Lugano’s Splendid Villas – Ticino, Switzerland

La Dolce Vita, Swiss Style

One of Lugano’s special pleasures is a walk along the shady lakefront promenade and up to the magnificent 17th-century Villa Favorita. Built by Prince Leopold of Prussia, it is now home of the prestigious Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.

In 1992 there was a much-publicized sale of a staggering 800 Old Masters to Madrid’s Villahermosa Museum (at the behest of the Spanish-born wife of the late owner, Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza).

A powerful Swiss industrialist with a passion for art, the baron was the son of the original founder of this eclectic, remarkable collection of more than 150 “left­over” major works from 19th- and 20th-century European and American mas­ters such as De Chirico, Munch, Hopper, Schiele, Wyeth, and Pollack. The oldest part of the collection includes imposing pieces of furniture from the 16th and 17th centuries.

The villa’s seductive lakeside views are augmented by the famous garden, a meticu­lous masterpiece in itself. An artistically groomed arrangement of almost 100 species of native and exotic flowers and trees intermin­gled with classical statues, it is a horticultural legacy carried on by the Thyssen-Bornemisza family, who still resides here.

By now you might want your own villa. For a liberal dose of la dolce vita, check into the formerly private red-ocher Italianate Villa Principe Leopoldo.

Built by the aristocratic Prussian von Hohenzollern family in 1868, it still speaks of princely grandeur inside and out, uniquely set atop the Collina d’Oro (Golden Hill), with spectacular views of the mountain-fringed Lake Lugano from most suites and one of the area’s most stylish dining rooms and outdoor terraces. After lunch, it’s an easy one-hour walk from the hotel to the wonderfully picturesque lakeside town of Gandria, which spills down the wooded flank of Monte Brè.

There, a funicular lifts you 3,000 feet to the mountain’s summit. For the uncontested best view in these parts, take in the vista from atop the 5,581-foot peak of the aptly named Mount Generoso.

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