Nestled in the foothills of the Swiss Alps beside a gorgeous blue lake, Lugano, Switzerland can most easily be compared to its more-famous neighbor: Lake Como, Italy. Unlike Lake Como, it was not used as a Star Wars filming location (Episode II, nothing major). Geographically, Lugano is Swiss; culturally, it's Italian. Switz-alian, one might say. The restaurants serve pizza and pasta, and the Italian language is spoken almost exclusively. My Spanish-learning brain was in a constant state of "I almost understand this." I loved it.
Our teensy-weensy airplane (the kind with propellers) from Zurich to Lugano flew right over the Swiss Alps. When I caught my first glimpse of them, I almost stopped snarfing down my complimentary Swiss Air chocolate. Almost. The majestic, snow-covered peaks were stunning, and they also gave me an odd craving for meringue.
Once we arrived, we found a restaurant called Ristorante Olimpia in the Piazza della Riforma where we demolished an entire pizza (an entire pizza each- I could have left that part out to make us look better, but I didn't. Keeping it real.) I ordered the "rustica," which was bedecked in mozzarella, parmesan, speck (Italian pork), oregano, and an happy little egg in the middle. This decadent morsel of carbohydrates was sent to me from my wildest dreams ("ah-AH-ohhhhh" -Taylor Swift). Our waiter patiently tolerated our shortcomings in the Italian language and taught us a few new words as well. Don't ask me what they were; I forgot- because pizza.
The Olive Trail (Difficulty: Easy)
Since I left Arkansas, venturing into nature has felt like a huge, gasping lung-full of fresh air after being underwater for too long. While hiking the Olive Trail, I felt peace flood into my soul with every glimpse of the olive tree groves, the ever-present view of the lake and mountains, and the palm trees. Yes, palm trees. They were not on my radar when I envisioned hiking through the foothills of the Swiss Alps, but lo! there were palm trees galore. Ohhh, Switz-aly... Throughout the hike, I had to stop several times just to take all of it in, to be present, and most importantly, be thankful for this experience. Everything was so beautifully and perfectly green.
Monte Brè Trail (Difficulty: Moderate)
Based on our research, people normally ride the funicular to the top and then hike down. But we are warriors, so we decided to hike round trip. After veering off the Olive Trail to the Monte Brè Trail in the town of Gandria, we found a very sad sign: "Sentieri Interrotti - Causa caduta piante e scoscendimenti di materiale." Loosly translated: "Trail closed. There's various and sundry pieces of nature crap in the way." But we're warriors, and warriors use Google Maps. By the time we climbed the 9 billion stairs to the top, the rain and clouds had moved in, leaving no visibility of the lake below. But it wasn't a total loss. The surrounding mountaintops covered in clouds gave the feeling of isolation, as if we were the only ones on the entire mountain. Everything was quiet and hushed. The area also gave off a serious "Twilight" vibe, which inevitably sparked a "Team Edward" or "Team Jacob" discussion. Always love those.
I'm currently typing with one hand because my other hand is holding a luxuriously smooth Swiss chocolate from the award-winning, world-famous Läderach chocolatiers. Be warned, this chocolate is not cheap. Nor is anything in Switzerland. College football fans know that in the SEC, "it just means more." In Switzerland, it just costs more. In my personal opinion, it's definitely worth it.
In our original plan, the final day was supposed to be spent hiking Monte San Salvatore, but because of the weather, we had to improvise. Instead, we spent the day wandering around the city Lugano, strolling down paths covered in vividly yellow leaves. What a bummer.
Lugano was one of the richest experiences of my travels. By "rich," I mean everything is so much more expensive in Switzerland than back in Spain or the US. If the Spanish Euro takes you far, the Swiss Franc drops you off a millimeter from where you were originally standing. I'd highly recommend getting an AirBnB that comes stocked with fruit, drinks, and snacks. It definitely saved us some money.
The area was much less touristy than I imagined, since fall is technically the"off-season." People flock to the lakes in the summer months, but there was something so refreshingly sensory about Lugano in the fall: the cozy feeling after a bite of warm, cheesy pizza; the cool, lake breeze; gorgeous leaves in all shapes, sizes, and colors; the soft rain in the trees; and heart-to-heart chats over breakfast with a view of the quiet, peaceful lake. It was a wonderful weekend spent with a sweet friend. I left a little piece of my heart in Lugano.