The Ceresio peninsula
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Although San Salvatore is the most obvious landmark on the Ceresio peninsula, just 4km southwest of central Lugano rises a lower hill dubbed the Collina d’Oro or Hill of Gold, not for its minerals but for its sun-drenched tranquillity. On the top sits the village of MONTAGNOLA, home for 43 years to the writer Hermann Hesse. Hesse was born in Germany in 1877, and came to Montagnola in 1919 following traumatic separation from his family after World War I. He rented the Casa Camuzzi, an ornate villa, where he lived for twelve years, and where, in an extraordinary outpouring of creativity, he wrote his classic works Klingsor’s Last Summer, Siddhartha and Steppenwolf, among many others. In 1924, he was granted Swiss citizenship, and then, in 1931, he moved to the Casa Bodmer, also in Montagnola, where he wrote The Glass Bead Game, which won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946. Hesse died in Montagnola in 1962.

In 1997, the Casa Camuzzi in the village was opened as the Museo Hermann Hesse (March–Oct Tues–Sun 10am–12.30pm & 2–6.30pm; Nov–Feb Sat & Sun same times; Fr.5; SMP). There are no signs to the museum from the Montagnola bus stop; with the village post office behind you, walk down the slope and aim through a narrow passage leading ahead off the square. The house is five minutes further on the right. Walking around the old villa is interesting in itself, although the modest displays – Hesse’s umbrella, Hesse’s table – are labelled in Italian and German only. What makes the entry fee worthwhile, however, is an excellent 45-minute video in English on the writer’s life in Montagnola that the staff can set up for you in a basement room; aside from interviews, readings and tales of Hesse’s many illustrious visitors, the documentary features trenchant observations made by Hesse on the inexorable rise of tourism in Lugano during the 1940s and 1950s. The museum staff can also direct you onto a scenic walking trail around the village dotted with eight points of interest related to Hesse.

On the eastern side of the peninsula, exactly at the point where the train tracks, main road and motorway all cross the lake on a low bridge, sits the village of MELIDE, home to the kitschy but rather fun Swissminiatur (mid-March to Oct daily 9am–6pm; Fr.10.50; www.swissminiatur.ch). This small park features 1:25 scale models of just about every attraction in Switzerland, from Geneva’s cathedral to Appenzell’s main street, as well as some more idiosyncratic choices (Burgdorf train station, Zürich airport circa 1958). The reproductions are excellent, whether you’ve seen the real thing or are wondering if it would be worthwhile to make the journey, and moving model boats, trains and cable-cars of all shapes and sizes liven the static models up no end. A wander through the whole place, with 113 exhibits, might take an entertaining hour or two – buy the English leaflet (Fr.2) for a brief rundown of each model.

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