The canton of Ticino in southern Switzerland hugs the border of northern Italy, and Italian influences are ever-present. In Lugano, the canton's largest city, more people speak Italian than any other language, and walks through the town unveil plenty of piazzas, cafés and arcades. Still, the city has a unique Swiss charm, which you'll find in its outdoorsy yet laid-back way of life. Lugano has been likened to Monte Carlo, and you may recognise the resemblance in the town's renowned film festival, high-end restaurants, luxury boutiques and balconied high-rises that skirt the water's edge.
Sandwiched between the shores of Lake Lugano and two alpine peaks, Lugano enjoys a sheltered, temperate climate. The glacial lake is a year-round focal point for swimming and boating. So too are Monte Brè and, on the city's opposite end, Monte San Salvatore, which both feature funiculars that whisk riders to their summits. At the top, hiking, biking and nature paths all offer panoramic views of lakes, mountains and the mighty Swiss Alps.
Italy's influence on its Swiss neighbour extends all the way inside Lugano's historic monuments. The Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angioli, in particular, is not to be missed, thanks to its two 16th-century interior frescoes by Italian Renaissance painter Bernardino Luini. Still, this is a Swiss town, with plenty of history to its name. At the Hermann Hesse Museum, you'll be able to take in books, paintings and other items owned by the German-Swiss artist and writer, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946.