Boat day on lake Lugano and rocking-out at the Harley Davidson’s music festival…sounds like a plan!

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Today is a very busy day! After being woken up by 2 little bandits who attacked me in bed, it’s off for a swim in the pool and breakfast with the Kass family. I’m really exited to be spending the day with both my childhood BFF’s: Fabrizio Malfanti and Gigi Nasoni, with whom I’ve been friends with since we were 15 years old; we even shared an apartment during our college years in Lausanne, Switzerland.

 

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Morning wake-up by local little bandits

 

One of the best things to do in summer in Lugano, is take a boat on the lake for the day and have lunch in one of the few amazing Grottos around the lake. Today Gigi is taking Fabrizio and me on his boat for the day and we are having lunch at Crotto del Lago (www.facebook.com/pages/Il-Crotto-Del-Lago) in Porlezza, in the Italian side of the lake. Crotto del Lago specializes in local fish dishes so the three of us have a field day gobbling up all sorts of specialties, not to mention a few bottles of “plonk”. After lunch, it’s time for calm and digestion, so Gigi takes us to his secret lagoon, somewhere on the lake, where you can swim and relax in total seclusion…except the curious swans and ducks. Swimming in a lake is so different from the ocean; the sweet, cool, green tinted water and the lush landscape around you, really create a unique experience.

Finally, it’s time for a tour around the lake and a peek at Campione d’Italia’s relatively new Casino designed by the famed Swiss-Italian architect Mario Botta. What strikes you about this building is it’s sheer size; so disproportionate to it’s small village environment; there’s big money at work for you. It’s time to go back to shore; tonight I’m having dinner with my family’s old butler: Ettore. Ettore worked for my family for 20 years and pretty much helped raise David and I in both our Swiss and London home; he is one of the most charming and kind Italian man with whom I have so many fond memories. I haven’t seen him in 15 tears so I’m really exited…he must be in his 80′ now and I can’t wait to hear all the tales from my youth, my parents, The Beatles and other icons that were hanging around the house in those days, London, etc… I remember that when I was little, I would blackmail him into paying me money to do the things that my mom and dad had asked him for me to do; I knew that he would get in trouble if I didn’t, so scalping a few pennies seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea…lovely child I was.

 

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Boarding Gigi Nasoni’s boat for the day


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Captain Gigi Nasoni

 

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Damn tourists…

 

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Approaching Crotto del Lago in Porlezza

 

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Table with a view

 

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Crotto del Lago’s Menu

 

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Beautiful lagoon

 

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Nothing like a swim in sweet waters

 

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Local visitors

 

IMG_4430The old customs building between Switzerland and Italy

 

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Stunning lake villa

 

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Small lake village

 

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Refurbished old farm house

 

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The very large Casino di Campione by Mario Botta

 

We are having dinner at Osteria la Palma (www.osterialapalma.ch) where they serve the BEST risotto al Barolo in the universe; I’m telling you, this dish is simply insanely good!!!! And I know… I’ve been around!!!! Barolo is an Italian, bold red wine, which is what they use for this local specialty. Jonathan, myself with family in toe, pick up a slightly frail Ettore at his home and off for dinner. Ettore is definitely emotional and overwhelmed by the whole situation; after all, it has been so long since our last encounter.

After a little time to adjust, the stories start flowing out one by one like a gift that keeps on giving; hilarious stories about the Beatles at our home, the Rolling Stones, Rod Steward, Alice Cooper, Joan Collins, Edgar Bronfman, Roger Moore, Michael Caine, the Bee Gees and so much more. You see…at the time of Ettore’s employment, my dad was a very successful music executive: President of Apple Record (the Beatles own Label), President of MGM music, head of Warner Brother’s music for the UK, etc; so having all these music icons around the house was a normal, daily event; that is why Ettore has so many tales about the shenanigans at 30 South Street (our home in Mayfair, London). Good Lord, most of them I cannot even repeat they are so scandalous…maybe on my Biography when I’m much, much older and most of these people are dead!

 

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Osteria la Palma

 

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Osteria la Palma entrance

 

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Jonathan Kass, our old butler Ettore and yours truly

 

All good things come to a close and it’s time to leave the family and join my Brazilian friend Wesley Torriani at the Harley Davidson Music Festival in the center of town; an unusual event for Lugano given the rough and tough demeanor of the Harley Davidson brand in comparison to the very conservative and quiet nature that is Lugano. Perhaps they are finally coming out of their shell…but Harley Davidson??? Who’s making the decisions around here??? The center is packed with Harley freaks from all over Europe, not the American rougher kind, more the gentle, old and bohemian European type…Oh no he didn’t!!! The rest are young locals, thrilled that there is finally some activity in their town. My generation? Nowhere to be found…they rather stick needles in their eyes before part taking in such a mundane event.

Of course here I am in the middle of it with my friend Wesley looking so out of place without our black leather HD outfits. No matter, 5 Vodka Tonics later, no one cares anymore! What next? Since I am leaving tomorrow, I promised my brother’s employees at his restaurant Etnic that I would join them at a local night club for my last “Hurrah” in Lugano…how bad can that be?

 

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Seven Restaurant in Lugano

 

IMG_4460View from our table at Seven Restaurant



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The amazing risotto Milanese


IMG_4461Lovely bread presentation


IMG_4469Box of Petit Fours for all guests


IMG_4481An unusual sight for Lugano: Many Harley Davidsons

 

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The main square: Piazza Riforma

 

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Big stage in Piazza Riforma for Harley Davidson’s concert event

 

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Crousing the Piazza with my Brazilian buddy Wesley

 

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Final “hurrah” at Club Chocolate with Jonathan’s employees

 

3AM, dying to get home but to drunk to drive…why do I do this to myself? I guess it was worth it, I had an amazing day, an amazing night and I am ready for bed and even more ready to leave in the morning for my beloved Istanbul!! Loving my life…ZZZZZZZ

Birthday week in Switzerland

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After a wild week in London, I am looking forward to a mellow and grounded week in beautiful Switzerland with family and friends and much needed rest. I’ve written several pieces on my hometown Lugano, but it never seems to get old and I find that there is always more to share with you about this amazing small city bordering Italy. I arrive in Zurich airport, and this time, I decided to take the train down to Lugano instead of a rental car or small plane; the train leaves directly from the airport so it’s an easy operation all together. I’m happily surprised to see that the first class wagons are now panoramic, an option that did not exist when I was living in Switzerland. Taking the train through the Swiss countryside and mountains is already an amazing treat in itself, but having a panoramic ceiling, well…what more can you ask for. Even better is the fact that there are only two of us in the entire car. After a 3 hours train ride, I arrive in Lugano to find my brother and his 3 kids along with my BFF Fabrizio, with whom I’ve been friends since we were 3 years old, waiting for me at the station…right there and then you understand the feeling of love and the true meaning of coming home, no matter how many years it’s been since I’ve left Switzerland.

 

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Arrivals at Zurich airport

 

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Swiss trains first class panoramic car

 

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Amazing view from my seat

 

Since this will be a quiet week of relaxation and family time, I won’t be doing a 1-day review post, but rather I’ll talk about the highlights of my stay in Lugano.

I always love walking around town in Lugano, not only it is such a beautiful city, but it carries so many amazing memories from my youth: like Gabbani Market (www.gabbani.com), an iconic gourmet market that has been in Lugano since 1937 and also the place where I had my first summer job when I was 15 years old so that I can earn enough money to buy myself a moped!!! I worked outside under the arcade selling fresh berries (don’t even…), there, the first seeds of what would become a fearlessly independent entrepreneur, were planted. The food at Gabbani is beyond amazing and the presentation is just fabulous! Walking through the streets of Lugano is a real treat; you will find such amazing buildings and churches from way back in the 15″ century. One thing about Switzerland is that they take good care of their national patrimony and all historical buildings look as they were built just a few year ago.

 

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The iconic Gabbani market in Lugano where I had my first summer job at 15 years of age


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The famous salami arches at Gabbani

 

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Gabbani’s amazing sandwiches

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Santa Maria degli Angeli, Lugano’s oldest church and monastery, circa 1499

 

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Santa Maria degli Angeli, interior

 

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The last supper at Santa Maria degli Angeli

 

IMG_4229The stunning alfresco “Passione e Crocefissione” by Bernardino Luini.



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The newly renovated Palace Hotel and residence

 

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Lake view

 

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Another amazing lake view

 

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The oldest building in Lugano, circa 16′ century

 

I loved having lunch with one of my oldest friends: Stefano Pesce; an art dealer and representative of one of the biggest Salvador Dali collections in Europe. He takes me to one of my favorite Grottos on Lake Lugano: Grotto Pojana (www.grottopojana.com). As I already explained in previous posts, a Grotto is a uniquely Swiss Italian phenomenon; it’s basically an old mountain home, turned into an open air restaurant by the family living in it only during the summer season, after which, it turns back into the restaurateur’s home fro the winter. The owners of the Grotto make all their foods in house and all specialize in typical Ticino specialties like: Polenta, Risotto, Brasato, local cheeses and cold cuts, horse meat, pork ribs to name a few. Anyway, back to Gotto Pojana! This place has been around forever and the food is still amazing to date! I had the Cipolla Tonnata, which is a take from the Vitello Tonnato (one of my favorite dishes in the entire world…); basically a grilled sweet onion with a Tuna, anchovy, lemon and fresh mayo sauce. As an entree I had the Persico filet (a local sweet lake fish) with Risotto alla Parmigiana…delish! Stefano had the fried lake baby fish with French fries, also amazing and typical of this area. A bottle of their own Merlot wine and there goes a perfect lunch by the lake before going to visit the foundry that exclusively casts all of Salvador Dali’s sculptures, of which Stefano is the representative.

 

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My childhood friend Stefano Pesce and myself at Grotto Pojana

 

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Grotto Pojana’s own Merlot wine

 

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Pesce persico del lago with risotto alla parmigiana

 

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“Pesciolini del lago fritti” with french fries

 

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Grotto Pojana’s Menu

 

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View of the lake in front of Grotto Pojana

 

The whole bronze casting process is really astonishing and watching each piece going through all the different stages and become the final shiny bronze sculpture it is meant to be, is something really special. It reminds me of my art school days when I was doing sculptures and castings in plaster. You could see some of Dali’s famous pieces, like the stretched out clock and his Knight on a horse fighting the dragon…amazing!

One of the highlights of my stay was coming home from a luncheon and being surprised by my 3 nephews with a small chocolate tart with candles for my birthday. The best part was the 35 year old candles…the fact that they think I’m 35 is in itself, the best birthday present EVER!!!! There is nothing like family my dear Possums and that is one of the main reasons I come to Lugano so often, so I can see my brother, and watch his kids grow up and be a small part of it…and because they think I’m 35!!!!!

 

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Dali’s bronze sculpture

 

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Dali’s famous Knight fighting the dragon

 

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Two stunning bronze heads that I sooooo wanted to steal!!!!

 

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One of the many stages of bronze casting

 

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Dali’s famous stretched clock

 

Another Grotto worth mentioning is Grotto del Pep (www.grottodelpep.ch); once again, we’ve been going here for many years, so Jonathan, my youngest brother, decided this would be a good place to celebrate my Swiss version of my birthday with a few friends and family. They are known for their pork ribs and the Polenta with trifled mushrooms…to die for!!!!! The meats are BBQ’d outside on the grill for all to see; sitting outside on the signature granite tables and benches on a warm summer evening is a real treat. The drink of choice in Grottos in this region is “Merlot with Gazzosa”, which is red wine with a lemon soft drink that they mix together and drink out of these unique porcelain cups that look like tea cups without the handle. After eating half a pig, 10 lb. of polenta and mushrooms, 5 bottles of Merlot and Gazzosa, and having such an amazing time with my friends and family, I am ready to end the Swiss part of my “Global Birthday Celebration” and prepare for the upcoming Turkish Birthday week…too much? Hey…until you can still stand up and celebrate the fact that you are still alive…I say go for it!!!!!

 

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My own little dynasty celebrating my 35th birthday…ish

 

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Entrance to Grotto del Pep

 

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Outdoor terrace

 

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Outdoor grill

 

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Specialty dish: Polenta with trifled mushrooms

 

IMG_4086Signature dish: Costine di Maiale con Patate


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The beautiful and serene view from my bedroom at dusk…is he watching me?