Lugano & the Saga of Disappointing Travel

July 21, 2015
Lugano & the Saga of Disappointing Travel

“Look. I have a strategy. Why expect anything? If you don’t expect anything, you don’t get disappointed.”
― Patricia McCormick, Cut

Easier said than done, right? Especially when it comes to traveling. You spend weeks, months, even years, collecting pictures of exotic locales and resplendent monuments, only to realize when you get there that the pictures, while beautiful, were in no way the reality you are now faced with. All that you had dreamed about while you were supposed to be answering that email from your boss was lost behind the new dark tint of your no longer rose-colored glasses.

While we spend our time pinning, filtering photographs, and sharing travel stories (I say “we” because, hey, I’m totally guilty of this as well), we may let other, possibly more relevant information, get lost in translation. My travel boards on Pinterest certainly don’t reveal graffiti-laden monuments and overflowing trash bins, nor do they properly convey the smell of a crowded city on a stiflingly hot summer day, or the elbow to the ribs you get while trying to view the same 5′ x 5′ framed masterpiece as 3,500 other people.

PINTEREST LuganoLago di Braies, Italy ‖ photo: Pinterest

=Austrian National Library (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek), Vienna, Austria ‖ photo: Pinterest/Wick Sakit

And, while it may seem like I’m Debbie Downer-ing all over this post, I promise I’m just trying to give myself a pep-talk and I thought, hey, others may need this smack on the back of the head too! You see, I had *gasp* my first very disappointing travel experience recently, and at the end of the day I was angry, irritable, and resentful that I had wasted the time and money to get there.

While rocking in the corner and repeating to myself “I am not alone,” I ran across a fantastic post from the husband and wife duo of Adam and Hannah over at über-popular travel blog Getting Stamped. Asking a large handful of their travel-blogger friends for their most disappointing travel experiences, Adam and Hannah were able to put together a list of helpfully honest and relevant mini-reviews for the realistic traveler (read the full post here – it’s awesome!). If this roundtable taught me anything (and it did – never going to Brussels), it’s that I not only need to research the places I want to see, but also pay attention to the things about them that I need to see in order to effectively counter-attack any potential discouraging situations.

If only I had that sage wisdom before I went to Lugano, Switzerland, a place surprisingly not on Getting Stamped’s list (probably because I’m the only person ever who was like, “hey, guys, let’s go to Lugano, it looks awesome”).

I suppose Lugano could be a lovely place to retreat for the summer if you have a lot of money and time to spend. The hotels on the lake are grand, the restaurants expensive, and the water sparkling. But for the average tourist who will spend only a day in the small lakeside city, it offers very little. The majority of the food that is affordable, is mediocre and unfortunately, as with any new place, you may very well choose wrong. One could say that the biggest attraction besides the lake and its promenade is the shopping. Luxury stores abound here, and while the Swiss Franc exchange rate between either the U.S. Dollar or the Euro is not astronomically high right now, Switzerland has historically been an expensive country (the most expensive in all of Europe according to one 2014 report). The casino, particularly for those who are familiar with U.S. casinos, is more than a little disappointing and the sidewalk cafes with lake views either cater directly to you with a tourist menu (pictures included – RUN!), or don’t have what you want at all. You would think a fully stocked bar in a luxury lakeside resort city would be able to make a Champagne cocktail.


Lunch in Lugano ‖ Cold, bland pasta with congealed sauce ‖ 22 Euro

I can’t very well speak for the whole of Lugano, or the other small towns and mountain-top retreats surrounding Lake Lugano, but I can say that my overall impression was further solidified by my experience there (or lack thereof).

There were a couple of things I did enjoy in Lugano, however, including visiting the beautiful Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli. The church, which began construction in 1499, has one of the most stunning frescoes I have ever seen, and the most famous of the Renaissance frescoes in all of Switzerland: Passion and Crucifixion by, Bernardino Luini, 1529. 

IMG_2991Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli ‖ Passion and Crucifixion

IMG_4211-001Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli ‖ Passion and Crucifixion

IMG_4207Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli

IMG_4208Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli

Another beautiful church, Chiesa di San Rocco, is at the opposite end of the small center part of the city, so you can enjoy a nice walk from one side to the other and visit both. Walk along the lakeside promenade as it is in shade during the hottest part of the day and offers beautiful views of the lake and surrounding mountains.

IMG_4240Chiesa di San Rocco

IMG_4244Chiesa di San Rocco

IMG_4256Lake Lugano

IMG_4258Lake Lugano ‖ The Belvedere Garden

It’s hard not to be disappointed when the reality doesn’t live up to the expectation…in any situation. But, it is a chance to learn something. Wisdom in knowing, and more importantly (and just a tad harder) accepting, that the water isn’t always clear and warm, you may have a less than mediocre meal, and your favorite painting in person may be underwhelming, will give your travel glasses back their bold rose-colored hue.

And if all else fails…there’s always wine.

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  • Reply Randi Lynn July 21, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    I was really disappointed with Alaska. It’s just not my style I guess.

    • Reply nibblesipwander@gmail.com July 21, 2015 at 3:40 pm

      And, see, that’s a place I’ve always wanted to go because the pictures I’ve seen look stunning! Plus, my dad has been and gives rave reviews. Lumberjack bear chasing not your scene, g?!

  • Reply Aunt Desi July 21, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Thanks for another great visit Em!!!!

    • Reply nibblesipwander@gmail.com July 21, 2015 at 3:49 pm

      My pleasure! Glad you enjoyed!

  • Reply Chris September 15, 2015 at 3:06 am

    Remember, not everywhere in the world is ‘wow’!

    In fact, so many places are truly far too similar to home… (which is why we enjoy travel in Asia and Latin America as they are so very different).

    What it does do, is makes those amazing experiences, just that.

    It gives you perspective!
    Chris recently posted…Galapagos: Diving Isla TortugaMy Profile

    • Reply Emily September 16, 2015 at 4:49 pm

      Wise words, Chris!

  • Reply Joe Ankenbauer September 16, 2015 at 9:31 am

    your last line sums it up nicely. “There’s always wine.” I think a lot of disappointment with travel destinations has to do with our expectations. I know it’s hard when all you have been doing is thinking about that place for months, years, even lifetimes. It sucks, but not all that glitters is gold. Gotta take the good with the bad I guess. And like you said, “There is always wine……”

    • Reply Emily September 16, 2015 at 4:48 pm

      I definitely agree, Joe! Plus, you never really know until you get there and it’s so much better to take that chance then to possibly miss out on something extraordinary!

  • Reply Katja - globetotting September 17, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    I’ve had lots of disappointing travel experiences and then some that are surprisingly great – the joy (sometimes!) of discovering new places! Lugano certainly looks pretty from your pictures but as you say…pictures don’t tell the full story 🙂 Glad you found wine – wine is always good.
    Katja – globetotting recently posted…Flytographer: How to Capture the Perfect Family Holiday PhotoMy Profile

    • Reply Emily October 29, 2015 at 3:33 pm

      I totally agree! There are just as many joyful surprises as there are little letdowns.

  • Reply Gemma September 18, 2015 at 2:32 am

    We were apart of that Getting Stamped post and I think you readers to take articles which are negative with caution. Everyone has a different outlook of what makes a trip meet their expectations, it’s very subject. Vegas was a let down for me as I mentioned but maybe not having any expectations is a better idea!
    Gemma recently posted…Monthly Travel Round Up #6 – CanadaMy Profile

    • Reply Emily October 29, 2015 at 3:31 pm

      Not having expectations is much easier said than done, but definitely a goal to work toward! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Reply Elizabeth September 19, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    What I really want in to be able to control the weather. (Not asking for much hey) You plan, plan, plan, see all these great pictures and you get there and the weather is so bad you can’t even take a picture let alone a good one. Suddenly the great outdoors become about finding a good indoor activity! But better to go than not, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
    Elizabeth recently posted…Visiting Perito Moreno Glacier: One of Nature’s WondersMy Profile

    • Reply Emily October 29, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      I’ve definitely been there, Elizabeth! My last time in Munich became a game of “find the most fun things to do inside.”

  • Reply Kimberly Erin @ Walkaboot.ca September 19, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    I am kind of opposite, my expectations are always met simply because I am traveling, and no matter what I see on film vs. real life, I can never be disappointed by the fact that I AM traveling, and am somewhere completely different, which is awesome.

    • Reply Emily October 29, 2015 at 3:28 pm

      That’s a great way to look at it!

  • Reply Gabby | The Globe Wanderers September 20, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    Great blog post topic. Interesting to see those places that sometimes don’t live up to the hype.
    Personally after spending a long time in Australia I found the East Coast to generally be a little less wow than I thought I would find it. I know I’m going to be massively outnumbered on this one though. Eek.
    Gabby | The Globe Wanderers recently posted…What not to do on a Spa Break (we found out the Hard Way)My Profile

    • Reply Emily October 29, 2015 at 3:26 pm

      Thanks, Gabby! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’ve never been to Australia, but I know how you feel being alone in your thinking!

  • Reply Tracie Howe September 21, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    I wrote up something in regards to expectations while traveling recently too. What I’ve found is that it’s all a matter of perspective. What kind of visitor are you and what are you there for? It’s funny how many times I’ve heard that people hate a place only to find that I love it. So, if I’m truly inspired, I just go anyway!
    Tracie Howe recently posted…Travel photography : How to avoid the ugly in the real world – Part 2My Profile

    • Reply Emily October 29, 2015 at 3:23 pm

      Very good advice, Tracie. Thank you!

  • Reply Julie @ Girl on the Move September 21, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    Love your last line…”and when all else fails there’s always wine!”…I’ve definitely had a few travel adventures that didn’t quite live up to my expectations and it’s difficult not to be too disappointed with that. Your pictures of the lake look gorgeous but it’s good to know I should limit my experience to Lugano with admiring your beautiful pictures!
    Julie @ Girl on the Move recently posted…Be Inspired: Travel Tales #4My Profile

    • Reply Emily October 29, 2015 at 3:22 pm

      My last line may or may not be my life motto 😉

  • Reply Isabela Mariano September 21, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    Thanks for sharing. Your photos are lovely. 🙂

    • Reply Emily October 29, 2015 at 3:09 pm

      My pleasure! I appreciate it 🙂

  • Reply Trisha Velarmino September 21, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    I am sorry if it didn’t meet your expectations. These things always happen while traveling and I stopped doing this over the years. I decided to just go whenever the opportunity presents itself. I usually suck at planning HAHAHA! Thanks for sharing your experience!
    Trisha Velarmino recently posted…Dear Girls of the World: Stop Underselling YourselvesMy Profile

    • Reply Emily October 29, 2015 at 3:09 pm

      I’m just glad I learned from it. I’ve had a much different outlook on travel since then.

  • Reply Sanket D. September 24, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    I agree with you completely. In fact I wrote about this in one of my ‘philosophical’ posts too! HA. There’s disappointments in life – this we all know and agree with. Why then, when we choose a life of travel, do we expect it to be otherwise? It’s annoying in the heat of that moment, but I think we come to terms with it as we grow in our journeys. Another of those great things travel teaches us better than routine life 🙂
    Sanket D. recently posted…Port Victoria – The Smallest Capital in AfricaMy Profile

    • Reply Emily October 29, 2015 at 3:06 pm

      That is a great, optimistic way to view things, Sanket! Thanks for sharing 🙂

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