On emerging from the second tunnel, beyond a wild and narrow gorge, there lies suddenly before us, as in a gorgeous fairyland or in the landscape of a dream, the blue expanse of Lake Lugano, with its setting of green meadows and purple mountains, with the many-colored village spires, and the great white fronts of the hotels and villas. Oh, what a wonderful picture!
We feel as if we were going down into an enchanted garden that has been hidden by the great snowy walls of the Alps. The air is full of the perfume of roses and jessamine. The hedges are in flower, butterflies are dancing, insects are humming, birds are singing. Up above, in the mountain, is snow, ice, winter, and silence; here there is sunshine, life, joy, loveall the living delights of spring and summer. Golden harvests are shining on the plains, and the lake in the distance is like a piece of the sky brought down to earth.
Lugano is already Italy, not only because of the richness of the soil and the magnificence of the vegetation, but also as regards the language, the manners, and the picturesque costumes. In each valley the dress is different ; in one place the women wear a short skirt, an apron held in by a girdle, and a bright colored bodice; in another they wear a cap above which is a large shady hat; in the Val Maroblio they have a woolen dress not very different from that of the Capuchins.
The men have not the square figure, the slow, heavy walk of the people of Basle and Lucerne; they are brisk, vigorous, easy; and the women have something of the wavy suppleness of vine branches twining among the trees. These people have the happy, childlike joyousness, the frank good-nature, of those who live in the open air, who do not shut themselves up in their houses, but grow freely like the flowers under the strong, glowing sunshine.
At every street corner sellers are sitting be-hind baskets of extraordinary vegetables and magnificent fruit; and under the arcades that run along the houses, big grocers in shirt sleeves come at intervals to their shop doors to take breath, like hippopotami coming out of the water for the same purpose. In this town, ultramontane in its piety, the bells of churches and convents are sounding all day long, and women are seen going to make their evening prayer together in the nearest chapel.
But if the fair sex in Lugano are diligent in frequenting the churches, they by no means scorn the cafes. After sunset the little tables that are all over the great square are surrounded by an entire population of men and women. How gay and amusing these Italian cafes are! full of sound and color, with their red and blue striped awnings, their advance guard of little tables under the shade of the orange-trees, and their babbling, stirring, gesticulating company. The waiters, in black vests and leather slippers, a corner of their apron tucked up in their belt, run with the speed of kangaroos, carrying on metal plates syrups of every shade, ices, sweets in red, yellow, or green pyramids. Between seven and nine o’clock the whole society of Lugano defiles before you. There are lawyers with their wives, doctors with their daughters, bankers, professors, merchants, public officials; with whom are sometimes mixed stout, comfortable, jovial-looking canons, wrapping themselves in the bitter smoke of a regalia, as in a cloud of incense.