Lugano's historic centre
Cities & Monuments
The Piazza della Riforma claims Locarno's Piazza Grande role of Ticino's most beautiful square. It's considered the city's elegant "living room" surrounded by old buildings including the Neoclassic Palazzo Civico (Town Hall) and inviting places to take a break. Meeting point for Lugano residents (the luganesi), it hosts big events like the Estival Jazz and is the ideal starting point to visit the city. A network of pedestrian alleys take you through shining shop windows and luxuriant boutiques, connecting to city centre's main places of interest (the Cathedral, the church of Santa Maria degli Angioli, the LAC cultural centre, the lakefront and the Ciani Park).
Itinerary: Lugano's Historic Centre (2h, see map)
From the Piazza della Riforma it's worthwhile to peek in the courtyard of the Palazzo Civico to admire a sculpture emitting strength and power: the "Spartacus" of Ticino artist Vincenzo Vela (1820-1891), considered as one of the major sculptors of the Italian 1800s.
Entering Via Nassa, a shopper's paradise, you will see the church of San Carlo Borromeo built between 1640 and 1642. Thereafter continue to the church Santa Maria degli Angioli (Saint Mary of Angels) that has in custody a masterpiece from the first Renaissance considered the most remarkable fresco from that period in Switzerland. It's a representation of the Passion and the Crucifixion, works of Italian artist Bernardino Luini (circa 1480-1532) pupil of Leonardo da Vinci. Next to the church, the new LAC cultural centre (Lugano Arte e Cultura).
The itinerary continues along the lakeside under the fringes of a double lane of trees, defining the limit between lake and urban dwellings. One of the most striking spots is the Belvedere garden, a terrace in bloom located left of the church Santa Maria degli Angioli that offers the cue of a short stop between nature and culture. The garden is enriched by the colorful flowerbeds, bushes, century-old trees and an interesting collection of artwork.
Continue along the lakefront returning to the Piazza della Riforma and take the Via Nassa once again. Cross the Piazzetta Maraini to find yourself in one of the most enchanted and distinctive corners of the city, Via Pessina, where old buildings house businesses selling local products. Arriving in Piazza Cioccaro discover the beauty of the Palazzo Riva-Ghioldi, one of Lugano's oldest buildings and still in a great state thanks to wise restorations.
Go up along the Via Cattedrale to the terrace in front of the Saint Laurence Cathedral – currently being restored – with a view of the city. The monument can also pride itself of a rich cultural heritage: aside from the Renaissance facade (of 1517), it safeguards precious frescoes from the 14th and 16th centuries. From the cathedral return to Piazza Cioccaro; then along Via Soave to Piazza Dante where the church of S. Antonio (Saint Anthony) stands. The church holds works of Petrini and frescoes of the Torricelli brothers. The itinerary continues in Contrada dei Verla and Via Giosuè Carducci leading to the church of San Rocco with rare frescoes of G. Discepoli.
Behind the gracious church is the Quartiere Maghetti, an animated shopping centre, while on your right in the Via Canova is the Museo Cantonale d'Arte (Cantonal Art Museum). From here the itinerary continues in the opposite direction towards the Villa Ciani, visible in the distance. To reach it you must cross Piazza Indipendenza (Independence Square), decorated with a 17th century obelisk erected in memory of the face-off between the Lugano Volunteers and the Cisalpine Army in 1789.
From the villa, across the beautiful Ciani Park, you will reach the lake. The park and the villa are from the 19th century when the Ciani brothers, Milanese noblemen, purchased the property (1845). The following years a succession of embellishments and redevelopments were made to the infrastructure and surrounding vegetation composed of oaks, lindens, plane trees, palm trees, olive trees in addition to camellias and azaleas that offer wonderful blooming in the spring. Even during the cold season the myriad of flowerbeds are filled with colorful and scented flower corollas. In the park, beyond the Villa Ciani is also the Biblioteca cantonale (Cantonal Library), a 1940s building designed by architects Rino and Carlo Tami (recently resorted) and the Museo Cantonale di storia naturale (Cantonal Museum of Natural History). The end of the park is marked by the river Cassarate.
From March to October, several guided tours of the city are organised. For information and reservation please contact Lugano Tourist Office (phone 091 605 12 26 - firstname.lastname@example.org)