A confession: I love the German-speaking parts of Switzerland so much that I never really cared about seeing the Italian-speaking part, a region called Ticino. I never had enough time and I wanted chalets, alpine meadows, and the guttural, poetic sound of the German language - I've loved the language for as long as I can remember. But on my last trip, I took the train from Zurich to Lugano when I landed to meet Alex as he was finishing a conference.
Italy is so interwined with this part of Switzerland - Lake Como is just 45 minutes away by car (where we then spent three nights). "It feels Italian, but it actually works," I texted my friend. I arrived on a rare rainy day and it was still a beautiful sight - paddleboats, swans, the Old Town meeting the promenade on the lake, the mountains of San Salvatore and Monte Brè.
We also took the train 20 minutes to the town of Bellinzona to meet Alex's friends for brunch. The Saturday market was kind of "eh" but the town and castle are super cute.
Grand Café al Porto: This doesn't have the totally-cozy-European-cafe feel that I love, but it's still worth a stop (and a cappuccino). Look for the "1803" above the fireplace - the date this historic cafe opened.
Gabbani: A series of gourmet food shops and a small market in Lugano - local cheese & olive bread was a great post-flight, post-train lunch.
Piazza della Riforma: The main piazza in Lugano, with the big yellow city hall. This is where I inhaled my jet-lagged, people-watching Gabbani lunch.
City Park: This is such a beautifully landscaped park - gardens to wander, a pink villa in the center of it all, and a promenade along the lake.
La Tinera: I was told the best places to eat in Lugano are the grottos outside of town. Since we only had one night, we stayed in the center and ate at La Tinera, tucked behind the main piazza. All the restaurants near the center will have an element of "touristy" and this one was no exception. However, the owner was charming, the wine was delicious, and spring asparagus with two fried eggs=perfect.
La Lanchetta: After dinner, we took a long walk through the city park and found this super buzzy spot on the lake for dessert. A great place to eat right on the lake and I'm guessing we were the only visitors.
Hotel Lugano Dante: I loved this hotel. The room was tiny but among many pluses: a wonderful bed, a small, breezy window overlooking the Old Town, convenient location (7-minute walk downhill from the train station + two-minute walk from the main piazza), super friendly staff, and dog-friendly - made me wish I had my dog!
Plus, a photo from Bellinzona: