Strictly speaking, this is not a piece on Italy at all as Lugano is in Switzerland. Let’s just consider the definition of “around” in the title “Around the North of Italy” to be a little more fluid in this instance, okay? Nearby the North of Italy, perhaps.
Okay. First things first, as I haven’t mentioned it thus far, we took a Cost Savers tour via Trafalgar. The rooms were nice, the food was decent, the guide was good- everything was fine. So, the difference, apparently, with a Cost Saver is that 1) the hotel is further out of town and 2) all the really fun stuff isn’t included in the price. The price is already high for tours so this generally grates on me. I hate having a budget all set and then having to scrounge for cash but again, it was last minute and my mom’s idea so there you have it.
Lugano’s add on was another boat ride and a funicular. We decided we’d DIY this one and save about $40 each (we did not actually save any money, it pains me to say- just pay for the upgrade). We watched everyone load onto the boat and then got in line for the public one instead. A short jaunt later and we were dropped off a few blocks from Monte San Salvatore’s funicular. The area itself was a bit nondescript- block after block of built-up hotel chains and not a lot of style. For some reason, we felt the need to powerwalk the whole way as though we were going to miss some very important funicular schedule when in fact there was quite a bit of a gap between cars. And part of that gap I blame on the Germans.
Why, I wondered, were there so many German school children traipsing about Lugano en masse on a weekday? Is this some sort of EU field trip? Where are the chaperones? What possible educational purpose could this trip serve? Were they on holiday? They couldn’t be- all twenty of them?– and *BONK*
A lobbed water bottle bounced off the back of my head as I sat in the sweaty tramcar, hungry, and now feeling like I was morphing into my inner Nick Miller.
A politely outraged Swiss family turned from the front of the car to give withering stares. The car was now some sort of rager with the squeals of teenagers being so loud I barely heard the man next to me as he leaned in and said, “Ze Germans. Zey are vorse abroad zan ze Americans! Can you beliz it!” It rocked slowly as the teens banded together to shake it to and fro.
Look, I’m not one to paint whole groups of people with a large brush but I’d be lying if I didn’t tack this on to that one time in Ireland when a bunch of Germans played catch with their rolling luggage in the hallway of the hostel until 4AM, then decided tackle football was a much better proposal which then led to some other debauchery before I finally snapped and shouted some incredibly choice words at the lot of them. I did, however, balance it with my memories of our delightful, quirky giant of a B&B owner during our Christmas trip in Rudesheim. Germans: like everyone…some good, some lobbing bottles at me.
With jaw clenched and hair greying, we lumbered our way up the mountain side past little residences carved into the cliffs. Climbing roses meandered over chintzy white picket fences near chalets. Someone even managed to sneak in a pony who also, gratifyingly, gave the most hardcore of glares to the loudest teenager on board. But really, who heckles a pony?
At the top of the mountain was a small visitors’ museum and a restaurant.
Back at the boat, the plan was to chug around the lake, pausing at little towns along the way. But, having misread the time table, we hopped on the wrong line, going the wrong way and ended up back at Lugano with the right boat not coming by in time to correct our mistake.
“Well, a lake is a lake, right?” my mom offered. “We’ll just poke around town.”
My advice is this: do not poke around Lugano unless you are filthy rich. Otherwise, you’ll have exhausted your interests in well under the 6 hours we were allotted. It’s a nice enough town but I’d take Bellagio or some of the others over Lugano. I can buy diamonds and Hermes scarves at home (oh, just kidding, I totally can’t! ha!).
We strolled past dozens of jewelry shops overflowing with diamond encrusted this and that as well as some bizarre window displays for high end designers before running across a tiny chapel and a little market.
In a department store, my mom decided that while my souvenir search would be for linens, hers would be for a nightgown. Overhead, as I shoved my face into a sweater, we overheard a song in poorly translated English about bananas and lost friendship. I sent a quick text.
“I’ve known some bananas to cause some lost friendships if you know what I mean,” she replied.
We head to Laderach where I indulge in a large box of truffles that ended up being my dinner. I end up with some chocolate hedgehogs, pistachio-gianduja truffles, honey triangles, piemontesers, feuilletines (my favorite), nougatines, and some schokokusses in strawberry, tropical, orange, and hazelnut (ALL SO GOOD).
We wandered through the town square before taking a left through Parco Ciani- a city park that overflowed with manicured flower beds and sculpted trees near the lido.
The park tapered off into a clearing on a small beach where locals sat feeding geese and ducks along the rocky shoreline. My mom sat to watch the water lap the shore as I hunted for the perfect pebble- our other souvenir goal was to mudlark each lake. Most of the shorelines we encountered had been paved so this was the only shot.
With plenty of time to spare, we took the long way back to town, indulged in some ice cream and sat along the coastline. Do this: stop for a moment. Turn of the alarm bells telling you to go, go, go lest you miss something and just sit. Take in the sunshine, and the grass, the sound of the water, and the gulls. Breathe it all in.
And ignore that obnoxious trailing bunch of German teenagers.
Up next: Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore!