Lake Lugano Navigation Company

Lugano, Switzerland | C.1873

Photo Credit: Accidentally Wes Anderson



On the border between northern Italy and Switzerland, Lake Lugano winds its way around dramatic mountains and picturesque towns. Navigating these glacial waters for more than a century, the Societe Navigazione del Lago di Lugano or ‘Lake Lugano Navigation Company’ (SNL) offers visitors one of the best ways to explore this stunning landscape.

Founded in 1873, the Swiss company originally invested in railways, not boats. The company wanted to build a transportation link from Lake Como to the east, to Lake Maggiore to the west, via Lake Lugano. Though the original plan was to build a railway from one side to the other, difficulties in finance and engineering proved it impossible. Instead, the company built two unconnected railways, both in Italy. But the onset of WWI caused considerable financial losses and the railways were later sold.

After 1919, SNL changed strategies, concentrating on steamboat services on Lake Lugano. By 1926, the company was operating nine passenger steamboats and two cargo motor vessels. A year later, the passenger motor vessel ‘Lugano’ was introduced. This vessel, pictured here, is still in service today under the name “Milano.” 

Now operating 13 motor vessels and a fleet of buses, SNL continues to transport visitors throughout both the Swiss and Italian areas of Lake Lugano. The company also offers excursions to lakeside attractions and private boat rental.

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