Lake Lugano in spring // © 2013 Kelly Rosenfeld
For most people, the first images that come to mind when picturing Switzerland are snow-covered Alps or sloping green hillsides dotted with farms. So imagine my surprise at entering Ticino — Switzerland’s southernmost canton, on the border of Italy — and learning that this Alpine country is also home to a Mediterranean-style oasis. Though inhabitants of the area speak Italian, and the culture, architecture, food and lifestyle have a major infusion Italian flavor, the people there are proud to remind you that they are Swiss. The benefit of this combination is a taste of Italy, run with Swiss organization and efficiency.
During my brief stay in Ticino, I managed to make my way to Locarno, Ascona and Lugano, each of which has its own distinct charms. In Locarno, I basked in the sun along the shore of Lake Maggiore, where it’s possible to see palm trees framed by snowy mountains in the distance. In Ascona, I tasted my first white merlot on a farm that grows wine grapes, apples and, of all things in Switzerland, rice. And finally, in Lugano, I wandered around the border of Lake Lugano following the peaceful Olive Path, wondering how I had never before learned of Ticino’s many charms.