Lake Lugano – Destination for the Rich and Famous?

What adjectives come to mind when you think of Lake Lugano? Picturesque, serene, luxurious? Yes, yes, and yes. Happily, I’ve discovered that you can have all these, without the pinch of the associated price tag.

Lake Lugano
Lake Lugano

Everyone thinks of Lugano as the holiday destination for the wealthy. However, the town of Lugano itself, is in Switzerland, which means Swiss Franks and Swiss prices. Drive ten minutes down the road, and you are in Valsolda, Italy, where you have the same lake, arguably better food and, as we discovered, a whole lot more fun!

Last summer, we spent a night on Lake Lugano at the delightful Hotel Stella D’Italia. Arriving at the hotel, we found the receptionist having a friendly chat with a neighbour, laughing and smoking as she told him the latest gossip and played with his dog. She waved us to park right next to the hotel entrance. Molto Bene.

Lugano Lost in Time


The first impression of the hotel is one of stepping into an era of days bygone. There are heavy curtains, printed upholstery, and carved wooden sculptures in the hallway.

Our key is not a card, but has a big metal key ring with our room number engraved; the kind you leave at the front desk before going out. The room, a superior with its own balcony, has a view of the lake and mountains. It is simple but tasteful.

Lake Lugano
Lake Lugano

Lakeside Luxury


Have I already mentioned that the hotel is perched directly on the lakeside?

The hotel restaurant is in the garden, shielded from the summer sun by a roof of vine. There is also a wooden deck with very sleek loungers, where you can soak in all the glory of Lombardian sun.

Lake Lugano
Lake Lugano
Lake Lugano

I don’t remember ever staying in a hotel where I felt so at home. Perhaps a little too at home. After a 2 am skinny dip, we wrapped ourselves up in towels Mario-Testino style, and walked barefoot through the garden to our room, negotiating a bucket of ice with the night portiere as we went.

Lake Lugano

Lugano By Speedboat

There is a nearby jetty where you can rent a speedboat for as little as 60 EUR per hour. No questions asked, we were given the keys and a friendly piece of advice to stay out of Swiss waters, where they require a license to hire a boat. When we returned from our tour of the sleepy lake, the signore running the shop gave us recommendations on where to eat and go for a drink.

Lake Lugano

We ended up at a beach party, feet in the sand, vodka tonics in hand, dancing to house hits from a few years back.  It felt like a place where La Dolce Vita is still very much alive. However, here it doesn’t mean flash clothes and cars, but that life is beautiful and everything is possible.

All you need to do is ask.

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