In Discover Ticino/ Ticino

Monte San Salvatore: what is Lugano without it?

Today dad, who grew up in Lugano, asked to go to the top of the Monte San Salvatore for the first time. He wanted to fill this “geographical” gap and feel like a “true citizen”.


We made all preparations as if we were going to the mountains (as in the Alps), but since Monte San Salvatore belongs to the mountain range of the Leonine Alps, which are technically considered Pre-Alps, we decided it is a real mountain. After all, it is 912 meters above sea level. As I said, we got ready and reached Paradiso, where we parked our car public multi-storey car park. The San Salvatore funicular (cable railway) parking lot was indeed full. The we headed to the quaint cottage where the cable railway leaves from.

La risalita in funicolare al Monte San Salvatore

The cable railway is wheelchair accessible and is divided in two sections with different inclines. The lower section (Lugano-Pazzallo) has a 37% incline, while the upper section a 61% incline. It’s very impressive, especially when you look down from the rear window during the uphill ride, which take less than a 15 minutes! My kids had their nose glued to the window and enjoyed themselves immensely. If you own a Raiffeisen Bank Member Plus Card you are entitled to a discounted ticket.

At the top of Monte San Salvatore

When you reach the top, you will find the Vetta Restaurant, which we can’t review because we had opted for a “mountain” trip, so we were planning on a pic-nic lunch. Next time, however, we will review it for you! From the terrace below the restaurant, you will have a wonderful view of Lake Lugano, especially over the side of the causeway bridge, but on a clear day you can see as far as Milan.

After taking in the sights, we went further on. There is an area with pic-nic table and a little playground, but it was very crowded so we opted to walk to the little church, which overlooks the city of Lugano.

A staircase inside the church will get you on the roof. The view from there is truly gorgeous. Even those who are a bit scared of heights like me, will enjoy it.

We would have eaten our pic-nic there but it was crowded, too (it was a bright sunny day, so I guess many people had the same idea). There is also a museum, there, but we missed it because unfortunately it closes between 12.00 am and 13.00 (we will be back to review it, though!). At the end, we started off for the nature trail that offers both breathtaking panoramic views and natural wonders.  Every season is a good season to visit.

Walking all the way down to Lugano Paradiso

The trail is very nice, and if you decide to continue along it, you will find out that the route will take you down to the place where, coming up, you switched cable railway. This part of the path is undoubtedly the most beautiful, as you walk through a very enchanting stretch of luscious and suggestive nature.

However it is a bit “sketchy”, so it is only suitable to those who have at least some basic experience of hiking in the mountains, and for kids used to walking.

Both parts of the path (using the intermediate cable railway station as a divider) are quite steep. In some places, there are cliffs to the side. At times there are protective walls, but more often just railings which require some attention. If you go with children, you need to keep an eye at all time. If you are a bit apprehensive, be prepared for some adrenaline rushing through your veins.

There are no fountains along the trail, or if there were, for sure we did not find any, so plan accordingly.

To sum it up: the upper part of the trail, mostly shaded, was very pleasant – albeit a bit steep.  My advice for a Sunday outing is to talk only this part of trail (up, down or both ways). The lower part was a lot less suggestive in terms of views, much steeper and not shaded at all! Not fun in the scorching sun! Anyway, we had a lot of fun and the trip did not require neither too much effort nor too long a time; so check it out if you want to spend some hours enjoying the nature while not leaving the town!

As usual, do let us know how it was if you decide to follow our advice.

Extra tip

Alexandra, our hiking expert, recommends the Carona-San Salvatore route as an alternative, which is suited to kids of all ages. If you want to try it out, this is what you need to know. Reach Carona and maybe spend some time in Parco San Grato (see our article) and from there walk the trail to the hamlet of Ciona (it is through woods and it is flat).

After Ciona, follow the trail to San Salvatore. The summit is less than 2 kms away, with a height difference of 270 meters. It is all shaded and it will take you less than an hour to reach the top.


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