Lugano Prealps might seem a deceptively moderate mountain range with modestly average elevation figures. It is located in the western part of the Alps and the name is derived from a Swiss city of Lugano, lying at the heart of this network of fairy-tale-like green ridges. However, the range is not equally distributed country-wise, the major part stretches over the Italian region of Lombardy whilst the southernmost part of a Swiss canton of Ticino makes up a small tip in the centre of it.
That’s why the Lugano Prealps are divided into the Como Prealps (eastern part) and the Varese Prealps (western part), both named after Italian cities. And the range itself is referred to in Italian language as Prealpi Lombarde Occidentali (West Lombardy Prealps).
The highest mountain in the Lugano Prealps is Pizzo di Gino (2,254m) in Italy to the west of Lake Como. Monte Tamaro (1,961m) in Switzerland is the most prominent mountain. With a prominence of 1,407m this mountain is “almost” Ultra, lacking just 93 meters to get the title!
The area is a real paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. A mix of sunny south Mediterranean flair, three marvellous lakes, and epic Alpine landscapes would drive any mountain aficionado crazy. There is a dense network of well-marked hiking and MTB trails with numerous panoramic points and benches.
Major Trails and Hiking Areas
- Monte San Giorgio - a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a medium length hike through a mountain forest ending up at the summit with cosy wooden benches and one of the best views on Lake Lugano.
- Monte Generoso - a recently renovated cog railway allows comfortable ascend to the summit with a dense network of trails. If you are not looking for easy solutions then there are several challenging yet well-marked trails leading to the summit from Swiss and Italian territories.
- Monte Tamaro - Monte Lema: cable cars on both ends of this long ridge traverse allow enjoying splendid views during the whole journey without stretching oneself to endure strenuous elevation difference.
- Monte Bre - Monte Boglia: a relatively short and easy uphill walk from the top station of Lugano-Monte Bre cog railway to the top of Monte Boglia rewards you with exceptional panoramic views.
- Monte San Salvatore: another popular destination for Lugano visitors. There’s a cog railway and several hiking trails for panoramic views seekers.
- Campo dei Fiori has nothing to do with a square in Rome, close to Piazza Navona. It is actually a mountain with 879m prominence. Starting from Varese, the Campo dei Fiori ascent is 13.6 km long. The average percentage of elevation is 6.1 %. As you get higher the air gets quite crispy and fresh with a lot of trees on your way to cast conformable shadows should you travel on a hot day. The views are pleasing, despite rather rough terrain from time to time.
- Monte San Primo is a popular hiking destination in the very center of Lake Como triangle (Triangolo Lariano). On a clear day one can see not only Monte Rosa but the northern peaks of the Apennines. A famous trail #1 Triangolo Lariano goes from Brunate to the village of Bellagio at the very tip of land in the lake and takes the whole day.
- Monte Nuvolone - due to mountain’s strategic location close to the center of the lake and its prominence it has the best view on Lake Como. You could check our demo photo panorama from Monte Nuvolone viewpoint.
- Corni di Canzo - several peaks reminding horns (corni in Italian) near the town of Canzo are surrounded by epic scenery and require a very little bit of climbing, a very tiny bit just to make the lunch feel earned. There’s the SEV mountain hut just at the base of the horns with delicious food and refreshing beverages.
- Monte Grona is a rocky mountain near Menaggio. A hike from Menaggio mountain hut with rare sections of very steep slopes and rocky formations offers breathtaking unearthly views.
- Monte Galbiga is a mountain which is just a stone throw away from the Venini mountain hut. The summit features a panoramic deck with Lugano lake views. In less than 10 minutes from it there’s Monte Tremezzo with no less spectacular view of Lake Como.
- Monte Sighignola - a panoramic terrace just below the summit provides a spectacular view especially to the west, over the city of Lugano, Lake Ceresio, and hundreds of other mountains, including the Monte Rosa range. For this reason, the site is often known as the Balcone d'Italia (The Balcony of Italy).
- Sasso Gordona is a huge rock with WWI fortifications built into it, there’s a cozy CAI run mountain hut right next to it.
- Sasso del Ferro is a launch platform popular among hang gliders. With the bucket lift to the top, this site is easily accessible all year round. There’s a cafe at the top of the cable car station with panoramic views over Lake Maggiore.
Major Cities and Resorts
There are three major cities in the Lugano Prealps which make a perfect base for exploring the area:
There is a small airport in Lugano and three (!) funiculars in the city. Como features one of a kind seaplane airports on an Alpine lake and a cog railway to the village of Brunate.
It is worth mentioning that the city of Milan and Malpensa International Airport are just one hour away from the area, which makes Lugano Prealps a perfect destination for a day trip and a weekend getaway.
Further reading and extra materials about the region: