by O.M., UK
I have to say, it’s enough to spend quite a few years abroad to be amazed by the topography of the area whenever I return. Especially when I used to visit Lugano after long stays in Australia, the first view of the region as I landed into Lugano airport was always jaw-dropping: luscious green vegetation, narrow valleys and imposing hills and mountains. Quite different from the flat and dry Australian landscape. That first sensation was always unique and very strong.
Other impressions include its cleanliness and peacefulness. Also, everything is small and simple (which often is also frustrating!). Even the so-called large towns (e.g., Lugano) have a village feel; people sometimes even say hello when you enter an elevator in a department store downtown!
A strange thing that often surprises me when I visit Ticino is the amount of unpainted reinforced concrete (cemento armato). This is probably a Swiss thing, actually. People just don’t find the gray washed out look of concrete offensive… I always found that odd.
Another weird thing is the fascination with tea. People in Ticino drink tea for headaches, tummy aches, fevers, nausea, colds, smelly feet… you name it. And they are firm believers that these potions work! Even pharmacies are full of these herbal teas claiming miraculous properties.
The amount of politics also stands out. For such a small area and population there are a lot of newspapers (each associated with a different point of the political spectrum), a myriad of political parties, and whenever you turn TSI on, there’s a political debate going on. People in Ticino either like to be in the know or they are very argumentative. Either way, they love their politics.
Finally, people from the area always think that anything local is best. Local produce is the best, Swiss made is good, and made in Ticino is even better, etc… They really have a deep-rooted pride in their heritage, products, etc. And don’t ever make the mistake of calling them Italian, or imply that they are like the Italians. They’re certainly proud Swiss!