Whenever I am ascending a tall structure, whether it is a building or a church, I always think that it could not get any worse elsewhere. Well, it did in Paradiso (how ironic). There are three major peaks that you can conquer around Lugano, and I decided on San Salvatore (Figure 1) because according to Rick Steves, it is the most rewarding.
You can take a 20 minute walk over to Paradiso, where the base of the funicular up the mountain is or you can take the boat from the boat dock. Since I was around on the boat (coming back from Gandria), I decided to stay on to Paradiso. Then from the boat dock, walk straight, cross the intersection, and turn left at the next intersection. You will run straight into the funicular station after a couple blocks. The funicular runs every 30 minutes, so try to time yourself.
I made the mistake of sitting in the very bottom/front of the funicular. You will get the best views from there (Figure 2), but it’s pretty scary if you look down (Figure 3). Be aware that halfway up, you will need to switch to another funicular car because the second half is even steeper than the first (Figure 4). I had no idea that this was supposed to happen, so my palms became a sweaty mess as I prepared for what I thought would be like the Tower of Terror rollercoaster ride at Disney World. Instead, it stopped and we all got out for the switcheroo.
Finally at the top, you have to climb up even more (Figure 5) to get to the summit! On this path, I ran into a touristy-looking couple who were sweating (pretty much like my palms except all over), and apparently they had just hiked up the mountain… Serious props to them.
At the summit, the views were breathtaking (Figure 6)! There is also a nice little church there (Figure 7) in which I actually said aloud “Please don’t let the funicular break on the way down”. I then walked around the church, where there is a staircase to go to the actual summit on top of the church. Once I cautiously made it there (Figure 8), I felt like I conquered my fear! But then I had to get back down.
Getting back to the funicular really wasn’t that terrible, but once I got on the funicular, all hell broke loose. I decided to sit at the very back of the car where I pretty much had an obstructed view (Figure 9), but as we went down, every single little creak made my heart jump. The worst was when the funicular car actually stopped in the middle of the tracks (not at the switch)!!! In the end, my “prayer” was answered as I got out of the funicular car as fast as I could.
I walked slowly from Paradiso back to Lugano along the promenade (Figure 10). The best part was when I came across a gelato stand and got two scoops of tropical and coconut gelato (Figure 11) to calm my nerves.
- It costs 28 SF to go up and down the funicular, but if you have a Swiss pass, it’s half price!
- Do not sit at the bottom of the funicular if you are afraid of heights—it is literally heart-wrenching.
- Gelato is really helpful at the end of the funicular ride.
I think I was too busy freaking out about the heights to really take in the views, which are actually really amazing, now that I look back at my photos. It’s quite the experience to be high up on a mountain like that… now I need to conquer one of those in Berner Oberland or Zermatt… By conquer, I mean take a lift up as there is no way I would be able to climb a tall mountain with my extreme fear of heights.