Story: A man and his lake

Culinary Tours of Lake Lugano's Grottos

Being on the water is his life: Alessandro Rezzonico is the fifth generation of his family to work on Lake Lugano. We accompanied him on the new grottos tours that take passengers for dinner to the co...

Many of the atmospheric grottos lining the shore of Lake Lugano can only be reached on foot or by water. In recent years, an evening boat tour of the grotto has become popular. After enjoying a typical repast of brasato or polenta by candlelight in a restaurant of their choice, passengers go back on the boat’s return trip two hours later.


Alessandro Rezzonico, a lake enthusiast

Alessandro Rezzonico, a lake enthusiast
Ticino’s grottos stand for tradition, culture, a sense of home – and of course they are places where memories are made. More people are seeking out authentic places with honest cuisine.

7:20 pm on a summer night in Lugano: waves lap the shore as a group of teenagers go by in a paddleboat. On the shore, kids are enjoying their gelato. “Everybody in,” calls the boatman to a line of people waiting. They go up on deck and everyone’s hair gets tousled. 

Soon the little grottos on the other side of the lake come into view. With our destination drawing close, stomachs start to rumble with the pleasant prospect of becoming more intimate with the culinary side of Ticino. 

Now Alessandro Rezzonico is also out on deck. As the fifth generation of his family to work on Lake Lugano, he’s inherited a passion for being on the water. “We love it,” he says. 

Rezzonico took over the management of the Motoscafi Riuniti tour boat company in 2015. In addition, Rezzonico directs sales & marketing for Società Navigazione del Lago di Lugano, which offers the Grotti Tours. 

Grotti Tour, Lugano

Where did the idea for these tours originally come from?

“Many of the grottos can only be reached on foot or by water,” explains Alessandro Rezzonico. At night, when the regular boat services stop running, you could only get there by water taxi.”

Recognizing a need that was also a business opportunity, the evening Grotti Tours were born.

The lake changes by season. In spring the gardens are full of colour, in summer everything is lush, in autumn the woods turn red and gold and in winter, you have an absolutely clear view of the mountains.

The tours have been a resounding success, even among the locals. “People from Ticino have discovered the Grotti Tours for themselves,” recounts Alessandro Rezzonico.

They like to go out in the evening, especially to chat for hours by candlelight in a cosy grotto. 

The boat pauses at a grotto to let a few passengers out before motoring on.

The next stop is Grotto dei Pescatori, one of nine restaurants on the tour.

Grotto dei Pescatori, Lugano

Here you can sit down at solid stone tables, sample piquant alpine cheeses and enjoy a hearty Merlot risotto. 

Grotto dei Pescatori, Lugano
Lugano, a city on the lake
Pro tip
At Grotto San Rocco, it’s not just fine delicacies that are on offer but also the finest views of the Gulf of Lugano.
Why not take a little excursion in Gandria? This old Ticino village is a snapshot in time, with tales to tell at every corner.
Groups may arrange their own grotto tour by chartering a private boat through Alessandro Rezzonico and his agency Motoscafi Riuniti.

Alessandro Rezzonico is an unabashed devotee of the Ticino grottos. these rustic little restaurants have experienced a renaissance in recent years. A yearning for simple pleasures – a Ticino grotto is the perfect embodiment of this trend. 

Grotti Tour, Lugano

The last stop on the Grotti Tour is Elvezia.

Lake Lugano

«The rustic, intimate grottos of Lake Lugano are the quintessence of Ticino charm.»


Once again we bid farewell to a few passengers and wish them buon appetito – in another two hours we’ll see them again.

That’s when our craft returns to pick up all of the passengers, ferrying them back to Lugano.




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