Morcote, Lake Lugano
The lakeside village of Morcote is situated just 10km from Lugano and makes an ideal sightseeing destination for those staying in or around the city. The village is easy to reach as there are both bus and ferry services that make regular stops in the picturesque town. However, purely from a tourist perspective it's probably nicer arriving in Morcote by ferry as you get to see more of the beautiful landscape as you steam your way up the lake. The ferry service is also fast and efficient and will get you to Morcote in about the same time it takes the bus to get there.
For those feeling energetic there is another popular method of reaching Morcote and that is by foot. A well-beaten hiking trail which begins on the outskirts of Lugano winds its way through the lakeside landscape before finishing up in the centre of Morcote. The walk, however, will normally take several hours as the path first ascends to the summit of Monte San Salvatore before dropping down again into Morcote. So with this in mind, it's probably better to see this hike as an altogether separate excursion and leave it for a day when there's enough time to stop and fully appreciate the magnificent views from the top of San Salvatore.
Morcote, like many of the towns and villages dotted around the lake's shoreline, was once a thriving fishing village. But as time has passed the village has grasped new opportunities and is now predominantly a tourist destination welcoming sightseers from all over the world.
Morcote is perched on a steep wooded hill and its quaint narrow streets, arcaded restaurants, pretty boutiques and paved alleyways all combine to make it one of the most attractive towns on the lake's shoreline. The unmistakeable landmarks of Morcote are the prominent belltower of Santa Maria del Sasso Church and the aforementioned Monte San Salvatore which majestically looks down on the village. The Santa Maria Church is situated high up in Morcote and is reached by a 15 minute climb of several hundred steps. But once there all efforts are rewarded as there are spectacular 16th century frescoes to see and of course the panoramic views of the village and beautiful lake Lugano below.
The famous Scherrer Gardens in Morcote is also worth a visit and here you can gaze in awe at the wonderful arrangement of subtropical plants and trees that thrive here - As with many public parks and gardens around Lake Lugano the mild Mediterranean climate of the region enables many varieties of exotic plants to flourish and the tranquil Scherrer Gardens is no exception.
Vico Morcote is a small medieval village about 1km North of the town of Morcote. It is set high up on the hillside above the town which makes reaching it quite a trek. However, the walk up to it is actually time well spent as the village being more off the beaten track is often less crowded yet still offers visitors a choice of places in which to relax and have lunch. Although only very small (less than 300 inhabitants), Vico Morcote has gained a bit of a reputation for its art and culture. The handful of extremely good restaurants and hotels found here are most welcoming and make ideal places to sit and enjoy the views whilst dining on some exceptionally good Ticinese cuisine.
Vico Morcote is also home to the renowned International Institute of Architecture, which is the European outpost of the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc).
Hiking from Lugano To Morcote
As we mentioned earlier if you enjoy a challenge then you can always follow the hiking trail that leads from Lugano to Morcote. This popular hike should take you around 5hrs 30 to complete at a leisurely pace. The trail climbs to the summit of Monte San Salvatore where there are some fantastic views across Ticino, Lombardy and the sparkling waters of the lake below. There is a nice restaurant at the summit where it's possible to rest and take lunch before making the descent to Morcote. The walk down takes you through Carona where you can stop to see the wonderful botanical gardens which has an amazing collection of Rhododendrons on display.
Shortly after leaving Carona you finally reach Morcote (Total hike from Lugano 16km) where you can choose to either stroll around the village or catch one of the ferries back to Lugano.
There is a more detailed plan of this excursion on our Monte San Salvatore page.