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Our “Ultimate European Road Trip” heads north through Italy’s lake country, stopping in Lake Lugano between Garda and Maggiore.

About two thirds of this lake’s shoreline is in Switzerland and about one third with Italy, resulting in a blending of their respective cultures which creates a unique as well as charming destination.

Flanked by two much larger lakes, the lake in the middle still outshines both with an intimate, private setting surrounded by majestic mountains and many picturesque and inviting villages for you to explore.

Why Lake Lugano?

When we planned this trip in our brand-new Porsche Macan S the routing was a round trip from Germany: into Austria, then Italy, a short romp in Switzerland, back into Italy and returning to Germany. We added as many new destinations as possible while still having acceptable driving distances with lots of breaks along the way.

Logistically Lugano was a good fit with a pretty much straight shot from Sestri Levante and lined up with one more stop before returning to Stuttgart, Germany and the Porsche factory drop off point. This was our first time to the lake and what a surprise it turned out to be.

Why the village Porlezza?

The city of Lugano is in southern Switzerland in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino bordering Italy. The many hotel options range from simple to luxurious, but we were fussy about location and the always important parking options.

We were also focused on driving time and the ease of continuing our northern route back to Germany. So we chose a hotel for a two night stay on the northern end of the lake, near the village of Porlezza.

Porlezza is a commune in the Province of Como in the Italian region of Lombardy with a population of only 4,400 people with 43 hotels ranging from simple to luxurious. Being more remote from the “big” city and at the upper, less touristy end of the lake we found the amenities were more generous and the prices more reasonable.

As soon as we arrived we realized that we made a mistake as this property could easily be a one week destination… two nights was not enough!

Parco San Marco Lifestyle Beach Resort has everything… contemporary architecture, large suites, unrestricted lake views, four excellent restaurants ranging from casual to fine dining, inviting indoor pool, three outdoor pools and a lake-side beach/dock area, excellent, secure underground parking, and the list goes on and on – check out their website.

Best of all was their staff of sincerely friendly, courteous, and pleasant people that actually enjoyed working at this outstanding resort. We did a short TripAdvisor review and ranked it the overall best hotel of our vacation.

Again, our only regret was that we only spent two nights… maybe next time.

Village Porlezza Market Day

With only one full day to explore this area we opted to stay close to the hotel and utilize their bicycle rental to ride along a flat, paved bike path into the village. Slow travel at its best and the scenery was spectacular and a little exercise goes a long way.

So much to see and do if only…

Cable cars, funiculars, lake cruises, mountain top panoramic vistas, grand mansions and museums, Swiss history, Italian history, add a little gambling casino activity for an adrenaline rush and top it all off with chocolate from the largest chocolate manufacturer in Switzerland at the Alprose Chocolate Factory.

Hiking enthusiasts can check out Monte San Salvatore and the village of Carona and on to Morcote and Monte Bre’. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Monte San Giorgio is also worth the time and effort.

EU VAT Free Shopping

We missed the fine print when we did our research and were unaware that the Italian waters of the lake and specifically the commune of “Campione d’Italia” are considered, by Italian law, as “non-territorial” and enjoy a special tax status as a duty free area and are exempt from EU VAT tax (19% sales tax on everything). Happy shopping!