Lugano is a posh city. Across from our fancy and historic hotel is the Louis Vuitton store selling 13,000 CHF bags and a chic Italian look. The rest of the via Nassa shopping center is a mixture of high-end shops and quirky stores; next to the hotel is a coin and stamp collector store which features an impressive inventory ranging from Nazi memorabilia to coins dating back to the fourth century.
This morning we enjoyed a breakfast at the hotel which included a large variety of food: cerals, fruit, yogurt, eggs and the obligatory cheese and dried meats with bread. As we ate we discussed the idea of taking the train down to Milan, but discarded the idea in light of the unpredictable weather.
After breakfast we walked along the quay toward the funicular up to the peak of San Salvatore. It began to rain again, finally settling into a steady stream. Undaunted, we continued with the trip up the mountain, eager to catch the reportedly fabulous view. The rain seemed to cooperate, too; it stopped as we approached the station.
My husband and I walked on the small plaza at the summit, watching a large group of teenagers as they struck out on a hike along one of several trails to nearby villages. We then met my parents with the intention of enjoying a coffee in the overpriced restaurant. As we sat down, the storm returned with intensity. We sat at the restaurant window overlooking a lake, as lightning and thunder crashed around us, and rainclouds sure obscured the view. It was an impressive and dramatic show, and we sat in the restaurant until the storm dwindled a bit.
When we returned down the mountain the rains were driving hard so we called a taxi and paid a usurious rate to return to the hotel. The driver spoke no English, but was so expressive with his Italian that we were able to understand much of what he said: he was upset with the city for allowing beautiful old buildings to be demolished in favor of hotel-apartments.
We wandered back through the via Nassa center as the rain abated, and had a coffee and pastry at a fancy local cafe. Indeed, there is almost no cafe in the center that is not fancy in one manner or another.
The men returned to the hotel, and my mom and I shopped a bit at Co-op City, a department store carrying a broad variety of items from groceries to women’s clothing; perhaps the most similar stores here in the US are Costco and Target. I bought some necessities – shampoo and the like – and a couple of tee-shirts. Great store!
An interesting thing about Lugano: this city is loaded with public art. Last night when we walked through the public garden we saw lots of statuary. As we traipsed along the quay this morning, we saw several modern sculptures including Jean Arp’s ‘Femme Paysage’ (1958).
It is also another dog-friendly city, though there are more signs forbidding dogs from stores than we saw in Paris and Lauterbrunnen.
In the evening we regrouped for dinner, walking down to a large plaza where there are several restaurants. After some debate we settled upon Tango, where we had pizza and calzone. It was good! No room tonight for gelato.
The culture here is different than in the German-speaking Lauterbrunnen – very Italian. Not only is Italian the principal language in this canton (Vicino), the customs are also influenced by nearby Italy. The driving is seemingly reckless, the people brisk and much more expressive and emotional than the Germanic, pastoral and reserved Jungfrau region. Of course, this is a city and that was the country.
Tomorrow we are off to Lausanne, another Swiss city but this one with a French flavor. It will be an interesting time, contrasting these regions with one another.