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Lake Lugano

Lake Lugano is at the southernmost tip of the Tessin, the holiday region south of the ridge of the Alps, and it reaches its arms out into Italy. Thanks to the mild Mediterranean climate, there are even citrus fruit trees growing here, and visitors can sunbathe under palm trees.

The lake has a number of different branches and is surrounded by mountains: Monte Generoso is the highest mountain by Lake Lugano, at about 1700 m. A rack railway takes you from the lakeside resort of Capolago to the top of the mountain, with its panoramic views. There are two funicular railways scaling Lugano’s mountains: the Monte San Salvatore – from where a beautiful alpine footpath leads to the little village of Carona and on to Morcote – and the Monte Brè. And a cable-car takes you up to the sunny plateau of Serpiano, ideally located for visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Monte San Giorgio. The densely wooded mountain with its many rare plants is one of the main locations where fossils can be found dating from a prehistoric subtropical lake.

The Monte Brè

It’s worth making the trip here just for the views of the city and Lake Lugano. Opposite stands San Salvatore, Monte San Giorgio looms above the lake and dam of Melide and the Valais Alps can be seen to the west.

Funicular railways run in two sections from the edge of Lugano to Monte Brè, the scenic mountain above the lake basin and the vibrant city. The short lower section to Ruvigliana was opened in 1908, before the railway reached Monte Brè in 1912. It is considered the sunniest mountain in Switzerland, which may explain why it is home to the rare and protected Christmas rose, otherwise found only in Southern Europe.

Our advice is stop for a while on the “summit” – where two restaurants with a sun terrace welcome you. Descents down to Lugano or the lake, always via the Brè village, are in part pretty steep, as are the nature and archaeological trail to Gandria.

The romantic little Brè village with its grottos has succeeded in maintaining its original character of country settlement – further embellished by numerous works of art.

The Olive-tree trail

Walk along the enchanting Olive-tree trail and you’ll reach this typically Mediterranean park; it creates an appealing contrast with the splendid views of the lake and the mountains all around.

This fine terraced park lies on the slopes of Monte Brè and occupies around 20,000 m². Its paths and steep flights of stairs meander through groves of olives trees, cypresses, laurels and myrtles: all of them are typical of the Mediterranean woodlands and have become well acclimatised in Lugano thanks to its mild climate. Walking along the hill is highly enjoyable. You can find the vineyards of the Municipality of Lugano where 2400 Merlot vines were planted. Following the olive and flowers paths you reach Castagnola, where you can enjoy splendid views over Lake Lugano and the mountains. The terrace in the park, facing directly south and covered by lush natural vegetation, are particularly favourable for olive trees, bushes and perennials which thrive in dry and hot, very sunny areas. The park is accessible through the Olive Trail, which winds its way for approximately 2 km between Gandria and Castagnola, through an area of rare natural beauty where ancient olive groves coexist with recently planted trees. Along the route there are 18 information boards providing details about the history and preservation of olive trees; there are also many centennial trees such as the famous “Carlin Olive tree” at Gandria pier, which overlooks the lake with its 10 m of height.

Lake Lugano

The Monte Brè

The Olive-tree trail