Just mere weeks before the blooming of the colorful magnolia trees, I have the chance to spend a day in Lugano. My lovely guide is Julie Arlin who shows me her local favorites - and even lets me in on a secret...
As the weather forecaster at RSI, a fellow blogger, a representative of Lugano Tourism and a socialite by nature, Julie is somewhat of a celebrity in Lugano. As the two of us walk across town, it is entertaining to observe people wave at her or approach her for a chat.
My plan is to inspire you to visit Lugano by sharing the best walking tour. For a perfect day, Julie includes beautiful sights, good food and coffee, and even a secret...
From the train station, we start by strolling down Via Paolo Regazzoni, then turn left onto Via Borghetto and right onto Via Cattedrale.
Deep in the historic old town at Via Pessina 12, make a stop and marvel at Gabbani. This meat shop with its iconic salami decoration has been there ever since Julie can remember. And sure enough: A sign reveals that Gabbani has been around since 1937...
While the carnivores check out the inside, vegetarians can sample the always fresh assortment of fruits and vegetables outside:
Just a few steps down Via Pessina toward the plaza is Grand Caffe al Porto.
Gazing at their marvelous cakes on display is free, but where is the fun in that? Do as the luganesi do and have something sweet with a cappuccino (in the morning) or an espresso (in the afternoon).
Even though the sparkling Lake Lugano is awaiting right around the corner, it pays to look up at this beautiful ceiling at Piazza della Riforma:
Paddle boat season starts any day now.
Tucked away in the small courtyard of Quartiere Maghetti is Etnic, a fusion restaurant.
Julie has a very personal connection with Etnic. One of the chefs once asked her for feedback on his new sushi roll creation. Julie loved it, so the chef aptly named it "Julie Roll"!
My sweet shrimp sashimi is the best I have had outside of Japan, and there is no more space for Julie's namesake crab roll with cucumber, avocado and salmon. Etnic is truly global fusion, because those not in the mood for fish will find delicious Mexican fajitas, Thai curries or American burgers...
After lunch, we cross the nearby Piazzale Ex Scuole back into the old town.
Julie explains that every Tuesday and Friday morning, artisans from the region will offer typical foods and delicacies at Lugano's farmer's market. In my mind, I imagine fresh mozzarella di bufala and Alpine cheese from Vallemaggia, Italian strawberries during summer and Ticino maroni chestnuts during fall...
Cappuccino at the Mauri Concept Store
Before we indulge in Lugano's arts and culture, it is time to stop by Julie's favorite café: The Mauri Concept Store at Via Gerolamo Vegezzi 4. But wait: Is this a hairdresser, a lifestyle boutique, a bar or a café? Turns out, it is all four!
At the LAC Lugano Arts & Culture Center
At the far south end of the lake promenade is the LAC Lugano Arts & Culture Center. As we pass the last boutique in the Via Nassa pedestrian zone, Julie tells me that for many years, Lugano basically ended there. Today, the abandoned lot is gone and the path continues to the new architectural masterpiece.
Opened in September 2015, this venue has quickly become Lugano's poster child. Not only is it set in a perfect location overlooking Lake Lugano. The museum features a well curated permanent exhibit highlighting art from the Italian speaking canton. On top, the second floor of the building houses special exhibits.
Here is Julie inside an installation by Markus Ratz:
Apart from visual arts, the LAC is well known for its concerts. Many swear by the acoustics of the new concert hall whose walls and ceiling are made entirely of wood. It pays to plan ahead and reserve your tickets for one of the many philharmonica orchestras from all over the world.
Sunset on Monte Brè for 100% perfection
To wrap up our day, we hop on Julie's Fiat 500 to climb Monte Brè. The winding roads offer split second vistas of the city below. But when we stop near the top, a perfect sunset unfolds. This moment will stay in my memory for a very long time...
(Alternatively, take the bus and funicular from the city to reach the top.)