Morcote is a small village situated on the shore of Lake Lugano in the Italian region known as Ticino,  and is undoubtedly one of the most frequently photographed places in Switzerland. In a country brimming with storybook castles, charming villages, and awe-inspiring vistas, selecting the most picturesque one can be quite challenging. But it was not without just cause that picturesque Morcote was voted Switzerland’s most beautiful village in 2016.

The name Morcote is derived from the protolatin term MORA which indicates a stony area and CAPUT which stands for head or end. MORAE CAPUT therefore means end of the mountain or rock, tip of the peninsula.

Morcote is an ancient fishing village that impresses with its charm and natural beauty. Visitors to the serene village of Morcote may find it hard to imagine that Morcote was once opon a time the largest harbor at Lake Lugano and an important reloading point for goods for the Milanese dukes during the Middle Ages. Until 1847, the year in which the dam of Melide was built, Morcote was a flourishing commercial site and there were intense exchanges of goods, being also the largest port of Ceresio. Large barges and rafts shuttled between Morcote and Porto Morcote to transport passengers and goods, being in fact the fastest way to reach Varese, Como and Milan.

Together with the village of Gandria, it is one of the best excursions from Lugano. If you have time and want to explore more of Italian Switzerland, Lugano is an excellent base for your stay and to visit Morcote

In Morcote, the predominant vegetation is typical of a Mediterranean area. The landscape is characterized by lush green hills, olive trees, cypress trees, and other plants adapted to the milder and sunnier climate of the region. The slopes near Lake Lugano are covered with abundant vegetation, featuring a variety of trees, shrubs, and flowers that enhance the scenery. Additionally, the well-maintained gardens and parks in the village of Morcote contribute to the natural beauty of the area.

Morcote Wisteria Purple
beguiles explorers, inviting them to spend a while under the cosy porticos and be enchanted by the romantic ambience of the former fishing village. The wisteria is known for its stunning flowers (long, cascading racemes and are usually blue or purple). These grow in the spring once the tree is over

Where is it located and how to get there
The village of Morcote is located between the lake and the mountains, a little over 12 kilometers from Lugano on the lake’s shore. You can reach it by boat, car, or public transportation. In my opinion, arriving by boat is the best way to reach Morcote. The boat arrival is special and allows us to see the village approaching little by little. Moreover, this boat trip from the city of Lugano is beautiful and passes by another lovely village on the shores of Lake Lugano: Gandria. The boat journey from Lugano to Morcote takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Check the SBB website or app for schedules. During the summer, there are more frequent departures, but they may be reduced during other seasons.

By public transportation

It is also possible to reach Morcote from Lugano by bus or train and bus. Combining the train with the bus is the fastest way, taking about 30 minutes. However, the schedules are not as frequent, especially on weekends. Plan well before heading out for the excursion. When I went to Morcote for the first time, I arrived by boat, and on the way back, there were no more buses, or the next one would take too long, so I ended up walking back to the Melide station.

By car

For those arriving by car, there is available parking, and the journey takes a little over 20 minutes. There are several parking spaces where payment is made with coins, but there is also a garage with around 300 spaces where the machine also accepts cards.

What to see and do in Morcote during your visit

A walk through Morcote is a delightful way to explore this small village.

The village of Morcote can be divided into two main parts: the lakeside part, where the historic center, the harbor, and local commerce with hotels, restaurants, and cafes are located; and the upper part of the village, on a hill where a pilgrimage route, shrines, religious symbols, and various passages and alleys with a medieval style can be found. Plan your day to arrive early in Morcote because, despite being a small village, it takes time to explore, especially when going up to the upper part of the village or if you decide to visit Parco Scherrer, a place where you can spend hours.

Morcote by the lakeside The walk starts from Morcote’s harbor along an area with several restaurants, some of them floating on the lake. Then it continues towards the village center. The center of Morcote consists of a row of simple and noble buildings on the shores of Lake Lugano. There are several covered passages in the shape of arches with pillars, one of the village’s characteristics, where you can find restaurants

What language is spoken in Morcote, Switzerland?

As Morcote is situated in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, the majority of its residents speak Italian, accounting for approximately 65%. However, being in Switzerland, Italian is not the sole language spoken in Morcote. Around 20% of the locals speak German, and 5% speak French.

Morcote’s coat of arms

Morcote’s coat of arms is green and red, the colours of hope and courage. The green lower half features a sow with numerous suckling piglets, a symbol of abundance and fertility that owes its origins to the Antonian monks of Vienne, who established themselves in Morcote in the Middle Ages and used it as their emblem. The red upper section features a shepherdess seated on a pile of wheat sheaves in a flower-filled meadow, symbolising the municipal freedom achieved by the people of Morcote from the chief magistrate and the castellan.

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