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Lugano (Lombard language: Lügan) is a town (56,889 inhabitants, a total of 130,000 people in the agglomeration) in the south of Switzerlandmarker, in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticinomarker, which borders Italymarker. The city lies on Lake Luganomarker, and its warm summers and the fact that in recent years it has attracted an ever growing number of celebrities, entertainers and successful athletes have given it the nickname of the "Monte Carlo of Switzerland". It is the 9th largest city of Switzerland by population.

The origin of the name is possibly the Latin word Lucus, meaning wood or sacred wood, or Gaulish locovanno "lake dweller".



The shores of Lake Lugano have been inhabited since the Stone Age. Within the modern city limits (Breganzona, Castagnola, Davesco and Gandria) a number of ground stones or quern-stones have been found. In the area surrounding Lugano, items from the Copper Age and the Iron Age have been found. There are Etruscan monuments at Davesco-Soragno (5th to 2nd Century BC), Pregassona (3rd to 2nd Century BC), and Viganello (3th to 2nd Century BC). Graves with jewelry and household items have been found in Aldesago, Davesco, Pazzallo and Pregassona along with celtic money in Viganello.

The region around Lake Lugano was settled by the Romans by the 1st Century BC. There was an important Roman city north of Lugano at Bioggiomarker. There are fewer traces of the Romans in Lugano, but several inscriptions, graves and coins indicate that some Romans lived in what would become Lugano.

Foundation of Lugano

The first written mention of a settlement at Lugano can be found in documents, which are of disputed authenticity, with which the Longobard king, Liutprand, ceded various assets located in Lugano to the Church of Saint Carpophorus in Comomarker in 724. Other documents, dating from 804 and 844 refer to Lake Lugano as Laco Luanasco, and an act of 984 indicates Lugano as a market town. In 874 the town was referred to as Luano, and in 1189 it became known by its present name. The town coat of arms also dates to around this time. The four letters on the coat of arms are an abbreviation of Lugano according to documents from 18 October 1208 and 14 November 1209. This city was also known in the German-speaking cantons as Lowens, Lauis and Lauwis.

It was the object of continuous disputes between the Dukes of Comomarker and Milanmarker until it became a Swiss dominion in 1513. Swiss control lasted until 1798 when Napoleon conquered the Old Swiss Confederation and created the Helvetic Republic. Under the Helvetic Republic, Lugano became the center of the Canton of Lugano.

Canton of Lugano

The canton of Lugano unified the former Landvogteien of Lugano, Mendrisiomarker, Locarnomarker and Valmaggiamarker. However, as with the other cantons of the Helvetic Republic, the autonomy of Lugano was very limited, the republic having been founded by Napoleon in order further to centralise power in Switzerland. The canton was led by a Directory of five members, who appointed a "national préfet".

The canton deeply divided between "patriots", supporting the Cisalpine Republicmarker, and traditionalist "aristocrat". By 1799 riots broke out in Lugano, and the second préfet, Francesco Capra, fled the city. Power passed to a provisional government sympathetic to the Habsburgs. However, French occupation was restored in 1800. Discontent continued and in early 1802 a revolt in Capriascamarker led to the autumn pronunciamento of Pian Povrò, which declared the independence of Lugano from the Helvetic client republic.

With the Act of Mediation, the following year, political agitation was finally quelled, as were the struggles between unionists and federalists. The canton of Lugano merged with Bellinzonamarker creating the canton of Ticinomarker, which endures to the present day.

Modern Lugano

Following the Second World War, and particularly during the 1960s and 70s, thanks to an abundant flow of capital from nearby Italy, Lugano experienced a period of exponential growth in banking activities which led to it placing itself as the third financial centre of Switzerland, with over 100 banking institutions present in the town.


Lugano lies at the edge of Lake Luganomarker ( or ), which is situated between the lakes Lago Maggioremarker and Lago di Comomarker, south of the Alpsmarker.

The city is located where the river Cassaratemarker enters the lake between the Brèmarker (925m) and the San Salvatoremarker (912m) mountains.


Since its union with some surrounding municipalities (Breganzona, Cureggia, Davesco-Sorengo, Gandria, Pambio-Noranco, Pazzallo, Pregassona, and Viganello) in 2004, Lugano has a population of over 56,000 is therefore Canton Ticino's largest city. This was the second major expansion after the union in 1972 with the municipalities of Brè-Aldesago and Castagnola.

The town's thriving economy provides an estimated 38,000 jobs, over a third of which are occupied by cross-border commuters. Business, tourism and finance constitute the backbone of the local economy. In 2000, the tertiary sector offered 90% of all jobs in Lugano, of which 75% were occupied by commuters, many of which commute from neighbouring Italy (approximately 13% of the active working population); in the same year tax revenues reached CHF 104 million, of which CHF 59 million were attributable to the banking sector. The city is Switzerland's third largest banking centre after Zurich and Genevamarker. With regards to intercommunal financial equalisation, thanks to its financial strength Lugano contributes significantly to the equalisation fund. The population is Italian-speaking and mainly Roman Catholic.


Lugano is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Switzerland. Both Lake Lugano and the surrounding mountains provide a wide variety of outdoor activities. Lugano is, also, home to a number of historic buildings and museums.

Natural sights

A very popular destination in Lugano is Lake Lugano. The lake is in size, 63% of which is in Switzerland and 37% in Italy. It has an average width of roughly and is nearly at its widest. The maximum depth of the lake is . The water is generally warm with average water temperatures in the summer ranging from to . Bathing in the lake is allowed at any of the 50 or so bathing establishments located along the Swiss shores. There are numerous shipyards, water taxis and boat rental sites along the lake, as well as hotels and restaurants that offer mooring.

In addition to the lake, Lugano is surrounded by mountains. The mountains provide a number of opportunities for sports or sightseeing. The area surrounding Lugano is home to over of mountain biking trails, the largest net of trails in Switzerland. Monte Brèmarker ( ) east of Lugano has had a funicular that runs up the mountain since 1912. Monte Brè, which is Switzerland's sunniest spot, is also home to the village of Brè which is a fairly intact old village. Monte San Salvatoremarker ( ) also has a funicular, with the base station located only from the Lugano-Sud motorway exit and 5 minutes away from the Paradiso railroad station. Monte San Salvatore is located on the outskirts of Lugano and provides an excellent view over the entire city.


St. Lawrence Cathedral
  • St. Lawrence Cathedral (9th and 15th century)
  • St. Mary of the Angels Church (16th century) with the fresco of the Christ's Passion from Bernardino Luini
  • Parco civico - Villa Ciani
  • Piazza della Riforma
  • Villa Favorita



Education and research


Lugano is located along the A2 motorway, a part of the European route E35 which over between Amsterdam and Rome.

The yellow "Post" buses, part of the Autopostale service, offer 64 regional public service lines, as well as five urban lines, travels an estimated 7.9 million kilometres and transports 7 million passengers annually. Its network is also integrated with other modes of transport, such as the funiculars and the federal railways, and therefore regularly announces competitive offers on tourist excursions.

Its Palm Express service connects Lugano to St. Moritzmarker. The AutoPostale station and ticket office is located at Via Balestra 4 in the centre of Lugano. The inner city TPL buses, Trasporti pubblici luganesi, connect the centre with the suburbs; the Autolinee regionali luganesi buses, connect Lugano with the towns of Canobbiomarker, Davescomarker, Lamonemarker, Sonvicomarker and Tesseretemarker.

Lugano is served by Lugano Airportmarker, in the nearby municipality of Agnomarker. Darwin Airline, Flybaboo and Swiss Airlines operate to Lugano Airport. While there is limited service to Lugano's airport, Milan’s airports are around 60 to 90 minutes away and provide access to a greater number of worldwide locations.


The SBB-CFF-FFS, the Swiss Federal Railways, connect Lugano with other Swiss and Italian cities and towns.

Cisalpino AG, a joint venture between SBB-CFF-FFS and Trenitalia, offers several trains to Lugano from major cities in Switzerland and northern Italy.

From May until mid October, the tourist oriented Wilhelm Tell Express travels from Lake Lucernemarker to Lugano.

Additionally, the metre gauge Lugano-Ponte Tresa Railway connects Lugano with Ponte Tresamarker.


The Palazzo dei Congressi is the performing arts center for Lugano. It is a main hall for the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana.

The Lugano Festival runs during April and May, followed by the related "Progetto Martha Argerich" in June. Estival Jazz arrives in July. The Blues-to-Bop Festival in late August and early September turns the city into a hive of activity as thousands crowd the streets and piazzas for free open-air concerts.

In 1956 Lugano hosted the first Eurovision Song Contest.


Hockey Club Lugano (HCL) plays in the Switzerland National League. They play at the Resegamarker arena and have won seven national titles, having participated twice in the European Cup final round and once in the top four final in Euroleague. In 1991, Lugano reached the final of the famous Spengler Cup and twice reached third place in the IIHF Continental Cup Superfinal.

AC Lugano plays in the Swiss Challenge League. They play at the Cornaredo stadium and are successors to FC Lugano who won the Swiss title in 1938, 1941 and 1949 and the Swiss Cup in 1931, 1968 and 1993 before going bankrupt in 2002.

BC Lugano Tigers (former Basket Club Lugano) plays in the Swiss National League A (LNA). They play at the Elvetico gym, won the Swiss Cup in 2001 and have been Swiss LNA Champions in 2000, 2001 and 2006.

See also


  1. origin of name
  2. City of Lugano Website-History of the City accessed 18 February 2009
  3. TimesOnline Business City Guide - Lugano accessed 18 February 2009
  4. City of Lugano Website-population accessed 18 February 2009
  5., The history of Lugano
  6. TimesOnline Business City Guide - Lugano
  7. Lugano Tourism - Discover Lugano accessed 13 March 2009
  8. Lugano Tourism - Living the Lake accessed 13 March 2009
  9. Lugano tourism - Mountain Biking accessed 13 March 2009
  10. Lugano Tourism - Monte Bre accessed 13 March 2009
  11. Lugano Tourism - Monte San Salvatore accessed 13 March 2009
  12. Cisalpino Website accessed 18 February 2009
  13. Rail Europe, William Tell Express accessed 18 February 2009
  14. eurovision contest
  15. Hockey Club Lugano Continental cup partecipation

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