The Swiss adventure continues! For this delightful post, we are taking a trip to the southeastern corner of Switzerland bordering Italy to visit the adorable Italian-styled town of Lugano and Lake Lugano and we will also be stopping at Lake Como (so we are going across the border into Italy). When we think of Switzerland, we think of an archetypal Alpine village on the top of a mountain with yodelers and lots of cows. We don’t often think of a city and when we do its usually Zurich or the capital of Bern. But Switzerland is filled with lots of uber-charming, ridiculously delightful and charismatic cities. Each has its own character and its own customs because many of these cities share a kinship and affinity with a neighboring country of Switzerland (Germany, Italy or France). As I stated in my last post, each city is first and foremost profoundly Swiss, but you’ll find hints of Switzerland’s larger neighbors within the cultures of many cantons (or city-states). Lugano, while proudly Swiss, has an Italian flavor to it. Most of the population speaks a dialect of Italian in connection with Milan and Northern Italy. When it comes to food, you’ll find a lot of Italian-inspired dishes (coupled with the famous Swiss cheese and chocolate). A perfect culinary combo, in my opinion! I love Italian food, chocolate and cheese- I’m so ready to gain the “Swiss Sixteen” (I made this up of course, but it definitely could be a legit thing!). The architecture and culture of Lugano is a harmonious blend of Swiss and Italian as well. Who knew Swiss and Italian culture could make such a beautiful marriage!
Lugano is a flourishing city in every way. It has such a relaxed yet enthusiastic vibe. The moment you walk into the piazza, you instantly just want to stop at a local bistro, cafe or restaurant, grab a glass of wine and just people watch for hours. This is the kind of city you travel to in order to perch, drink, eat and watch. Savor the flavors, savor the colors, savor the people and savor the crystal aquamarine water of Lake Lugano! You can sip wine by the water side and see Italy on the other side of the lake! Lugano is in a subtropical climate so it is totally sun-soaked making the oranges, pinks and blues of the buildings come alive and the lake glisten. It is truly paradise. My greatest recommendation for this city is just aimlessly stroll the crooked and steep streets. I do warn you, if you have trouble walking uphill, this city can be tough. The walkways can be quite narrow and steep going up and down. If you’re going up, take your time, and if you’re going down, watch your step and take it slow. There are times you may want to walk sideways going down, that’s how steep some streets can get. The walkways are also stone so DO NOT walk them in stilettos (trust me, it ain’t pretty!) Stroll around the Via Nassa Arcade (no, it is not the American style arcade). It is on the waterside and is lined with shops, restaurants and resorts. We even discovered a quiet garden and park, for some reason it reminded me of Alice in Wonderland. The ambiance and views are stunning- the lake coupled with the mountains is enough to make you want to cry with joy. But then you add in the gorgeous flowers… it’s too much! It’s TOO beautiful. I had to say to say to myself several times walking along the stone and brick paths marveling at the water, the mountains, the bright buildings and the flowers everywhere that I wasn’t actually in heaven. Was I dead? Had I crossed over? If so, you won’t see me complaining. If this is what the afterlife looks and feels like, count me in!
Walking along the Via Nassa, we eventually stroll into the Piazza Riforma. It is a huge square, once again lined with shops, fancy restaurants and bistros. Here we stopped in at a bistro right on the piazza. I cannot recall the name, so I apologize for not making a note of it. We decided to share an authentic Italian pizza, with a little Swiss flare (cheese from Switzerland), and a glass of wine. Now I HAVE to talk about Swiss wine right here. I never thought of Switzerland as a wine-making country, I thought of them as beer and spirits people, but the Swiss actually make a LOT of wine. Throughout our trip, there were vineyards all over! I was shocked and in love! I mean, could this country get any better? Their chocolate is perfection, their cheese is fantastic, and they make amazing wines! Swiss wine is so unique because you have the influences of 3 major wine-making nations surrounding them- Italy, France and Germany. So, you will find your sweeter whites to your dry reds- there is TONS of variety in Switzerland. In Lugano, their wine is more influenced by Italian styles, obviously because they because Italy is literally on the other side of the lake, but you can also find a Merlot or a Gewürztraminer easily. But I highly recommend you try one of the most popular uniquely Swiss wines- Dole & Fendant. Fendant is a sweet white from the Chesselas grape and the Dole is a dry red born from the Pinot Noir and Gamay grapes. I recommend Fendant for easy sipping (midday or at night during an evening stroll) and Dole for a good Swiss meal. Both are delicious. I am HUGE wine person. I pretty much plan my trips around drinking wine. I was super impressed with the Swiss wines and also the wide variety you can find there. The only part that sucks… you really can’t find Swiss wine in the States. We learned that the Swiss really don’t export their wine. I’m not surprised since the Swiss tend to be more isolationist in nature and like to do their own thing. The Swiss are certainly filled with surprises. The whole country is filled with so many treasures the Swiss like to keep secret from the rest of the world. It’s probably because they know how special and wonderful their country is and they don’t want the word getting out there too much. I get it, if I had a country this gorgeous and filled with so many gems, I’d keep it on the DL too. But anyway, let’s not go in too deep about how much I love Switzerland, let’s get back to Lugano.
At this point, I’ve been strolling around Lugano for hours. The town is like a Crayola crayon box. The colors of the buildings are incredible. Some are light and airy pastels and others are vibrant and fresh. But every building has its own character, almost like the owners of the buildings are trying to show you a part of their personality, who they are. Many of the buildings have beautiful murals on the sides and fronts as well. This is common throughout Switzerland and also quite common in Germany (specifically Bavaria and the Romantic Rhine) and Austri,a which I have witnessed in previous travels. These murals and bright colors differentiate every building. Lugano (and all Swiss cities) aren’t uniform at all, every building tells its own individual story, so the city is just a collection of different stories and personalities living together in harmony. Like a book of impressive short stories. As you walk around, take note of every building, every feature of each building, every nuance of the streets and walkways and take in their tales. As I walked the streets, I found my imagination running away completely with romantic tales playing out in my head. From a bright pink building, I notice a balcony looking out over the winding backroad I am on and I imagine a young woman waiting for her lover to walk by just so he can catch a glimpse of her before she goes to sleep. You will get lost in fairy tale-like wonder in this city.
For dinner, we took a boat ride to a grotto restaurant that was on the Italian side of the lake. Let me tell you, taking a boat to get to your restaurant is an absolute-must experience! The boat ride itself was so relaxing. Sitting out, sprawled out with the best panoramic view of shimmering water, purple mountains and small homes by the water side. The homes seemed to be built into the rock as if they were always meant to be there. I can’t even imagine how perfect it must be to live on a lake in Switzerland like this! The grotto restaurant was a fantastic experience, eating and sipping with that flawless mountain lake view. I’m telling you; my heart is palpitating just remembering it. I’ve never seen something so beautiful! This is LIFE! This is the what living should be! Great food, superb wine, on a grotto or at the piazza looking out at a gleaming lake and mountains with amazing company and sharing deep, genuine conversations. It CAN’T be real but yet it is! These are the moments I live for!
If you ask me what a perfect day is, it’s this. Sharing outstanding food and wine with excellent company, enjoying meaningful and rich conversation with a great view on top of it all. That’s my perfect day, and on top of that the gift of aimlessly wandering and exploring a beautiful new place. When I travel, especially to Europe, I take part in the art of wandering and roaming. You gotta get off the main roads and piazzas and explore the backroads, that’s where you find amazing, hidden spots. I love looking at the architecture and noticing the subtle differences in architecture from region to region, state to state, country to country. The world is truly a magnificently diverse place! Just roam and BEHOLD! You want to take pictures, DO IT, but make sure you’re spending more time just looking, really looking, and taking it in. Don’t just see it, absorb your surroundings, feel it. Feel the intricacy of the architecture, feel the warmth of the sunset-colored buildings, feel the vibration and fun energy of the people, feel the historical significance of the city, feel the combined energies of the hundreds, maybe even thousands, of years of history that have taken place here, feel the warm breeze pushing your hair back. And don’t just eat the food or drink the wine, experience your food and wine! Traveling to a new place is about experiencing, feeling, letting the setting move you and your emotions. You’ve gotta become empathetic to the city you immerse yourself in. In “The Great Gatsby” the character Nick Carraway observes the city of New York from a window and he says, “I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” That’s what traveling feels like for me (well, not the repelled part). I am somehow carried away to not just another place, but another time and almost another plane of existence and I see how intense yet in harmony this world is. I appreciate how magical it is to live in a world with so much to experience, explore, to enjoy. That’s what traveling means to me, and it is why it is my greatest passion in life. And Switzerland, and Lugano, connect me to that passion within to experience and appreciate the variety of life and experiences this world has for it in every aspect.
I was basically in la-la-land all throughout my days wandering Lugano and traveling the whole of Switzerland. We stayed overnight at a classy resort, De La Paix Hotel. And I honestly, didn’t want to go to sleep. I just wanted to keep exploring the city streets and walkways all night. But alas, jet lag won that battle! We did take an evening stroll after the boat dropped us back off in Lugano, though, and we had another glass (or a couple, let’s be real!) of wine at a beautiful bar surrounded by the hotel gardens. What a perfect day! How could it get any better… (spoiler alert it just keeps getting better!).
We also spent some time walking around and driving around Lake Como as we took a sojourn to Italy from Lugano. Lake Como… ok, one word to describe it, VIVACIOUS is the word I’m going with. Why do I pick this word? Because the colors are so vivid in every corner, every crevasse… COLOR! And not dark colors or muted tones, but fresh, vibrant color everywhere! The natural setting itself of the aquamarine lake, the lilac and indigo mountains, the bright red, orange, yellow, purple and pink flowers is everything! When it comes it color, I like bright colors! So, Lake Como is so visually stimulating for someone like me! The pops of color are everywhere, and I took it all in fully and completely into my heart, my spirit and my imagination. My vibration was at the level of bliss. It was dreamy. And the beautiful homes and shops, restaurants and hotels perfectly match with the vivid colors Mother Nature has gifted this area with. Lots of character and whimsy. If you are familiar with Lisa Frank, it’s like live-action Lisa Frank color and enchantment everywhere. I saw several buildings with the ivy cascading up or down the building and it made me think of the Secret Garden. Flowers are everywhere you look! Lining the walkways on the lake, in overflowing flowers boxes on homes and even growing up the buildings. Nature and Man live in bliss together at Lake Como. We just walked, that’s all you need to do. Of course, stop in a bistro or café and enjoy your espresso or your Italian wine with loved ones while you gaze into a stupor at the view! Go for it, it’s what we should be doing! Just sit, enjoy, absorb it all and be grateful for this perfect moment, in this beautiful setting and (hopefully) with wonderful companions to appreciate it with.