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Our recent “ultimate European road trip” now heads north through Italy's lake country, stopping at Lake Lugano, between Garda and Maggiore. About two thirds of this lake's shoreline is in Switzerland and about one third in Italy, resulting in a blending of their respective cultures which creates a unique as well as charming destination.
Flanked by much two larger lakes, the "lake in the middle" still outshines both with its intimate-feeling setting surrounded by majestic mountains and many picturesque and inviting villages for you to explore.
Why Lake Lugano?
When we planned this trip in our brand-new Porsche Macan 5S, picked up from the factory in Stuttgart, Germany, the planned itinerary consisted of a round trip from Germany: into Austria, then Italy, a short romp in Switzerland, back into Italy and returning to Germany. We added as many new destinations as possible while still having acceptable driving distances with lots of breaks along the way.
Logistically, Lugano was a good fit with a pretty much straight shot from our previous base in Sestri Levante, and lined up with one more stop before returning to Stuttgart and the Porsche factory drop-off point. This was our first time to the lake - and what a surprise it turned out to be.
Why the Village of Porlezza?
The city of Lugano is in southern Switzerland in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, bordering Italy. The many hotel options range from simple to luxurious, but we were fussy about location and the always important parking options.
We were also focused on driving time and the ease of continuing our northern route back to Germany. So we chose a hotel for a two-night stay on the northern end of the lake, near the village of Porlezza.
Porlezza is a commune in the province of Como, part of the Italian region of Lombardy, with a population of only 4,400 people and 43 hotels ranging from simple to luxurious. Being more remote from the “big city" and at the upper, less touristy end of the lake, we found the amenities were more generous and the prices more reasonable.
As soon as we arrived, we realized that we made a mistake, as this property could easily be a one week destination… two nights was not enough!
Parco San Marco Lifestyle Beach Resort has everything... contemporary architecture, large suites, unrestricted lake views, four excellent restaurants ranging from casual to fine dining, inviting indoor pool, three outdoor pools and a lake-side beach/dock area, excellent, secure underground parking, and the list goes on and on - check out their website at http://www.parco-san-marco.com/en/resort/.
Best of all was their staff of sincerely friendly, courteous, and pleasant people that actually enjoyed working at this outstanding resort. We did a short TripAdvisor review and ranked it the overall best hotel of our vacation.
Again, our only regret was that we only spent two nights… maybe next time.
Welcome to Parco San Marco
A full suite… lake view and large balcony included
A happy-anniversary gift from the hotel with a handwritten note… classy touch
Balcony view of Lake Lugano
Private beach area
Secure spacious parking
Porlezza Village Market Day
With only one full day to explore this area, we opted to stay close to the hotel and utilize its bicycle rental to ride along a flat, paved bike path into the village. Slow travel at its best - the scenery was spectacular, and a little exercise goes a long way.
Bike path tunnel
Creating a memory on Lake Lugano
This ain’t Macy’s, but it works
Porlezza shopping area
Street art installations
So Much to See and Do if Only…
Cable cars, funiculars, lake cruises, mountain top panoramic vistas, grand mansions and museums, Swiss history, Italian history, add a little gambling casino activity for an adrenaline rush and top it all off with chocolate from the largest chocolate manufacturer in Switzerland at the Alprose Chocolate Factory.
Hiking enthusiasts can check out Monte San Salvatore and the village of Carona and on to Morcote and Monte Bre’. The UNESCO World Heritage Site Monte San Giorgio is also worth the time and effort.
EU VAT-Free Shopping
We missed the fine print when we did our research and were unaware that the Italian waters of the lake and specifically the commune of “Campione d’Italia” are considered, by Italian law, as “non-territorial” and enjoy a special tax status as a duty-free area, exempt from EU VAT tax (19% sales tax on everything). Happy shopping!
Our visit to Lake Lugano was simply too short. Convenient to our road trip logistics… yes… but vacation travel is more than logistics and the lesson was learned.
Onward to Germany and Lake Constance for a few nights before we drop off the car.
Please follow us as we continue our “Ultimate European Road Trip Series”.
After all, what is the hurry… be inspired.
© 2016 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar
© 2016 Picture Credits Bob & Janice Kollar