Lugano: The Italian Switzerland

Expectations for Lugano were pretty high. Apparently, this is where the likes of George Clooney, Martha Washington, and Jesus H. Christ vacation (okay, okay, I made up two of those; Jenny told me that a bunch of famous people hang out here, but I could only remember Mr. George). So if it’s good enough for Batman (that is his career defining role, right?), it’s good enough for the Bourques. Lugano is only about an hour away from Milan, so we took the train up in the morning, and booked a return trip departing at around 8:00 PM CST (Clooney Standard Time).

But first things first, we had to cross a border.  Here is Jenny realizing (several minutes later) why someone in a uniform wanted to see our passports:

Luckily, our passports checked out, and they didn’t say anything more than “buon giorno” or “prego,” because we probably would have had to make a run for it. (Note: for those non-Italian speakers like me, “prego” means something different in Italy.)

Like all Swiss cities, Lugano is built out of hole-filled cheese on the side of a mountain, with a lake at the bottom (in this case named, cryptically, Lake Lugano). But here’s the deal: while Lugano is geographically in Switzerland, as best I could tell nobody told the people who live there. Italian is the only language spoken (except for at the lone pretzel stand, which is staffed by a guy from the Dominican Republic), and while they use the enormous Swiss Franc currency notes, they just as readily accept Euros. And speaking of pretzels: I thought these were the national food of Switzerland. Why is there only one pretzel stand? There are more soft pretzels at a Costco snack bar than there are in Lugano.

While our guidebook says that Lugano is a year-round resort town, from what we could tell the fall months are pretty low key (read: it’s not really a year-round resort town). Which actually proved to be a very nice respite from the tourist trap (literally; remember all those dead ends?) we visited the day prior. We wandered the downtown area, hung around in a park by the lake, found some pizza (thrice), and didn’t get lost once (although I still can’t figure out who designs European city master plans, and why they still have jobs; I think they use one of those spin art machines).

Overall, our day trip to Switzaly was a good time.  We probably could have booked a return train a little earlier in the day, as there weren’t really 9 hours of activities to be found, and, believe it or not, it doesn’t get warmer in Swiss mountain villages as the sun goes down in the late fall.  Lugano does, however, offer public restrooms (stocked with toilet paper, even; disappointingly, though, no toilet seats), and has two large department stores (including porn studio-like lingerie sections and basement supermarkets), so it’s not the worst place to be stuck for a few extra hours.

Lugano: Come for the pretzels, stay because your train doesn’t leave until 8.

Next Up: La Spezia