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Lugano to Catania – Day 2

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I arrived at Lugano train station at around 11pm last night, and of course by then it was completely dark. Leaving the station, I used the GPS on my phone to make my way on foot to the apartment where I would be staying. I’d rented a room through Airbnb, so I knew it would be a room in someone’s house. On the way there, a car with a group of loud young men honked at me, and one of them called out: “Ciao bello, vai in centro? Tu con la valigia!” Yes, I was the one with the valigia (luggage). No idea what that was about! :-O

Anyway, after what felt like I long walk, I got to the flat and met my hosts, a mother and daughter. We stayed up for an hour or two, chatting about languages, Ticino, Switzerland, London, Italy, and so on. They were fun to talk to, and they were keen to help me find things to do on my trip. Not in Lugano, as you might imagine, but Catania! They were really interested when I told them about my little trip and how I was going all the way down to Sicily. They also both turned out to be fans of the Inspector Montalbano series, and they looked up places on the map where the series is filmed.

The apartment is really pretty, and has a lovely veranda with a table (where I’m writing this post now). Absolutely perfect for the long summer days. I’d love a place like this in Italy someday. Hey, one can dream, right? 🙂 The host is passionate about Asia and especially Far Eastern cultures, and she has souvenirs all over the house. The room where I’m stayed used to belong to one of her daughters (she has two), and has a bookshelf full of Japanese comic books. It brought a smile to my face taking a look at these before turning in for the night. I really have to do a post on Japanese cartoons and how they are so popular in Italy.

I got up early in the morning, and found breakfast already spread out for me on the dining table. No one was around though, so I got ready and left the house at around 8:30. I headed back towards Lugano station, and from there made my way to the city centre, which is actually on the edge of Lake Lugano. On the way there, I had to cross this particularly busy junction that had cars coming in from practically every direction. I couldn’t figure out how to use the pedestrian crossing and just stood there for ages waiting for the little man to go green (which it never did). Finally, when I noticed a gap, I took a chance and raced across the zebra crossing. On the way back, I noticed someone pressing the large green button that I didn’t think was a button. No idea why–it looked too big for a button, perhaps.

In the city centre, I spent a pleasant couple of hours browsing through the shops, walking along the riverfront, and eating a nice prosciutto and salami panino (called a rosetta) for lunch. I washed it down with some cold lemon tea, which is probably one of the most refreshing drinks I know, after arancia rossa (which reminds me that I haven’t drunk it yet–I will have to buy a carton when I get to Catania).

I always wander into bookshops, and this time was no different. I ended up buying three books in Italian, one of them a new Montalbano novel. I’m looking forward to reading them on the overnight train from Naples. I also bought something I’ve wanted to buy for a long time–a mechanical cuckoo clock. I am fascinated by clocks of all kinds, and, this being Switzerland, there is no shortage of places that are devoted to them. I found this little shop that sold all kinds of new and antique clocks, with the cuckoo clocks hung high up on one of the walls. I knew I probably shouldn’t spend that kind of money on impulse, but, this being a holiday, all financial rules are out of the window. 🙂

Having made my purchases, I headed towards the Parco Civico. On the way there, I passed a pier with a large boat. There was a sign promoting tours on Lake Lugano, and I stopped to take a look, deciding I should definitely go on one. The next departure was at 14:10. I checked my watch, and saw it was just after 14:00! I immediately went to the ticket office, where the lady was dealing with a group of tourists (she was speaking in English) who were having some kind of problem with their tickets. Tourists, honestly. 🙂 Anyway, it seemed to take ages before they finally left, and then as soon as I asked about a ticket, the phone rang and she picked it up. Again, she spent several minutes on it and I thought the boat would leave without me on it. Finally, I got to ask her about the river cruises, and she said the next boat would depart at 14:50. I asked her if it was too late for the 14:10. As soon as I’d said that, she shouted out to the captain (who was hanging around outside the kiosk) to wait! I got my ticket, handed it to the captain, and went on board.

The trip was great, and the views from Lake Lugano were just breathtaking. I absolutely love those beautiful cliff sides covered with lush greenery that contrast so perfectly with the dazzling blue of the lake. The sun was directly above us and beaming its heat down on to the boat. I disembarked at Ponte Tresa, and had a little wander around the piazzas whilst waiting for the next boat to arrive for the return journey to Lugano. I was surprised to see a large sign on the other side of a bridge saying “Benvenuti in Italia.” I realised I was directly on the border with Italy, and of course I hopped across into the Provincia di Varese. Amazing how easy it was to do that!

Now, the time was almost 17:30 and I reckoned the boat would be arriving soon (the timetable and the lady at the kiosk had said 17:45). Now, looking over the brochure she’d given me, I realised I’d made a big mistake. There wasn’t going to be another boat. I should’ve stayed on the boat when it had docked at Ponte Tresa instead of getting off. It had arrived at 16:00 and had actually left 5 minutes later. Bummer. How silly can one get. Still, I blame that brochure for having confused me!

Luckily, there was a dedicated train that went between Ponte Tresa and Lugano in both directions, stopping off at a few other small places on the way. It only cost €6 so it didn’t feel too bad. Finally back in Lugano, I decided to head to the apartment and drop off my shopping. When I finally got there (after taking the long way amongst some tiny streets), I found no one was home. I was standing outside the front door with the sweat dripping off my back and carrying the moderately heavy shopping bag (with the cuckoo clock and books). To make things worse, the charge on my phone was running out. I wondered if I should call my host and wait for her to come back, or just make the best of the situation and head back to the centre again and have dinner.

I decided on the latter and made the walk all the way to the centre. Dusk was beginning to fall, and I found a nice restaurant and sat down. There was a singer and violinist entertaining us with songs in Italian, Spanish and even English. Time to enjoy my first glass of white wine of the trip!

When I returned to the apartment, I pressed the buzzer, this time expecting to get an immediate response. Surely someone would be home by now. Again, nothing. I was just about to get my phone out (and pray that just enough charge would be left), when a heard a car pull up behind me and the driver honk. It was my host, back just in time! Why couldn’t that coincidence have happened a few hours before?

Tomorrow morning, I’ll be taking leave of Switzerland, and taking the train to Florence.

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