Morcote and Vico Morcote
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The best of the Ceresio lies at the peninsula’s southern tip. Here you’ll find the captivating village of MORCOTE, once a fishing community and now eking out a living as a lakeside attraction. Its photogenic arcaded houses – and slightly tacky antique shops – are strung along the shoreline road, with a web of tranquil, stepped lanes leading up the hill behind to the beautiful Chiesa di Santa Maria del Sasso, a fifteen-minute climb (April–Oct Mon–Fri 8am–6pm, Sat & Sun 9am–6pm; Nov–March Mon–Fri 1.30–6pm, Sat & Sun 9am–6pm). The atmospheric hillside church has well-preserved sixteenth-century frescoes inside, and boasts views from its terrace over the lake and hills beyond that are stunning. Several walks explore the lush woodlands nearby, including a long trail back up to San Salvatore (2hr 30min).

Morcote has a handful of hotels, but also suffers from a great deal of tourist attention, and very many feet tramping its alleys. One way to escape is to aim for the even tinier village of VICO MORCOTE, on the hard-to-reach hillside above and 1km north of Morcote. Here, although the church is just as picturesque and the tiny village piazzas are lined with old stone-built houses that are just as beautiful, unlike in Morcote you can actually hear the fountains tinkle, smell the camellias and stand alone in the middle of the street to absorb the atmosphere. On a junction within the village beside the rustic Osteria al Böcc (gnocchi or spaghetti Fr.14), you’ll find the tranquil Bellavista (091/996 11 43, fax 996 12 88; c–f). Its impressive restaurant is run by a young, highly accomplished team, who serve exquisite, lightly prepared local cuisine on a beautiful terrace high above the lake; menus are around Fr.70. The hotel rooms to one side are outstanding, the bargain of the region – fresh and flooded with light. Their top-floor luxury suite, huge and spotless, with billowing curtains and a private terrace, is utterly romantic, and half the price of those in the more mundane surroundings of Lugano.

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