Lugano guide

Lake Lugano trip planner

A vacation guide to Lake Lugano, the lake split between Italy and Switzerland

Lago di Lugano
Lake Lugano. (Photo by Aconcagua)

Lake Lugano is one of those wonderful natural formations that underscores the arbitrariness of political boundaries, snaking from Italy through Switzerland and back into Italy again.

Though, geographically, it is located smack in between Lake Maggiore and Lake Como in Italy, politically speaking most of the lake is actually Swiss.

Switzerland in miniature

Swiss Miniatur - Laussanne Cathedral
Swiss Miniatur
(Photos by Andreas Passwirth)
The lake's (Swiss) capital city of Lugano is thoroughly missable, but to its south—outside Melide, at the west end of the bridge crossing the tight southerly bend of the lake—is the delightfully kitsch Swiss Miniatur (

This is the European version of a roadside attraction, one of those contrived holiday-spot sights that nonetheless manages somehow to be intriguing.

It is a vaguely accurate 3-D "map" of Switzerland, laid out as a small park, with all of the nation's major monuments (cathedrals, castles, lakes, airports) reproduced at 1/25 size.

Campione d'Italia: A slice of Italy in Switzerland

Lake Lugano's main attraction is the resort town of Campione d'Italia, one of those quriks of the geopolitical map: It's an Italian enclave set firmly within Switzerland's boundaries.

Though surrounded on all sides by Switzerland, Campione clings proudly to its Italian identity as a slightly more raucous, more Mediterranean-style cultural island of pizza restaurants and gambling casinos marooned amid the otherwise more staid, more "Swiss" shoreline.

Tips & links


Lake Lugano tourism info:

Hotels in Lugano
How to get to Lake Lugano

It really is best to drive around these parts, but you can also catch a train to Lugano from Como (25–40 min.) or Milan (1 hr.).

Getting to Campione (53–87 min. from Como; 2 hr. from Milan) is a bit trickier, involving a train change in Chiasso to a local line, then getting off the train in Melide, Switzerland to grab a bus.

[Note: not all connections are listed on Italy's site; you should probably instead use Switzerand's to research train times and fares.]

How to get around Lake Lugano

If you don't have a rental car, the easiest way is by train and bus ( covers both) or by boat (, with both scheduled ferries and lake cruises available.

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