Tag Archives: Villa Helios

Postcard from Lugano III

2016-06-15 06.59.28 smallYou know how, when you send a postcard from holidays, you’re usually back before the recipient receives it?  Well, same here… I’m back from holidays, and so this postcard has just arrived.  We were away just a week (could always be a bit longer, right?), and enjoyed beautiful weather, storms, rain, sunshine, and time.  Time away from internet connections (there is no wi-fi in the flat there, so the temptation is eliminated!), time to read, to write, to be, to watch football matches of the European Football Championships (that’s soccer to Americans), and to cook good Italian food.

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We were in Lugano, Switzerland, otherwise known as the Riviera, or the Monte Carlo, of Switzerland; it’s in the Italian-speaking area, and is nestled along the shores of Lake Lugano.  The top image is the view from our (glass) balcony, unbroken from Castagnola to just beyond Caprino (check it out on Google Earth!), and the lower image is of a side street by the Church of Santa Maria degli Angioli, along the shoreline of Lugano.  Our family holiday flat is in Castagnola, along the flank of Monte Bre, and is our go-to place for a short get-away.

Whenever we’re down there, I switch from whatever manuscript I’m working on to a novel I’m writing that’s based on a house which our flat overlooks, and one that has captured our curiosity for decades:  Villa Helios sat vacant and decaying for over 30 years, and a few years ago began to be renovated.  This year was the first time we’ve seen life in the place.  From what I can tell, it has become either flats to rent, or buy.  There were only one or two flats occupied, as the rest of the windows were still either boarded over or shuttered; at night those windows were lit by small corner-lights to make it look occupied, but it was clear that they were vacant.  It was nice to get away for some quiet time together with my husband, but time there goes by very lazily, so even at a leisurely pace, I still managed over 10K on the novel!  It was especially relaxing to write on it because, just before going on holiday, I finished the manuscript for my 5th novel (the third book in the Northing Trilogy), and was able to send it off to my beta readers before leaving; I could work on the other novel with a “free conscience”.

Now back in the real world, I’m giving myself a short break from writing on my novels so that I can tackle the graphics of the cover, as well as all the bits and bobs that go along with marketing; once I get the beta feedback, it will be time to go through the manuscript again and make any changes necessary.

Here’s hoping you have a great week, and find inspiration for your own writing!

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Lugano by night.  Foreground:  The dome of Villa Helios



Filed under Articles, Images, Musings, Writing Exercise

A Postcard from Lugano II

Lago di Lugano, Switzerland, with San Salvtore beneath the moon.

Lago di Lugano, Switzerland, with San Salvtore beneath the moon.

I’ve been absent from posting for a few weeks now, as I was away on holiday and I left most of my writing at home.  Most.  Last summer I wrote you the first Postcard from Lugano; and I will say that not much has changed.  It’s still beautiful, with lazy hot days with a cool breeze coming off the lake, and warm evenings with glistening stars  overhead and a glittering city below.  This first photo was taken at about 4 in the morning (I have no sleeping rhythm, which is handy when such scenes present themselves).


Villa Helios:  The back of the mansion with the terraced walk leading toward the lake.  Under renovation.

Villa Helios: The back of the mansion with the terraced walk leading toward the lake. Under renovation.

But as I told you, I left most of my writing at home – not all.  When in Lugano, I’ve been working on a novel the past few years; it started out as a fun idea to explore, and gradually developed into a  more serious endeavor.  I thought I’d share it with you as it may inspire you to take on such a writing project of your own on holidays (it may not classify as travel writing per se, though in some ways [like my postcards] it may at times take on those characteristics):  Our family flat overlooks a sprawling mansion that we have watched decay from neglect for over 20 years; it was most likely trapped in an inheritance dispute.  It had been boarded up, its windows bricked in, its magnificent garden going wild until it was an impassable jumble of green.  About three or four years ago suddenly a crane was set up, and renovations began!  Of course it sparked my writer’s brain – who had inherited it, or purchased it?  What was its history?  From the looks of it I will have several more years to ponder its end as the renovations continue; but by now the gardens and the terraced walls have been brought to life, a new drive laid with mosaic stones, and the house itself has been set free of its bricked-over, blinded windows, the roof replaced, and the beautiful stones (I would venture to guess Bath Freestone) sand-blasted and cleaned to their pristine beauty.

Villa Helios, as seen from our balcony.

Villa Helios, as seen from our balcony.

Called Villa Helios, it was designed by architect Otto Maraini, who was born in Lugano on 8 November 1863 and died there 16 January 1944. Villa Helios in Castagnola was built in 1901-1902, including a series of walls and terraces that formed part of the lake shore.  I came across a few historical photos at arteeidee – thank you to them for sharing the old magazine photos (“The Modern Building” monthly magazine of architecture and construction practice, August 1904)!  Check out that blog post for the older photos (click on them to enlarge); The photos I’ve added here are current shots.  I’ll just say two things about the crane:  Note the box hanging from it, near the vertical shaft – that is the tool crate, hung up at the end of work days to deter construction site thieves.  Also, though the crane interrupts our view of Lugano at times (it shifts freely with the wind when not in use, so sometimes we barely see it), it gives us a brilliant view of birds that take over when the workers are gone – there’s a constant conversation between the seagulls and the Hooded crows.  I’d love to do more research on this building, but most of the information is in Italian, which I can fight my way through only passably, but as I said I still have plenty of time.  That’s the beauty of holidays.

To you writers out there:  Find an interesting old building in your own area, research into its history, and create a story with the building as one of the characters and not merely a location.

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