I and 4 women would like to stay on Lake lugano this September. would like suggestions as to day trips and thoughts about where is the best place to stay. we will be arriving by train from Milan but would like to be centrally located to ferries as well as restaurants we are trying to stay on a budget. any help would be greatly appreciated
I splurged and stayed at Albergo Stella in Lugano a couple of weeks ago ($200ish per night), but if I went to Lugano again, I would stay at the Novotel/Ibis/Ibis Budget (whichever was cheapest--they're all in the same building/block) in Paradiso (suburb of Lugano). I'm sure others will have better suggestions, though. (I must say I preferred Lake Como to Lake Lugano because I found more to do.) Have a wonderful time!
From Lugano town:
Ferries run to other towns on the lake, such as Gandria and the Customs Museum.
You can take a local bus to Menaggio on Lake Como (1 hour, fewer on Sunday) and from Menaggio also reach Bellagio or Varenna by ferry. Plan a whole day for Lake Como.
A scenic train ride to Luzern takes 2.5 hours each way.
I also recently stayed at the Albergo Stella in Lugano (near the train station above town). The hotel was o-kay, but I'm not sure if I would go back to Lugano. I was really glad we were only in Lugano for two nights and not three. I prefer Bellagio on Lake Como much more. I wouldn't devote 4 days to Lugano (in my opinion), unless you are in the market for a really expensive watch or need to do some private banking.
As for Milan, we stayed at ANTICA LOCANDA dei MERCANTI on VIA SAN TOMASO in the heart of the old city and loved it (it was also in Rick's book and has been recently renovated)! While in Milan, you should try Peck's (also in Rick's Book) Deli and their resturant. We loved both!