Old town Ascona, Switzerland

With palm trees lining the streets, warm breezes off the water, and the easy sound of Italian being spoken all around you, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Portofino or Sanremo.

The town of Ascona, though, with its views of Laggo Maggiore and the surrounding mountains, is actually in Switzerland. It’s here, and throughout the Italian-speaking region of Ticino, that you’ll find a side of the country that embodies the best of two worlds, where an easygoing approach to life coexists with spit-spot efficiency.

Terrace at Giardino Ascona / Photo courtesy of the property

This sense is felt strongly at Giardino Ascona, a resort situated just a few steps from the lake. Its throwback sense of charm and comfort is tempered by two ambitiously modern projects — its two-Michelin-starred restaurant, Ecco, and its Ayurvedic program. The former, founded by German chef Rolf Fliegauf, focuses on tasting menus crafted with fresh seasonal ingredients, while the latter takes you deep into Ayurveda with custom meals, yoga, cooking classes, private consultations, and more. On-staff practitioners ensure the program’s quality and authenticity.

Views on the way to Cardada - Cimetta / Laura Motta

When you’re not meditating in the vast garden or relaxing in the spa at Giardino, take a series of cable cars and chair lifts up 5,000 feet to Cardada - Cimetta. It’s a relatively short mountain for Switzerland, but the views of the Alps and Laggo Maggiore make it worth the trek. If you’d rather stay closer to sea level, hop on a boat from Ascona’s cobblestone-and-stucco old town to visit the Isole di Brissago, a chain of two postage-stamp-sized islands that come within a few yards of the Italian border. The larger of the two is home to a verdant botanical garden.

Ascona is two hours by car from Zurich, or you can reach it by utilizing Switzerland’s ultra-convenient SBB train system, which will take you as far as the neighboring town of Tenero. Swissair flies to Zurich from cities across the United States including New York, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

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