Believe or not, there a small region of Switzerland that, while identifying as Swiss, speaks and acts Italian! Well, they almost act Italian. The region is super clean and the trains run on time! Clearly, there is some Swiss influence.
This region of Switzerland is called the Canton of Ticino. When you’re there you would swear your were still in Italy, except the stunning landscape feels very Swiss! Historically this area was Italy or, at least, politically and culturally tied to the various Italian principalities or dukedoms of Northern Italy. It only became a part of Switzerland in 1803, which explains why Italian remains the official language of the region.
It is a great region of Switzerland to visit because it has the food and charm of Italy with the cleanliness and efficiency of Switzerland. Oh, and the Swiss chocolate of course. The region is dominated by its famous lakes to the south, east, and west, and the beginning of the Swiss Alps to the north. The lakes to the south — Lago Maggiore, Lago Lugano, and Lago Como — weave in and out of the borders of Switzerland and Italy. Lake Lugano (where I stayed) is mostly in Switzerland, where as the other two are mostly in Italy. Despite these national borders, it is very easy to move in and out of both (just remember to carry your passport). While in Lake Lugano I wanted to experience the best of the region, so I spent one day hiking through the gorgeous Valle Verzasca and another exploring the lakes.
Hiking through the Valle Verzasca was an incredible experience! And yes, I did it in a skirt and sandals lol. Thanks to melting mountain snow the valley boasts numerous waterfalls. The gorgeous, but often dangerous, turquoise Verzasca river runs through the length of the valley with quaint medieval stone villages dotted on the mountainsides along the way. We began our day chasing waterfalls near Sonogno before heading to Lavertezzo. Lavertezzo is an adorable stone village complete with an ancient Roman bridge and some of the most beautiful water and rock formations I have ever seen!
I spent my second day in the region exploring Lugano and Lake Como. I will be honest, I don’t love the northern Italian/Swiss lakes, and I am especially not crazy about Lake Como. I just don’t think it lives up to the hype. But it certainly was a delightful enough day strolling the river banks and exploring the towns.
If you are interested in exploring the Italian region of Switzerland, you can reach this area easily via trains from Milan. Lugano is a great central location to stay in.
And PS – My amazing neoprene Dagne Dover Backpack has been a lifesaver (or should I say back-saver) this summer. It is perfect for travel!