Switzerland was one of the countries at the top of my bucket list.
Everyone that I know who has ever been to Switzerland raves about it and says it’s their favorite country in Europe. That, combined with the promise of Swiss chocolate and the knowledge that the greatest tennis player of all time is from the country (shout out to the 2014 Davis Cup champion Swiss team!) made a trip to Switzerland non-negotiable.
Luckily for us, Italy shares a border with Switzerland and since Milan is pretty far north, a day trip to Switzerland is very very easy. On Friday, myself and a couple of other girls who live at Arco (Mili and Maggie) decided to take a day trip to Lugano.
When you think of places to visit in Switzerland, you usually think of Zurich or Geneva or Interlaken. I had never even heard of Lugano before coming to Milan, but it turns out that Lugano is the largest city in Ticino, the Italian speaking region in the south of Switzerland. Lugano is so close to Milan, speaks Italian, and is known as the “Monte Carlo of Switzerland” because of it’s popularity as a vacation spot for celebrities and athletes, so the city seemed like an ideal place for an easy day trip.
Lugano is really only an hour and a half drive from Milan, but since we don’t have a car on international drivers license we had to rely on public transportation. We left Arco at 6am and after a tram, metro, shuttle, and bus ride made it to Lugano at 10am.
Our plan was to start off the day at Monte San Salvatore. There’s a funicular that takes you to the top where there’s a lookout and some hiking trails. Unfortunately, the funicular was broken (figures…it was Friday the 13th). We technically could have climbed up the mountain if we wanted, but it would have been at least a 5.5 hour round trip hike, and we didn’t really have the time for that. So we hiked up about a fourth of the mountain, found a bench to eat the Nutella sandwiches we had brought, and enjoyed the view.
Even though we were a little disappointed we weren’t able to go all the way to the top of the mountain, the view we had was still beautiful, and that freed up plenty of time for us to have relaxed day in the rest of the Lugano.
So the main thing to do in Lugano besides hiking the mountains is spending time near Lake Lugano. There’s a cute pathway that winds along the lake, so we strolled along there and hopped from bench to bench.
There was also a darling little park called Parco Ciani, with gardens and a small little beach. It clearly wasn’t peak tourism season yet – it was so peaceful and tranquil and calm. So, once again, we found a bench and enjoyed the scenery and beautiful weather. We got really lucky with the weather – sunny, high 50s!
The city of Lugano itself felt very small. Without even trying we stumbled across all of the major sites – the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli, and the Piazza della Riforma where the city hall is located.
There’s a lot of cute, quaint little shops and Lugano is very very clean compared to all of the other cities I’ve visited thus far. Because we were still in Italian speaking territory, we of course had to make a stop for gelato. And it’s not a trip to Switzerland without some Swiss chocolate, so I stocked up on a couple of boxes of Lindor truffles. Yeah, maybe I should have bought a brand that you can’t get outside of Switzerland, but I remembered a very convincing ad campaign Lindt ran a couple of years ago and clearly it was effective because this was the only Swiss brand I wanted!
We finished the day with a climb up to Parco del Tassino, another cute little park overlooking the lake. It was a wonderfully peaceful way to end the day before the trip back to Milan, which was once again long but uneventful. I’m still surprised how open the borders are here – my passport wasn’t even checked, and in Lugano they didn’t care that we were paying with Euros instead of Swiss Francs.
I had an absolutely wonderful day in Switzerland! I know I keep saying how peaceful it was, but seriously everything there was so calm and relaxing. All day I just kept thinking of that quote “I just need some time in a beautiful place to clear my head.” That’s exactly what Lugano was.
I want to see more of this beautiful country, and even if it’s not this semester, I am definitely coming back some day!