First stop...Lugano, Switzerland

Before I began my Italy trip, I spent a few days in Lugano, Switzerland, as a guest of the Ticino Turismo.  It is a gorgeous area with Lake Lugano as the centerpiece, surrounded by the southern part of the Alps. img_2687Ticino is the canton in Switzerland where Lugano is located, and the only one in Switzerland where Italian is the official language.  The best way to describe it is as a "little taste of Italy, in Switzerland".  Ticino has a micro-climate more in keeping with the French Riviera than stereotypical images of Switzerland. Palm trees are juxtaposed with the snow-capped mountains, even more emphasizing the dual identities of the region.

Lugano is less than one hour from Milan Malpensa airport and under two hours by train from Zurich.  A visit to Lugano would combine perfectly with any Switzerland itinerary, particularly to mix in a little Italian flavor to the more typical Swiss towns many people visit. Or, it is an easy addition to any trip to Northern Italy, particularly Milan or the Lakes region.

img_3148Even with the on and off rain while I was there, Lugano was still lovely with the clouds settling above the mountains and the fog over the lake.

Upon arrival at the gorgeous Hotel Splendide Royal, located directly on the lakefront, I knew I was in for a treat. The classic five star luxury hotel was absolutely lovely in every way.  I love traditional "old school" hotels and the Splendide Royal fit the bill perfectly. Not only is the hotel beautiful with luxurious details at every turn, the service is excellent.

picmonkey-collageBefore my "official tour" began, I had a day to myself to explore.  One of my all time favorite authors, Hermann Hesse,  lived in the hills above Lugano in the small village of Montagnola.  When I found out there was a museum in his former home, I knew I had to visit.  It was a short taxi ride up the mountain and well worth a visit to feel as though I was walking in Hesse's footsteps.

picmonkey-collageIt was time to head back to the hotel to rest before dinner, when I was to meet my companions for the weekend. They were four other tourism professionals - a luxury destination wedding planner, an owner of a tour company specializing in food and wine tours, another Virtuoso travel advisor and a lovely Italian woman who runs high end, bespoke bike trips around the world. It was a great group and we soon became fast friends! We were led by the dynamic duo, Viola and Michel, who work with Ticino Turismo.

picmonkey-collagePhotos courtesy of The View Lugano- my battery died!

Our dinner destination for the evening was the ultra luxury boutique hotel - The View Lugano.  It is as modern as the Splendide Royal is classic - perfect for a guest who loves contemporary design with all the latest bells and whistles, along with sweeping views of Lugano.  The goal of the hotel is to take personalized service to the next level offering guests their choice from a selection of bathroom amenities, room scents and even the color of the paper in the loo (those in the know say lavender is the most popular color!)  After a tour of the property, we enjoyed aperitivos and local prosecco outside on the terrace overlooking the lights of Lugano, followed by a delicious chef's tasting dinner. Our hostess for the evening, Silvana, had us laughing out loud all evening. I could definitely get used to this!

img_2803 Nothing like room service breakfast...with a start of the first full day of a trip!  After a long winter, it was a treat to enjoy breakfast with the windows open overlooking the lake!

img_2921We began our day walking along the promenade  on the lake - the rain had stopped and the sun was trying to peek through the clouds. The abundance of flowers in bloom in late March, quickly reinforced the warmer climate of Lugano.


picmonkey-collagePatricia, our guide for the day, leads regular food tours of Lugano.  She showed us all the "foodie" stops in central Lugano, including the salumeria, cheese shop, and the bakery, where locals were doing their daily marketing.


picmonkey-collageLunch was served at the Michelin starred Ristorante Arte al Lago at the Hotel Villa Castagnola.  The food was incredible and the setting, literally ON the lake, was stunning.

When visiting a lake town, spending time on the lake is imperative...luckily our captain awaited us just outside the restaurant...

img_3028The sun came out just as we boarded our boat for an afternoon on the lake...

img_3044-editedSounds like a full day, right? It wasn't over yet...we finished our day with a wine pairing dinner in the private wine cellar at the Hotel Splendide Royal, followed by a dance performance at the new Lugano Art and Culture Center. It was a perfect Saturday in Lugano...

The next morning we were hoping to take a helicopter trip over the alps, but we were grounded by the clouds. We did visit Morcote, voted the most beautiful town in Switzerland in 2016.

img_3200-editedimg_3173 img_3205img_3226We enjoyed yet another delicious lunch in a local trattoria in Morcote sampling regional specialties and wines from Ticino.

Our time in Lugano was at its end, but luckily all of my new friends were headed to Lake Como along with me ready to spend the next few days meeting with luxury travel suppliers from all over Europe...

Thank you to everyone at Ticino Turismo and the Hotel Splendide Royal for being such incredibly gracious hosts for the weekend - I can't wait to return to lovely Lugano!

Next stop...Lake Como! Stay tuned...