It's been said that Lugano has the "gaiety and romance of Italy, encased in a Swiss precision watch." The city's culture, language and food are Italian, yet its accommodations are spotlessly Swiss. It's situated on beautiful Lake Lugano, 145 mi/235 km south of Zurich, between Mount San Salvatore and Mount Bre—you can take the cogwheel train up Mount Bre for a breathtaking view.

Lugano hosts a summer jazz festival that lures big names from around the world. In the nearby town of Melide, the Swissminiatur ( provides fun for kids of all ages: It has models of hundreds of Swiss landmarks on a scale of 1:25. The canton capital town of Bellinzona (with three impressive, UNESCO-listed castles) lies between Lugano and Locarno. It makes a nice day trip, especially on a Saturday when there is an open-air market.

The lovely lakeside villages of Morcote and Gandria are well worth visiting, as is exquisite Lake Como across the border in Italy (remember to take your passport with you if you cross the border). Campione is an Italian enclave completely surrounded by Switzerland and is the site of a Mario Botta-designed casino.

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