Travel: Love at first sight in Lugano
IF THERE is one region in Europe that makes you go weak at the knees with longing it has to be Lugano, on the border of Switzerland and Italy.
Actually there are several European destinations that can cause shaky knees but it is the combination of regal mountains and placid lakes, melded with Swiss precision and the Italian zest for life, that makes Lugano so alluring.
Then there is the thought of George Clooney having a villa down the road in Italy.
Lugano is in southern Switzerland in the canton of Ticino where the people speak Italian, the weather is balmy and the ambience is Mediterranean. It is simply gorgeous.
Lugano is an important financial centre but you won't be concerned with business matters when you are surrounded by green parks, Mediterranean squares, galleries, museums, lakeside boulevards, high-end restaurants and too many events and festivals to choose from.
Such a beautiful destination calls for a special hotel with a Lake Lugano view, and they don't come any better than the Villa Principe Leopoldo.
Just driving into the hotel's circular driveway to look up at the stately historic building gives you a sense of importance. This Relais and Chateux property was once the house of Emperor William's brother-in-law. The lake and mountain views from this beautiful building are astounding. You will not want to leave to go down to the town even though much awaits you there.
This is a destination hotel, where your room or suite is exquisitely and tastefully furnished and your bathroom is full-marble glamour. Everything about the property speaks of money - lots of it. All spent to achieve the utmost in elegance and style.
The villa was home to Prince Federico Leopoldo until his death in 1931. It was built at the end of the 19th century for the family's summer residence and half of Europe's nobility have been guests. You are in good company there. It was transformed into a hotel in 1986.
Dining is an important component of a Villa Principe Leopoldo visit. In summer the dining is outside beneath a marquee overlooking the vast and enigmatic lake where the mountains rise gracefully from its shores.
This is five-star dining, yet it is not pretentious. The menu and wine list reflect the sophistication, and the chef may present you with many courses including goose liver confit, poached sole in green pea and wasabi broth, and perhaps some local cheese and then a sweet finish of parfait scented with elderflower syrup. As the sun goes down and the lights on the mountain across the lake begin to glow and shimmer you'll be a very content person.
You deserve this. You wake up the next morning to the lake and mountain views and go to breakfast where you know sublime offerings will be presented to you on the balcony.
The writer was a guest of Tourism Switzerland.
Longing for Lugano?
For full details on Lugano and the Ticino region visit myswitzerland.com
The fastest and most economical way to see Switzerland is by train with a Swiss Rail Pass.
To celebrate the onset of the European summer, Rail Europe has released discounted point-to-point tickets on selected Lyria routes. Until June 13, bookings made between Paris and Geneva, Lausanne, Neuchatel, Vallorbe, Bern, Zurich and Basel will enjoy one-way tickets from $55, upgradable to 1st class from $15. Travel is valid between July 1 and August 28.