To Gandria on a Boat
Gandria was recommended especially by Commander Studd and Rick Steves. There is a footpath there from Castagnola, a neighborhood of Lugano to the east. A more leisurely way to get there is by boat, about a half hour trip. We were strolling along the lake promenade and saw the boat waiting to leave for Gandria -- in a couple of minutes if our watches were correct. A large sign at the landing advises all to purchase tickets before boarding so we hurried to the little booth and got the tickets. They waited for us! We know we are in the Italian part of Switzerland now.
The boat left the landing on the Riva V. Vela and we passed the hotels and other stately buildings on Lugano's lake front and the colorful gardens of the Parco Civico where we had seen the azaleas on our walk in the rain the evening before. Just past the mouth of the Fiume Cassarate the boat stopped to gather passengers at the Imbarcadero Castagnola. This neighborhood of luxurious houses, hotels and gardens with palms, azaleas, wistaria and lush greenery wraps around the base of Monte Bre and climbs partway up the steep slope. Villa Favorita appears, standing out among the other lake side mansions, inside there is a very important art collection (*** Michelin) which we will miss this time. We can enjoy passing glimpses of its gardens, more wistarias, oleander, monkey puzzle trees, cypresses and palms. Later at Gandria we met a Castagnola resident taking her out-of-town visitor on a tour of local sights. Now retired, she and husband divide their time between Zurich and Lugano.
The sun shines at last on the lake, fisherman, ducks and tourists watching them at Gandria.
The scenery on the way was excellent, along the lakeside footpath the pink and blue of rhododendron and wistaria, above, the spring green slopes of the mountains. The water of the lake has beautiful clarity and on the shadier shoreline the tree-covered mountainside was reflected making a continuum of green from sky down into the water. Small villages along the shore grew and shimmered in their reflections.
A favorite of gardeners here, wistaria drapes walls and railings in town and along the lakeside. The faded stucco walls are going to be a favorite of ours throughout the Italian towns we will see later in our trip.
Gandria's streets are narrow stone paths and stairways. A road along the mountainside above the village allows for a third way to get there. Cars can't go further than the parking areas just off the road, however. This is a place where one would advise packing light, but at the parking area for a hotel we noticed an elevator.
Margaret enjoying the sun at an intersection of stairs and paths in Gandria.
Up high on the road you can admire the view of Gandria's houses and gardens cascading down to the water "rooftops mingling with the gardens of the houses behind" just as Commander Studd said. "From the lake it seems impossible that the whole village does not tumble into the water so steep are the terraces and so ancient the houses." Still true, the houses are probably in better repair than fifty years ago but new construction somehow blends in comfortably. The buildings are painted in warm tints of terra cotta, pink and yellow that make them a perfect complement to the greenery and the deep blue lake waters.
A delightful surprise around every corner is promised in the description of Gandria on the city/lake map. A lot of the surprises were knots of tourists but the town is still a peaceful and quiet place in spite of the mini-crowds. The luggage elevator was a nice surprise too.
Paradiso, the neighborhood to the west of Lugano is our last stop before landing at the terminus. The passenger in this picture was leading a group of tourists from Detroit. Here he enjoys a quiet moment as his charges leave the boat. Note the nattily uniformed officers on the ramp. The navigation company does its part to improve the scenery by hiring the handsome and enforcing the dress code. We are wondering what the gondoliers will be like.
The Road to Venice
|© June, 2001, Margaret Lew, Robin Lew|