just outside the restaurant where we had lunch in Gandria.


On the boat heading back to Lugano after an afternoon in Gandria.

Not to be forgotten in Lugano is the food. When I visit, I usually get to feast on my great aunt’s excellent cooking, but occasionally we’ll go out and enjoy a few treats from local restaurants. While Italian fare is most popular, you can find just about any type of cuisine in Lugano.


Fresh tomato bruschetta.


Cappucino is a work of art in southern Switzerland.


Don’t leave Lugano without trying some gelato!


Our afternoon of desserts… almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

While flying directly into Lugano is possible, it is usually very expensive. Flights to Milan’s Malpensa Airport are generally much more economical. There are buses that run every couple of hours directly from Malpensa to the train station in Lugano. Travel time is approximately an hour and fifteen minutes. In 2012, round-trip fare for one adult was about 30 Euros.

Start planning your trip to Lugano today!

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