Traveller’s tip: When in Lugano, Switzerland, remember to look up!

I HAVE been longing to get back to Lugano in the southeast, Italian-speaking part of Switzerland since I last visited it about 23 years ago with my sister Virginia, who was visiting us at our home in Basel in northwest Switzerland for Christmas.

It was only a 4-hour train journey each way, which was part of the fun. Lots of time to shoot the breeze, enjoy coffee and croissants, and watch the scenery and architecture change from German to French to Italian (always a revelation in such a small country).

Oh those pesky Alps!

Ironically, even though we’re now located further south, just outside Geneva, the train journey is six hours each way due to a little thing called the Alps getting in the way. (Flying is faster but you have to go via Zurich, and I just can’t be bothered with all the airport stress. Apparently, direct Geneva – Lugano flights start very soon.)

Anyway, we like train travel…it’s a good way to relax, listen to music, or finally get to that book or the newspaper/internet article that you’ve been meaning to read but never have time to. Plus, the scenery is stunningly beautiful. So why not savour it.

So a few weeks ago, for my birthday in mid-March, we booked online a charming hotel in the centre of town (Hotel Lugano Dante) and headed for our local train just after 9am knowing we’d arrive mid-afternoon (just in time for the rain clouds to lift). I was keen to see how present-day Lugano lived up to my now somewhat misty but still loving memories.

More exquisite than ever

As you can see from these photos (to activate the slideshow, please click on a photo) Lugano is indeed beautiful, perhaps more than it was when I was last there though probably at the expense of a natural authenticity that has been replaced by a more polished (and expensive) veneer.

There are compensations for this however, including the preservation of the city’s traditional, lavishly constructed architecture. It’s abundantly obvious whenever you remember to look up. This may not sound as silly as it seems given there is so much variety, color and beauty to take in at eye level (see below).

It was the perfect time of year to visit, before the hordes of tourists descend. There’s an unrushed tranquility as people walk along the boardwalk, (begin to) sit at outdoor restaurants, stroll through the botanical garden or through the cobblestoned piazzas and narrow streets as they shop for groceries or to take in the new pastel-hued fashions for spring. It was the perfect remedy for my turning one year older and I highly recommend it.

(Note: these photos were taken with an automatic camera and an iPhone. My Canon DSLR comes with me next time!)

Main photo caption: A building with a wrought-iron balustrade is reflected in the window of a flower shop decorated with Easter eggs.

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