Lugano was special as it was not on my original itinerary. While the rest of Switzerland north of the Alps was having a wet and grey day, the mountains kept Lugano sunny. Chasing for good weather, I decided to do a day trip from Zurich to the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland. Surely, the weather did not disappoint as I headed out of the train station, which is elevated above the city centre.
Heading downhill next to an abandoned funicular line, I reached the day's first sightseeing landmark, Chiesa Santa Maria degli Angioli, with its beautifully-painted Renaissance frescoes. The church was built in the early 16th century.
Outside, a beautiful promenade along the lake stretches from the city centre to Paradiso.
Monte San Salvadore is 912m high and a funicular takes you most of the way to the observation point. From there, you get a 360-degree city view although part of the city's waterfront is blocked by the hill ahead.
Beyond those mountains, the weather turned to rain.
The funicular ride is also scenic. A few nice ladies made room for me to sit at the front window with them to enjoy the short journey downhill.
The Swiss Travel Pass also includes ferries around Lugano. It was a bit windy on the outdoor deck, so I stayed indoors and popped out every now and then. This "cruise" is a wonderful way to see the city amidst its beautiful natural setting.
My destination would be Gandria, a town built on the steep hillside and also the start to the Olive Tree Trail.
Along the trail, there were information boards explaining the olive tree cycle but my eyes kept staring at the lake. It wasn't as impressive as the Lavaux vineyards, but the walk was quite pleasant and the paths were well-paved.
At the end of the trail, you can catch a local bus back into the city, which is also free with the Swiss Travel Pass.
With more time left before my return to Zurich, I stopped in Cassarate to head up Monte Bre for another vantage point. Here, the Italian part of Switzerland was far more evident - laid-back workers, late departure, nobody is in a rush to do anything. Well, the view was not impressive compared to San Salvatore.
The first funicular is unmanned and doesn't have a ticket booth. Once you finish this short ascent, cross the street and the next funicular has a ticket counter.
This would be a great stop for an afternoon snack. Savour the view.
By now I was done with views and mountains, so I headed back into the city centre to explore the streets a bit before ending my day trip in sunny Italian-speaking Switzerland.
Lugano is only just over 2 hours by train from Zurich thanks to the Gotthard-Basistunnel. Forget about punctuality, efficiency, and speaking German. This is a place to relax and enjoy life.