Lake Lugano Lago di Lugano or Ceresio
Lake Lugano (in Italian Lago di Lugano or Ceresio), on the southern edge of the Alps, lies mainly within the Swiss canton of Ticino, the remainder being in the Italian province of Varese and Como. Lying at an altitude of 270 m/ 886ft, it has an area of 48.7 sq. km/19 sq. mi, with a maximum depth of 288 m/945ft. From the west end of the lake the River Tresa flows into Lake Maggiore. The climate already shows distinct Mediterranean characteristics.
Very pleasant round trips on Lake Lugano are run by the motor-ships of the Lake Lugano Shipping Company (SNL; head office in Lugano, information in harbor).
Towns on Lake Lugano
The principal town on Lake Lugano is Lugano, on the north shore of the lake. From there a road runs south alongside the lake to Melide (alt. 277 m/909ft), situated on a peninsula from which a causeway crosses the lake.
Switzerland in Miniature
A feature of interest in Melide is "Switzerland in Miniature", which reproduces many of Switzerland's principal tourist attractions (towns, castles, monuments, transport) on a 1:25 scale.
Across the causeway, to the north of Melide, is the Italian enclave of Campione d'Italia, with the 14th C. church of the Madonna dei Ghirli.
South of Melide, on the southern slopes of Monte Arbostora (839 m/2,753ft), a promontory projecting into the lake, is the old-world little town of Morcote (277 m/909ft; pop. 650), one of the most picturesque places in Switzerland and a great tourist attraction, with its beautiful setting and its well-preserved old houses and streets. In a commanding situation above the village stands the pilgrimage church of the Madonna del Sasso (originally 13th C., rebuilt 1462, remodeled in Baroque style 1758), with a separate campanile; it contains fine 16th C. frescoes. From the church a flight of 408 steps goes down to the village on the shores of the lake. In the cemetery are the graves of Moissi, Eugen d'Albert and Balkanoff. There is a beautifully laid out park, the Parco Scherrer, with a collection of international art, culture and inspiration (opening hours given).Facing Morcote across the lake is Brusino-Arsizio, which can be reached from Melide by way of Melano and Capolago.
Across the causeway from Melide, and south along the far side of the lake, is Bissone (274 m/899ft; pop. 720), which dates back to Roman times. It has well-kept patricians' houses with impressive arcades and facades. The Tencalla museum contains ancient exhibits with an exhibition of painting and sculpture by local artists.
Melano (296 m/971ft; pop. 875) at the foot of Monte Generoso, has patricians' houses including the Haus Fogliardi with fine Baroque decoration.
At the south end of Lake Lugano is Capolago (277 m/909ft), from which a rack-railroad (cog-railroad) serves Monte Generoso (1,704 m/5,591ft; hotel-restaurant), with superb views of the Alps and the Lombard plain, including Milan.
Baptistery, Riva San Vitale
1km/ 0.6mi west of Capolago in the village of Riva San Vitale there is an octagonal baptistery (fifth C.)
Santa Croce Church
The church of Santa Croce (16th C.) in the village of Riva San Vitale is one of the finest Renaissance churches in Switzerland.
Beyond Riva San Vitale is Brusino-Arsizio (277 m/909ft; pop. 380), which lies within the administrative district of Lugano, but from the tourist point of view belongs to the fertile and densely populated Mendrisiotto area. This picturesque village lies at the foot of Monte San Giorgio.
A cableway runs to Serpiano (645 m/2,116ft; extensive views), reached by cableway or by road from Mendrisio.
Through the Mendrisiotto to Chiasso
The administrative district of Mendrisiotto (pop. 47,590), with a total area of 133.61 sq. km/51.6 sq. mi, lies at the southernmost tip of Switzerland (most southerly point in Chiasso-Pedrinate). The most easterly finger of Lake Lugano drives a wedge through this area which is in contrast to the more mountainous surroundings.
To the south of Brusino-Arsizio, surrounded by fertile fields, lies the village of Meride (583 m/1,913ft; pop. 270), now a protected area. There are interesting 18th C. houses, such as the Haus der Oldelli with magnificent arcades and colonnades, and a local museum.The museum, opening hours given, contains a collection of plant and animal fossils.
Opening hours: 8am-6pm
Entrance fee: FREE
The chief town of the region of Mendrisiotto is Mendrisio (354 m/1,162ft; pop. 6,900). It has been an important political center since the Middle Ages. Neolithic and Roman remains provide evidence of an earlier settlement. Its picturesque territory extends as far as Bellavista on Monte Generoso.Interesting sights include the church of SS Cosma and Damiano (1875), Palast der Edelleute Rusca (mansion; former 15th C. courthouse), the Torrianische Palast (15th-16th C.) and the recently renovated Palast Pollini (1715). A former monastery houses an art museum where exhibitions, concerts and other cultural events are held (opening times given).
St Martin's Festival
This annual two-day festival takes place in mid-November.
Rancate - Giovanni Züst Cantonal Painting Gallery
A collection of paintings by local Ticinese artists from the 17-20th C including Giovanni Serodine, Giuseppe Antonio Petrini, Luigi Red, Ernesto Fontana, Adolph Feragutti-Visconti and Antonio Rinaldi are housed in this former church hall.
Just before the Italian border is Bezasio (501 m/1,644ft; pop. 410), known for its "brocatello" red marble.
Ligornetto - Vela Museum
Stabio (375 m/1,230ft; pop. 2,800) dates back to pre-Roman times with evidence of Etruscan, Roman and Langobard settlements having been found. It was the chief town in the region under the Romans and contains interesting burghers' houses and a local museum.The museum (opening hours given) contains collections on local farming and hunting, as well as an important collection of moths that are harmful to agriculture.
The road from Mendrisio to the Italian border passes Balerna (310 m/1,017ft; pop. 3,500), which joins up with the commercial center of Chiasso. It was once an important religious center. There is a ruined castle, Schloss Pontegana, which was built before the Langobard period.
Chiasso (239 m/784ft; pop. 8,850) developed into an important center for trade and transport due to its strategic location. First mentioned in 1127 Chiasso gained independence in 1416. Surrounded by hills it has long been a transit town, its status as a customs-point contributing to its economic growth. The Palast Züst (1906 by C. Brambilla) and the 18th C. Neo-classical Camponovo Palast (formerly Matti) are worth visiting.