The Perfect Weekend Getaway
Rainy days forecast for Zürich? Worry no more. Leave your raincoat behind and soak up the sun on a picture-postcard panorama hike from Lugano to Morcote. Direct trains from Zürich Main Station depart every hour on the cross-Alpine journey to sunny Lugano in just two and half hours. For an unhassled ride make sure to reserve your seat in advance either online or at an SBB ticket office. Watch out for seasonal promotions offering discounted tickets and multi-day travel cards.
Whilst this weekend getaway is manageable as a day-trip from Zurich, travelling to Lugano the evening before the hike will not just take the hurry out of the logistics but will allow you to enjoy a pleasant warm up the night before with an evening stroll, or as the local it a passeggiata, along Lugano’s lakeside promenade. Or how about a delicious al fresco dinner in one of any restaurants in the city’s piazza?
Early Birds get the Best Views
To make the most of the day aim for an early start and catch the first funicular leaving from Lugano-Paradiso to the top of city’s very own sugarloaf shaped mountain called Monte San Salvatore. The viewing platform at the terminus offers some spectacular views over the Southern Alps and the plains of neighbouring Italy. On a clear day if you look close enough you may even see Donatella Versace sipping a morning cappuccino on the balcony of her Milanese penthouse!
The well-signposted, 10-kilometre (6.2-mile) hike from San Salvatore to the lakeside village of Morcote takes about 3.5 to 4 hours to complete at a leisurely pace. The hike is perfectly doable with an average level of fitness however the sometimes steep descending path may prove to be challenging to anyone with sensitive knees. Sturdy footwear or hiking boots are certainly recommended for this trip.
A Hike with Culinary Delights
The leafy trail follows the mountain ridge offering some magnificent lookout points over Lake Lugano. If your stamina is beginning to wane after the descent from Monte San Salvatore, make sure to treat yourself to a coffee break on the cute terrace of the Osteria Ciona in charming Ciona.
With its impressive collection of rhododendrons and conifers, San Grato Botanical Park offers another perfect spot for a midway stop. If you are fortunate enough to visit the park in May don’t miss making the the azaleas in full bloom – a perfect backdrop for your selfies.
If you begin your hike around the late morning you will get you to meadows of Alpe Vicania just in time to enjoy a well-deserved lunch at the fantastic Ristorante Vicania – the true culinary highlight of the trip. With 14 Gault Millau points under its belt this charming farmhouse-turned-restaurant serves exquisite yet unpretentious local cuisine in a bucolic setting. To gather some strength and courage for the steep descent to Morcote don’t forget to round off your meal with one of the restaurant’s excellent red wines from the vineyards directly surrounding the estate.
Morcote – The Treasure-Box of Lake Lugano
It’s hard to imagine a better reward for a day spent with hiking than arriving to the medieval village of Morcote basking in the late afternoon sunshine. With its staggering lake views, cobbled narrow lanes and impossibly picturesque renaissance church perching on a cliffside tiny Morcote leaves no one wondering how it has made its way to the exclusive club of Switzerland’s the most beautiful villages.
Those in a hurry to get back will still have time to catch a bus heading to Lugano and the onward train ride back to Zurich. An overnight stay however will offer the opportunity for a perfect Summer’s evening dinner at one of the many lakeside restaurants.
Restaurants – Where to Eat
Enjoy a delicious pizza and Milanese vibes under the chic arcades of Lugano’s Galleria at the Ristorante Trattoria Galleria.
Another great restaurant is La Cucina di Alice.
Ristorante Pizzeria Albergo della Poste, a Morcote institution, boasts an excellent menu of Italian dishes.
La Terrazza sul Lago is a friendly, family-run restaurant serving local and Southern-Italian inspired dishes.
Hotels – Where to stay?
A Lugano staple since 1937, stylish and recently renovated Hotel Gabbani offers comfortable rooms and suites as well as a gourmet shop, a restaurant and a bar under its roof.
Simple and clean rooms at the Albergo della Poste. Ask for a room with a lakeview. Breakfast on the Albergo’s sun-soaked terrace in the morning is a true delight.
Article written by Peter Toller
An IT Manager by profession, Peter loves the great outdoors and is an avid explorer of Switzerland and enjoys hiking and discovering new places in his free time.
Peter’s Instagram account is @ptoller
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