One of the favorite places for the Swiss to getaway is Lugano, one of Ticino's most beautiful natural features. The striking thing about it is that the lake surrounded by the mountains right on the shoreline. The hotels are literally built into the mountain in some cases and right on the lake. I had heard about it enough to put it my list of "must see places." Since it was Easter weekend, and Europe closes down for four days, I decided it was the time to go.
It was the dog's first road trip. Aside from driving in the car, both dogs did fairly well. Juno specifically had a blast. It was a weekend filled with tons of walking, relaxing and Italian food. What more could a husky ask for?
Driving to Lugano, we armed ourselves with only the GPS and the hotel address. A big mistake. We thought the GPS would route us right through Ticino, where some of my favorite wines come from, instead it took us down and around the Simplon Pass and through parts of Italy. The Simplon Pass is a destination in itself as its a tunnel that between two sets of Alps that inspired poets to write about. We reached the Italian border completely by surprise. We never thought we'd actually cross into Italy giving me the perfect opportunity to spout off a few "I told you so's" at Mr. Wild Dingo for not bringing our passports. Luckily they weren't required, this time. The route went by the top of Lake Maggiore and through Locarno, the last bigger town before Lugano.
The drive through the Italian Alps alone was worth the pain. My jaw never shut, the views were that astonishing.
We regretfully did not stop in Locarno, another enchanting setting overlooking the tip of Lake Maggiore on steep Alps hillsides. Poor Loki --the ACE did little to relieve the torture of Locarno's twisty, steep descent as Euro-crazies whizzed by us on the barely one-lane road, resting precariously on the edge of a steep drop off.
Rather than stay right in Lugano, I opted to stay 2 miles south in a quieter, less touristy town, Melide, known for it's Swiss Miniature attraction. The hotel we stayed at (above) was run by a warm and gracious Italian family who said, "Dogs? no problem!" And it was no problem when we took them to dinner in the hotel restaurant.
As soon as we got in, we went for our dog walk and Mr. Wild Digno happily sported his Euro old-man hat that he bought in Yvoire a few weeks ago. I love how the hat is juxtaposed with Gap shorts and a cotton sweater. He sure is Euro-chic, that Mr. Wild Dingo.
The path along Lake Lugano reminded me of a rustic Italian garden. The first person we ran into was a blond Italian women, who looked to be in her early 50's. She took one look at the dogs and cried, "Ciao! Bambino!" Reaching down, she grabbed Loki's face and gave him a huge smooch in typical Italian fashion. What a welcome for Loki who was equally smitten with her. We saw her repeatedly on our walks over the weekend.
After that welcome, we found many more Italians were oddly attracted to Loki like a magnet. Every where we went "Ciao! " and a smooch. It seems that while the quiet, reserved French are more interested in Juno, the gregarious, boisterous Italians adored Loki. Figures. Takes one to know one.
The next day we drove into Lugano known for it's beautiful Piazza della Riforma, filled with cafes and bustling with street vendors. Mr. Wild Dingo chose an outfit more suited for his new chapeau. Juno wanted to do a little window shopping so the boys accommodated.
We stopped by Lugano's Cattedrale San Lorenzo and took turns going inside while Loki panicked with Juno outside. I have to teach Mr. Wild Dingo how to use a camera. The only shot he got of it was the one above with the Albergo hotel in the background. Like, hello? Where is the cathedral in this shot?
Our lunch stop was at a pizzeria. At restaurants, it always took a few shifts in seats and dog tails in order to get everyone comfortable. But once settled, the dogs showed excellent manners, quietly staying under the table. Tiny terriers and large Afghan dogs passed by our table without a peep from either dog. All hail the power of pizza! Naturally we saved a few bites for them.
Since we feed the dogs raw food, for the weekend trip, I had planned to just feed cooked meat and whatever we had left over. You can imagine they didn't complain about that. In fact Juno lost another .3 kg dining that weekend dining nothing on pizza, bolognese pasta, sausage and sardines.
Later on, we explored the Paradiso gardens. More tulips. San Salvatore in the background.
We stopped for a photo opportunity. Then it happened again!
Another Italian fan adoring the dogs asking for a photo opp. It was the third time that day someone had their photo taken with the dogs. WTF? I'm beginning to wonder what Loki and Juno are doing when I'm not home. Are they making a name for themselves? Whatever. The novelty of celebrity was wearing off and I was anxious to return to the quiet of our balcony.
After a long day of city walking with the dogs, we went back to the hotel and had a quiet dinner and watched the sunset with a glass of wine.
The interesting thing about Lake Lugano is how close the mountains are. They're practically on the shoreline of the lake. Lugano is situated right between San Salvatore and Mont Bre. The mountains loom over the lake and cast the most amazing shadows and lighting. Because the mountains are so close, you feel nestled in tranquility.
In the morning outside on the balcony, it's mystical. The lake is quiet as two people paddle around and enjoy the serenity.
We spend the morning outside on the balcony, reading, taking in the views and catching a few more Z's.
A little penninsula juts out. Mr. Wild Dingo and I take guesses at what that building is that we can see from the balcony.
The next day we set out for Parco San Grato, with over 62,000 square meters of azaleas, rhododendrons and conifers. The park sits between Monte San Salvatore and Monte Arbostora and starts in Villa Corona. Once again, the three of us took turns hiding our heads as Mr. Wild Dingo drove us up the twisty narrow roads. When we reached Villa Carona, we drove through arches of it's cathedral, barely wide enough to fit our car. How that is a two-lane road is beyond any of us, but it is and we were lucky not to have had run into a car going in the opposite direction. Let me tell you how surprised and grateful I was that Mr. Wild Dingo kept his cool around Loki's yips while navigating the narrow road.
We were all relieved to get out of the car, but especially me. And Mr. Wild Dingo. And Juno. All three of us were anxious to put a sock in Loki"s yapper.
It was Easter Sunday and the park was packed with families and children. Since Loki a bit overwhelmed from the drive up, we headed out of the busy garden into a quiet forest hike up steeper into the mountain where he and Juno could let off a little steam and get his wits about him. The views coming back into the garden were spectacular.
We went back to the hotel, relaxed by the water and read some more. Later we headed out for another walk. As I was taking this shot above, it happened AGAIN!
Behind me, more Italians adoring Loki. Internet, I told you I wasn't kidding. I have no idea why they are so taken with him. There are plenty of dogs around Lugano, big and small. It must be the ears. Or the yapper.
Then she brought her whole family. Her dad, in the middle in his Easter suit, spoke English. They chatted with us for a little while. Loki and Juno entertained them with their best tricks and the girl along with her father were just smitten with both dogs. We chatted about why we were here and how we got our dogs here. Then more questions about how long the dogs trained and why we spoke German to them. That gets a lot of people confused. The family lives in Italy and came up to Melide to celebrate Easter, I assume with extended family.
On our last morning, I took the dogs for their walk by myself so Mr. Wild Dingo could pack without Loki going ballistic. I went for a longer route along Melide's shoreline and all Loki could do is try to convince me to turn around and go back to the hotel room for Mr. Wild Dingo. Heaven forbid the pack be separated in unfamiliar territory. On the way back to the hotel room, we ran into Loki's first admirer once again who couldn't wait to give him one last smooch. I'm kicking myself for not getting a photo of her. She was incredibly photogenic in her perfectly coiffed hairdo, pink lipstick and beaming eyes.
Naturally we had breakfast before we left. Mr. Wild Dingo teases them mercilessly with the last bite.
On the way home, we avoided going back through Locarno. The hotel manager also advised us not to head through Ticino toward Bern as the Gotthard tunnel is usually delayed for an hour. Instead we headed toward Milan and just shy of it, made a right toward Torino then North toward the Simplon Pass.
While we waited for our turn to go through the Simplon Pass we got this last shot.
It turned out that Lugano was a perfect "getaway." The kind where you aren't pressured to see it all, but just enjoy the beauty that is right in front of your face. The kind of getaway that doesn't make you feel guilty for reading a book on the balcony by the lake for much of the visit. The kind of getaway that doesn't fuss when your Formosan GSD talks wildly every time it was time to go for a walk. The kind of getaway that is perfect for tranquil relaxation -- just what the doctor ordered.