Posted: June 06, 2016
One of our favorite things about Swiss cities in the summertime is the proximity to water. Where else can you swim and recreate in crystal-clear mountain lakes and rivers side-by-side with capital cities and metropolitan regions? When the weather heats up in Cantoni Ticino, it’s time to head to the shady side of the lake for a relaxing lunch at a typical “grotto”. Due to the geography of Lago Ceresio (Lake Lugano), a deep glacial lake with steep undeveloped mountain sides plunging to the shore, the south-facing regions experience heightened summer temps from the exposure to the sun as well as the reflection of the lake, while the north-facing shores (just 1km away) keep cool in the shade of the mountains and forest. Most of the north-facing shoreline within Switzerland is undeveloped, due to the dramatic landscape. Where it is buildable, the locals from Lugano and the suburbs built small grottos – still today connected by single-track footpaths, and most only accessible by small boat. The grottos were used as early refrigeration – cellars that have a year round low temperature – and so people from the towns on the sunny side of the lake could easily boat over to pick up stored food as needed. Today, while wine and goods are still stored in the caves, most of the larger grottos have been converted into rustic restaurants specializing in grilled meats and vegetables and local wine. We can’t think of a better way to spend a scorching day than walking between shaded grottos, sipping Ticino wine and dipping in the lake.
Our recommendation: From Lugano, you can either take the boat directly to Cantine de Gandria or enjoy the lakefront walk from town to Gandria, and then take a boat directly across the lake to Cantine de Gandria. At the dock, you will find Grotto Teresa, one of our favorites and probably the most authentic/rustic – the entire kitchen is outdoors. After lunch, continue west along the lake stopping for swims and bicchieri di vino at Grotto dei Pescatori and Grotto San Rocco; the boat returns to Lugano from the latter.