Lugano, Visit Italy in Switzerland

The city of Lugano is the warm spot of Switzerland. It is situated in the southern Republic and Canton of Ticino on Lake Lugano. The local climate is warm enough for palms and other southern plants to thrive. Nestled in between lake and mountains, breathtaking views are on offer wherever you go.

Lugano was first mentioned as a city in 875. The name first appeared in an act of deed in 724 when King Luitprand of Lombardy donated it to the church of Saint Carpoforo in Como. In 1061, Pope Alexander II confirmed and extended these donations. The rest of the middle ages until 1513, Lugano was mostly a play-ball between the authorities of Como and the Dukes of Milan. At the end of the 14th century, having been part of the Duchy of Milan under the Visconti family for quite a long time, Lugano was conquered by the French General Mondragon acting on behalf of King Louis XII of France.

This proved to be a severe interruption of trade routes between the Swiss Confederation in the North and the Italian states in the South. The Swiss took this as a personal affront from the king of France and stepped in. They drove the French out of all the cities between the Alps and Milan and annexed the lands as a dependency of all Swiss Confederate states in 1513 in a joint-venture manner. In a singularly arrogant gesture, they razed the castle in Lugano to the ground on grounds of being too expensive to run. Having the most feared and best organized army at that time, the Swiss reputation was enough to keep Lugano safe for over 200 years.

In 1796, it was clear that the Swiss Confederation would inevitably fall to Napoleon. The Confederation handed the inhabitants South of the Alps their freedom, erected an independent Republic and accepted them into the confederation as a partner of equal rights at the same time. This move swayed Napoleon from integrating the lands into Italy and instead it became part of his Helvetic Republic. After Napoleon's defeat, the Italian speaking Republic of Ticino followed the other Swiss republics into independence from the Holy Roman Empire. They joined the new Swiss Confederation, and in 1848 became part of the United States of Switzerland.

During the 19th century, Lugano was a hot spot for members of the Italian Risorgimento. The members of this movement regularly used Lugano as their domicile in exile when things were getting too hot to handle at home. While Italy was trying to unify, there was a constant stream of Italian expatriates into the city. This led to the city developing its main industry, tourism. Exploiting its extraordinary combination of beauty spots and warm climate, tourism is still the mainstay of the local economy, apart from the usual Swiss vice of banking.

The coat of arms of Lugano shows a simple white cross on red ground with four letters in the quadrants: LVGA. While these letters quite obviously constitute the first four letters of the city's name (V being the Roman way of writing the modern U), some extraordinary theories have sprung up in this connection. One theory links the letters to Legio V Gallia Alpina, thereby giving the city a Roman historical link. The only source linking the fifth legion to Lugano I could find is in fact the reverse argument based on these selfsame letters in the coat of arms. Sort of the cat that bites its tail.

The city is dominated by mountains, the Bré Mountain (a tautonym, as Bre derives from the Celtic word for mountain), Mount San Salvatore (Saint Saviour Mountain) and the Verità Mountain (the mountain of Truth). On the other side you find the Lake of Lugano, a lake shared between Switzerland and Italy. Ferry services connect all the major towns on the lake in Switzerland and Italy; it's a must to enjoy the full voyage around Lake Lugano.

The language spoken in town (as opposed to what I put in the title) is Lombardic (the Lombard tribes were part of the same movement as the Alemannic and German tribes after the downfall of the Roman Empire), but the official and written language is Italian. Famous people connected with the city include German writer Hermann Hesse, UN chief attorney Carla Del Ponte, human rights specialist Dick Marty, and the complete who is who of the Italian Risorgimento. The people of Lugano are never subjected to fun by the other Swiss as everybody is just glad to get there into the sun.

For further information on the city of Lugano you may want to go to the official homepage of the city government