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Lake Lugano

Lake Lugano
Lugano – View of the Lake and the City

Lake Lugano is shared by Switzerland and Italy and the area around the glacier lake is infused with a mix of Swiss sophistication and Italian passion. Located between Lakes Maggiore and Como, Lugano was first mentioned by Gregory of Tours in 590 AD, who referred to the body of water as Ceresio. It is thought that the original name came from the many cherry trees that once dotted the shores of the lake. In 804 the lake was renamed as Luanasco. Today you can enjoy outdoor sports, beautiful villages, gorgeous views, festivals and delicious food in the Lugano area, which draws tons of tourists every year to its shores.

The majority of Lake Lugano is held by Switzerland, in an area where the lake comprises one of that country’s most popular tourist attractions. The Italian water and the Campione d’Italia enclave are considered non-territorial and therefore enjoy duty free status and are exempt from the EU VAT tax. The residents of the area also enjoy several other attractive tax advantages.

lake lugano
Lugano – S. Lorenzo’s Cathedral – Stained Glass, The Christ Child and the Holy Virgin


Lake Lugano and the surrounding area had always been an area of strategic and military importance. The first account of a political body governing the area dates back to 818 AD. In 1000 AD the lake was under the control of the Bishop of Como and was the site of the war between Milan and Como, which was fought between 1218 and 1227 for control of the Alpine traffic in the area. Later the lake and shoreline were incorporated into the Duchy of Milan and were again a subject of territorial and political contention in the 15th century. In 1752 the Treaty of Varese fixed the border between Italy and Switzerland and since then it has remained unchanged.


Lake Lugano is chalk full of fish and except for a few protected areas–like the River Cuccio’s mouth in Porlezza–fishing is allowed. Protected species in the lake include the white clawed crayfish and the bleak, which is almost extinct in the area. Brook trout were introduced to the lake in 1895 from Lake Zug and the common whitefish were introduced around 1894. Over the years attempts have been made to introduce several other species in the water of the lake. It had taken around ten years to colonize the lake since common roach were present in the area in large numbers. Other creatures that can be found in the area include burbot, zander, largemouth bass, European perch and even wels catfish in small numbers.

Lugano Lake
Lugano Lake. Between Lugano and Pianello del Lario. Ph. Mor65 on depositphotos



A small town located on the eastern shore of the lake, Porlezza has a pleasant climate and gorgeous verdant foliage growing on top of its mountains. In the winter months the trees and flora in the area are quite beautiful. There is easy access from Porlezza to several mountain trails and there are plenty of opportunities for walking, hiking and other outdoor activities in the region.

The town is typically medieval and has several beautiful monuments and ancient churches you can visit. The most important places to visit in the town are Saint Maria dei Miracoli and Saint Maurizio Church.

Porlezza has several cozy hotels and good restaurants. You can also enjoy peaceful walks in the lanes along the shore of the lake and charming shops where you can buy locally made products. Though Porlezza is not a very large town, it offers good opportunities for relaxation and outdoor activities, which is why it is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination.

Lake Lugano
Monte San Salvatore and Lugano Lake. Ph. gevision on depositphotos


Another charming town along the shores of the lake is Brusimpiano, which is located on the border from Switzerland, about 15km from the the town of Varese and 60km from Milano. The town is spread over a very small area of just 5.9 square kilometers and has a small population of around 1,121 people. Though the town is quite small it provides beautiful views of the mountains and the lake and is a perfect place to kick back and enjoy life at a slower pace.

Lavena Ponte Tresa

Also located in the province of Varese, quite close to Brusimpiano, is Lavena Ponte Tresa. Another small town along Lugano this one is preferred by tourists who are looking for relaxation and natural beauty, which Lavena Ponte Tresa has in spades.

Campione d’Italia

You will find the enclave of Campione d’Italia along the Swiss Canton of Ticino, in the Province of Como. The town is separated from the other nearby parts of Italy by mountains and Lake Lugano. The hilly terrain makes it necessary to journey through roads to get from the town to other parts of Italy.

The nearest town in Italy to Campione d’Italia is Lanzo d’Intelvi, which is about 28km away. This naturally beautiful area was first settled in the 1st century BC by the Romans who named the town Campilonum and set it up to protect themselves from Helvetti invasions.

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2 years ago
Reply to  Estela White

Estela, thanks for such a helpful comment. Paolo

Estela White
2 years ago

Very interesting! Nice presentation about a region of Italy better known by Italian tourists. Lugano then, was already important in antiquity and medieval times. Must have been a region of great commerce and international trade for the Milanese to fight with the Bishop of Como for its control. I already am making plans to visit medieval Porlezza and other beautiful towns in the area. Good to know that Campione d’Italia is a powerful enclave: the third most important banking, commercial center for the Swiss. The region must be lovely year round but after five winters in Boston and fifteen in Chicago I had enough of snow and ice. I will visit Lugano in the summer. Thank you for the information and the photographs