Mattia Bonetti’s perfect weekend in Lugano

The artist and designer’s bold, highly collectable furniture and lighting draw on an eclectic array of materials and influences and are held by institutions from the V&A to the Pompidou

Mattia Bonetti at the new museum-cum-art centre Masi
Mattia Bonetti at the new museum-cum-art centre Masi | Image: Valentina Sommariva

On Saturday, I go for an early swim as I’ve done daily for 35 years – it gives me energy. My house in Gandria is next to Lake Lugano, so I dive in from an old-fashioned platform in the village. I return home for breakfast with my wife, Isabelle, and occasionally my daughters, Louise, 27 and Laure, 25. I like regularity: I always have freshly squeezed juice, three slices of bread with butter and local honey.

I was born in Lugano and lived here until I was 18, and though I now work in Paris I return to Switzerland at least once a month. Gandria is on a rocky outcrop with streets so steep and narrow there are no cars or motorbikes – it’s very quiet. 

We’ll often go to a market in the Italian village of Porlezza, stopping at a lakeside café in Cima for espresso. I’ll buy chestnut honey made in nearby San Bartolomeo Val Cavargna and local vegetables like erbette, barba di frate, and puntarelle, which I steam and eat with anchovy paste and porcini.

When it’s warm – it can hit 38°C here – we’ll have a light lunch and spend the afternoon swimming, reading and listening to music. I like Chopin, Ravel and Fauré in the mornings, but later it’s anything from opera to ’60s Italian pop or Cuban music.

In cooler months, we’ll drive or take a bus or boat to Lugano. I might stop off to see the contemporary art at Buchmann Galerie in Agra, or go to Casa Camuzzi, where Hermann Hesse lived in Montagnola and which is now the Hesse museum. In Lugano town, I’ll catch shows by contemporary artists such as Sol LeWitt at Studio Dabbeni or Italian old masters at Galleria Canesso. 


I also enjoy visiting my friend Stefano Donati, an archaeology dealer, at Donati Arte Classica; I like his way of looking at things. My parents were antiques dealers and I loved going along on buying trips; I learnt to look at things very precisely. My taste is really eclectic as a result: I like building bridges between styles. 

At weekends I also immerse myself in history, biography and fiction. I’ll browse for books in Italian, my native tongue, at Dietro l’Angolo and Segnalibro in Lugano. Then I’ll have a pastry and coffee at Grand Café Al Porto, a confiserie dating from 1803, and buy marrons glacés at Giglia and fresh amaretti bianchi at Ricigliano. 

If we’re meeting friends for supper, we’ll go to simple restaurants, grotti, in nearby villages. If we choose Ristorante La Posta in Carona we’ll first walk through the woods to the 17th-century Sanctuary of Madonna d’Ongero to see its recently restored frescoes. Osteria Ronchetto in Comano has a friendly atmosphere; we eat outdoors – simple things like salami, bread and cheese with the excellent local Merlot. Another favourite is Grotto della Salute in Massagno for its shady setting.

Sunday starts with an early swim or a lakeside walk. I might go with Isabelle to Gandria’s 17th-century church for mass, or visit the new museum-cum-art centres Masi and Lac, which have excellent concerts, exhibitions and plays. I recently saw a fascinating show about the two-way influence between Indian and western art. I’ll often pop into the adjacent 15th-century church, Santa Maria degli Angioli, to see the amazing Passion & Crucifixion frescoes by Bernardino Luini, a disciple of da Vinci. 

Lunch is pasta at Stella d’Italia, a lakeside hotel-restaurant in San Mamete, with 1950s charm. When it’s warm we spend the afternoon at Lake Como, or at Villa Carlotta’s amazing botanical garden, then return home to cook supper and watch a Hitchcock film or a midcentury romantic American comedy – total escapism.


See also