Itinerary for visiting Lake Lugano

By La Residenza, Lugano - Ticino - Switzerland


Where to sleep, places to stay in Lugano

Before we begin our itinerary for visiting Lake Lugano, we would like to give you some useful information in case you need to spend a period of time in Lugano, in a one-room apartment, furnished and equipped with all conveniences. La Residenza service apartments might just be perfect for you. Click on the image below to go to our home page.


"La Residenza" Residence in Lugano 

A tour of Lake Lugano

The natural surroundings - almost all harsh and mountainous - of the lake's shores, mean it is not possible to drive all the way around it, but we can still visit some of the small and enchanting villages in the 6vicinity.


Sometimes we will need to move from one side of the lake to the other with the ferry. We can start our itinerary at Gandria (Lugano), taking one of the handy ferry boats to the other side and Cantine di Gandria, home to the Custom museum. The Swiss Custom Museum is inside an old building created as a customs station between Italy and Switzerland in 1904 and converted to a museum in 1935. This museum contains different relics of customs and smuggling, including an arsenal of weapons seized from partisans or fugitives who tried to pass the over the border.


Museo delle dogane


The walk amongst the small streets and steps of this complex is lovely, with its delightful corners, small terraced gardens, tiny shops and typical restaurants, and old walls in the sunshine. It is possible to see the lake between the houses.


We can take the lake trail which, starting from Cantine di Gandria, arrives in Caprino. The lake trail is a charming route that offers a tranquil walk between the lake and the mountains. In Caprino, it is possible to enjoy the foods on offer along the path alongside the lake.


At the end of a visit to this eastern part of the lake, we can return to Lugano by ferry, arriving at the panoramic Mount San Salvatore and Collina d'Oro. On the summit of this latter is Montagnola, where Hermann Hesse spent 43 years of his life. For 12 years, Hesse lived at Casa Camuzzi, now home to the Hermann Hesse Museum. This is also the place where he wrote Siddharta.


From here, if you have a love of gambling, you can take the ferry again to Campione d'Italia, an Italian municipality that is actually situated in Switzerland. Here you will find the famous Campione Casino.


From Gandria, you can move on towards Valsolda, a small valley between the lake and the mountain, between the Swiss border and the municipality of Porlezza. The largest town is San Mamete, a village with a mediaeval look and feel, located on the shores of the lake. A dominant feature is the parish church, dedicated to Saints Mammes and Agapitus and from there the old Pretorio, which was home to the Magnifico Sovrano Consiglio della Valle, the valley's ruling council. The most charming location, however, is still Castello, an old, fortified mediaeval town overlooking the valley (450 m.) from a rock spur. The castle (castello) that gives the town its name was destroyed in the 16th century, but the narrow streets remain, home to the building of Zio Maironi, as described in Piccolo mondo antico (variously titled in English translations as The Patriot or as Little World of the Past) by Antonio Fogazzaro.


Melide and Swissminiatur



About 5 km south of Lugano is Melide. The town is famous for Swissminiatur, miniature models of the whole of Switzerland. Swissminiatur covers an area of 11,000 sq m, on the shores of the lake and it gives visitors an idea of how much there is to see in Switzerland. Here you can see the natural beauty spots, the artistic cities, cathedrals, castles, railways, boats, and funiculars. The attention to the even the tiniest of details is extraordinary, almost maniacal. Swissminiatur is open from mid-March to early November.


The funicular railways of Lugano

Two mountains are also visible from Lugano at all times: Mount San Salvatore and Mount Brè. At the end of the 19th century, two funicular railways were completed and these go from Lugano to the peaks of these mountains. Since then, the funiculars have been carrying tourists and walkers every day.


Mount Brè funicular

Mount Brè funicular


The funicular up to Mount Brè goes up as far as 925 metres to one of the most panoramic views of Lake Lugano. This funicular will also carry mountain bikes. From here, there are many possible treks, including a tour of Mount Boglia and Alpe Bolla, if you are up to a long walk. If you do not like to walk so far, you can stay and visit the characteristic village of Brè. Be sure not to miss a visit to the Belvedere terrace, with its spectacular views of Lugano and the lake. Brè can be reached with a short walk downhill (just 10 minutes). It is well worth seeing: cobbled streets, porticos, courtyards - all just begging to be visited. Recently, the streets of Brè have been decorated with works by modern sculptors. Close to a small square with a fountain, is a path up to Mount Boglia. The path, which is cobbled in parts, enters into a fairytale wood, a wood of centuries-old beech trees which in certain periods of the year - especially in autumn - offers an enchanting display of spectacular colours.


La Residenza is just 100 metres from the Mount Brè funicular.


Mount San Salvatore funicular

Mount San Salvatore funicular - Lugano


Mount San Salvatore is opposite Mount Brè, south of Lugano. The funicular up to Mount San Salvatore (912 metres), operates until late in the evening to allow tourists to admire the stupendous panoramic views over Lake Lugano, even at dusk. Here too, you will find a terrace with panoramic views where it is also possible to dine. Near to the funicular station is a bar, restaurant and picnic area.


It is possible to admire a large model of Canton Ticino, a display of fossils and minerals and an exhibition of historical relics from the 17th century.


The church on Mount San Salvatore was built in 1705, on the site of a 13th century chapel. Don't stay there late, since it is rumoured that a ghost - or even more than one - haunts the area of the ex-chapel.


Sailing on Lake Lugano - Mini cruises

One of the attractions not to be missed for those living in Lugano or for tourists is the possibility to enjoy stupendous cruises and excursions on Lake Lugano with ultra-modern and elegant motorboats.


Every year the lake's Navigation Company adds to its fleet and services to offer a wide range of proposals that will suit every need. These range from morning cruises to trips that include lunch, trips to specific landmarks, and evening cruises, with dances and elaborate dinners in the elegant on-board restaurant.


There are numerous evenings with live music - jazz, tango and Caribbean dancing - or food and wine parties, theme evenings and firework displays. A cruise on Lake Lugano lets you discover scenery and panoramic views that will take your breath away, as well as spend a fun and interesting day out. Trips that combine sailing on the lake with visits to specific beauty spots in the area are especially popular.


From Gandria to Mount San Salvatore, from Parco Scherrer to Swissminiatur, there is no attraction in the area that cannot be visited in conjunction with a splendid trip on the lake. There are also trips that combine sailing on the lake with visits to local museums. And for those who would like something really exclusive, the Società di Navigazione also offers specially equipped boats for events and private parties.