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Clare
Clare

Day 7: Lugano

We woke up this morning to another brilliantly sunny day in Lugano. Today was our final day using the Ticino passes, and we were determined to get as much value out of them as possible, but first we had to acquire some breakfast. Breakfast was available in the hotel but for an extra CHF 10 each, which we thought seemed a bit steep in addition to what we were already paying for the room. In the end we found a McCafe, where we were able to enjoy two croissants each and an espresso for CHF 5.50. I think that's the closest you get to a bargain in Switzerland :D

Lugano has two mountains - Monte Brè and Monte San Salvatore - at opposite ends of the bay. Both mountains are a similar height and have a funicular to the top, and our plan was to visit both today. We decided to start with Monte Brè, on the grounds that it was slightly further away, and so began making our way around the lake in the correct general direction. We have been finding navigating Lugano a bit difficult as we haven't managed to track down the tourist information office to get a city plan and there aren't very many maps up around the town. Luckily Monte Brè is pretty distinctive and so we knew we were going roughly the right way. images_articles_2015_switzerland_lugano-

It was pleasant strolling along the lake in the early morning sunshine and we encountered a surprisingly large number of swans.

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I had hoped that as we got closer to the mountain there would be some helpful signs pointing towards what must surely be a fairly significant tourist attraction. Unfortunately there weren't, and so we were reduced to trying to follow the route of a tourist train which overtook us and which (we hoped!) was en route to the same destination.

We found the Monte Brè funicular in the end, having walked it once and accidentally mistaken it for a petrol station. The journey to the top of the mountain is actually made up of two funiculars. The first one is unmanned and runs automatically every 15 minutes, taking passengers a short journey from lake level to one of the slightly higher suburbs of Lugano. The second one is manned and runs every 30 minutes, taking passengers the remaining distance to the summit. However, as we were about to discover, its operation was extremely inefficient!

There was one lady on duty, who was required not only to drive the funicular but to sell the tickets as well. For reasons beyond our comprehension, she could only sell tickets at the bottom of the mountain, with the result that when the downhill funicular arrived, there was complete chaos as the passengers getting off it had to queue to buy a ticket before she could sell tickets to the passengers waiting to get on. The sale of each ticket seemed to take a disproportionately long time. Eventually we got to the front of the queue and Tim handed over our Ticino passes. She looked at them in extreme confusion, swiped them on some sort of machine (where a green light flashed up, which looked hopeful!) before proclaiming that she didn't know what to do with them and whether she could accept them or not. They were definitely supposed to be accepted, according to the Ticino leaflet which we unfortunately didn't have with us. She made several phone calls to a colleague further up the mountain, before asking us to stand to one side while she processed some other passengers. Five minutes and another phone call later, she decided to let us on the funicular and said something about sorting it out at the top. Phew!

After all this confusion, the funicular ended up departing nearly 15 minutes behind schedule! A bit frustrating, but when we eventually got to the top we were immediately rewarded with some lovely views.

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Rather unusually, as we came out of the funicular station the sign pointing towards viewpoints was heading downhill. A nice stroll down, but not so nice coming back up again later!

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When we got to the viewpoint it was beautiful though :)

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Once we had finished exploring it was nearly midday, so we decided to have an early lunch on top of the mountain. Gnocchi bolognese with a view like this :)

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The good thing about having an early lunch was that we more-or-less managed to avoid a big group of English people who arrived just as we were finishing up. We were in a carriage with a very grumpy English couple of the funicular down though, who seemed like they would have been happier staying at home because nothing about being abroad was impressing them. The woman was complaining that it was a waste of 20 minutes getting down the mountain and that she didn't think it had been worth it at all! We were a little bit nervous about travelling back down in case the funicular lady decided that our cards weren't valid after all and wanted to charge us, but we were in luck because she appeared to be on her lunch break. There was a man in charge of the train this time, and he just took a brief look at our cards before waving us through :)

While all the other tourists hopped on the tourist train back Lugano at the bottom, we enjoyed another walk along the lakeside. We were heading to the extreme opposite end of the town for Monte San Salvatore.

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In a contest of funiculars, San Salvatore would definitely win for speed and efficiency. We just had to swipe our cards at the turnstile and within five minutes we were speeding up our second mountain of the day with no hassle at all :) Surprisingly there was hardly anyone else on the funicular at all, and very few people at the top of the mountain either.

We were spoiled for choice with viewpoints on this one. We could look back towards Monte Brè and see just how big Lugano is...

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...as well as having some stunning views of the lake.

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By far the best views came when we walked to the church of San Salvatore, which has a viewing platform on its roof.

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It was spectacular.

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We finished off our excursion with icecream :)

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It was another fantastic day, and while it felt very relaxing we still managed to walk 9 miles and climb the equivalent of 92 staircases according to our pedometers! We definitely got value for money out of the Ticino card; the Monte Bre funicular would have cost us CHF 25, while the San Salvatore funicular was a whopping CHF 30, so altogether we managed to save CHF 55 each :)

Tomorrow it's time to leave Lugano and head off on our next adventure, via the Bernina bus to Tirano in Italy.




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