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Switzerland’s Ticino region, on the border with Italy, is one of the most unique areas of the country, and its mix of Italian and Swiss culture makes it an especially enchanting destination for visitors. Lugano, on the shores of Lake Lugano, is the heart of Ticino and features a wide range of hotels and other tourist services, making it the hub for any visit to the region. Travelers to Lugano will enjoy natural beauty, European hospitality and a Mediterranean-influenced lifestyle. Here are five great attractions for Ticino-bound clients.
Monte San Salvatore FunicularThe best way to start a visit to Lugano is to take a ride on the funicular to the peak of Monte San Salvatore. This mountain rises nearly 3,000 feet above the city and offers 360-degree views of the town, Lake Lugano and the surrounding mountains. After ascending to the top via funicular, clients should hike the remaining way up the mountain to the church at the summit. Then, for even better views, they can enter the church and walk up the steps (which are open to the public) to the roof. The reward: breathtaking views of the region.
Downtown LuganoLugano offers visitors an appealing mix of Swiss cleanliness and convenience combined with Italian culture and a laid-back way of life. A stroll around the pedestrian-only downtown area provides plenty of shopping options as well as cafes where you can sit and watch the world go by. Lugano’s main shopping street is Via Nessa, where visitors will find many of the major international consumer brands on sale. Nearby, Via Pessina features specialty food shops — such as Gabbani on Piazza Cioccaro, a family-owned gourmet food shop open since 1937 — where visitors can sample some of the region’s food and wine. At Vanini, a cafe in Piazza Riforma, clients can relax with a cappuccino, a snack, some Swiss chocolates or homemade gelato.
Verzasca ValleyThere are many great spots outside the city of Lugano, but one area that’s not to be missed is the Verzasca Valley. Visitors can hire a private guide and driver, take an organized tour or even ride the local bus through this river valley dotted by charming mountain villages. Along the way, there’s an opportunity to try bungee jumping from the dam that was featured in the James Bond film “Goldeneye.” But the main tourist attraction here is the Ponte dei Salti, which is often wrongly referred to as the “Roman Bridge,” because of its unique construction. This picturesque bridge spans the perfectly clear blue-green water of the Verzasca River and is a popular swimming spot during the summer months. In fact, due to the clarity and beauty of the water, locals sometimes refer to this area as the “Italian Caribbean.”
Brissago Islands and AsconaAlso outside Lugano are the Brissago Islands on Lake Maggiore and the lakeside town of Ascona. The village is reminiscent of small towns along the Mediterranean, with narrow winding streets and alleyways, quaint piazzas and lakefront cafes along a scenic boardwalk. In addition, the city hosts a major music festival each summer. Ascona is also a jumping-off point via ferry for exploring two islands in the lake. San Pancrazio, the larger of the two, is home to the official botanical gardens of the canton of Ticino, with plant and flower species from all over the world, in a beautiful natural setting. A historic hotel on the island has a cafe with lovely views, as well.
SwissminiaturOne of the most unique attractions in Lugano is Swissminiatur. This local favorite has welcomed guests since 1959, and its old-school vibe is definitely part of its charm. With more than 120 famous Swiss buildings and locations meticulously replicated in 1:25 miniature — and lovingly displayed among recreations of the Alps — visitors can get an overview of the country’s top highlights all in one place.
The DetailsSwitzerland Tourism www.myswitzerland.com