Sunday, 5 March 2017

Rubbing shoulders with the rich in Lugano

It has been an odd week here in Varese just north of Milan.

We arrived to the threat of rain and grey clouds, managed snow in the middle of the week and enjoyed tee shirt weather for the last couple of days.

And as you do we headed up to Switzerland on Thursday to stay with Tina’s sister who like quite a few from Varese now works and lives across the frontier.*

It is not much more than a 20 minute drive north and the crossing point is at Ponte Tresa by the river that runs into the lake beside the town.

It is a busy crossing point but one with almost a complete absence of passport control.

So, while you pass first an Italian check point followed a minute later by a Swiss one there is little to mark the passage from one country to another.

The police uniforms are different and of course so are the flags, but everyone speaks Italian on both sides, the shops look the same and the only difference is that instead of Euros everything is priced in Francs.

That said our Euros were accepted in the shops, bars and restaurants with the only hiccup that change comes in  Francs.

Not that many linger in Ponte Tresea.  It has a small population of just 796 of which 27% are foreign nationals and 20% of the work force crosses into the town from Italy.

And like so many of those crossing into Switzerland on Thursday we were heading further north to one of those small villages which boasted just a pharmacy, a petrol station and a convenience store, surrounded by mountains.

Nothing much stirs here after about 4 in the afternoon and what strikes you most is the silence.

All of which is in direct contrast to Lugano where we washed up on the Friday.  It is a place that is just as I remember it, full of money shed loads of tourists and stunning views.

It starts with the lake and the mountains beyond and extends back from the shore line with a heap of little squares and tiny streets all full of designer shops and up market restaurants with the odd tacky tourist outlet and inevitably a McDonalds and Burger King.

But there is more as we discovered on our way to Mt. Sighignola from which you can look down on the town.

I had forgotten just how hair raising the trip was and how much I could suffer from vertigo, but it was worth it.

On balance though I preferred the town which in the space of an hour had become even more busy and confirmed the decision to head back to Ponte Tresa and the  journey back over the frontier to Varese.**

Location, Lugano, Switzerland

Pictures; Lugano, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson



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