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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.