Around Lugano
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The picturesque village of Morcote on Lake Lugano. (©_Switzerland Tourism)
The possibilities for getting out into the countryside around Lugano and the lake are plentiful – the tourist office has individual sheets on 21 cycling routes and 28 walking trails out of the city, both long and short, taxing and easy. The best area to head for is the hilly countryside of the Ceresio peninsula, extending directly behind the San Salvatore mountain opposite Lugano, with lake views to east, south and west that are continually captivating. Postbuses and/or boats from Lugano serve all villages on the peninsula.

The only draw on the opposite shore of the lake is the tiny Italian enclave of Campione d’Italia, which opted out of the campaign for independence in 1798 and so formed a part of Italy when all around it became Swiss. The village – for that’s all it is, even though it’s very swish – has Italian police driving around in Swiss-registered cars, and a noticeable lack of either lire or passport controls. Where the place has made a mint is in benefiting from Italian gaming law, considerably more liberal – at least until recent changes in the law – than in Switzerland: Campione’s massive lakeside casino, with unlimited stakes, is where Lugano’s many high rollers come to dally after dark.

More even than other Swiss lakes, the idyllic Lago di Lugano merits taking to the water simply for the pleasure of it. The Società Navigazione del Lago di Lugano, or SNL, provide the service; their ticket booth is at the main Lugano landing stage opposite the tourist office (daily 7.30am–6.30pm; 091/971 52 23). This stage is known as Lugano-Centrale; there are also jetties at Lugano-Giardino and Castagnola to the east, and Lugano-Paradiso to the south. Boats run between April and October roughly every 45min over to Gandria and Campione on the eastern arm of the lake; while others depart every two hours south to Morcote and on around the Ceresio peninsula to Ponte Tresa, stopping at most places on the way. A panoramic two-and-a-half-hour cruise around the lake, with commentary in English, runs daily (April–Oct) at 2.40pm, and there are also a hatful of cruises throughout the day offering on-board meals, drinks and/or music. In winter, a skeleton service operates three boats daily to Morcote, and a few each week over to Campione and Gandria.

A day pass on the lake is Fr.32; any three days’ unlimited travel costs Fr.48; while seven consecutive days cost Fr.58. All SNL boats are free to Swiss Pass and Lugano Regional Pass holders, but Eurail and InterRail bring no discounts.

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