An octogenarian history

The Traversata known and popular today among hundreds of open waters swimming enthusiasts s not the one that was born in 1932, organized by the Lugano Swimming Society, founded only four years prior, in 1928.

The original Traversata was, in fact, the closing event of the society’s swimming season, whose swimming and waterpolo competitions still took place in the lake. The itinerary of the competitive race followed the entire lake shore for two kilometers, from the current Lido of Paradiso to the Rivetta Tell, in front of the Kursaal Theatre, now Casino.

The September’s traditional competitive appointment repeated itself regularly for more than three decades, until the waters of the gulf suffered the shock of the pollution, which resulted in the bathing prohibition, that consequently promoted the use of the swimming pool.

However, once the pollution emergency subsided, the memory of the charm of the Traversata pushed a group from the Water Rescue Team to propose again the event in a community formula and on another itinerary, starting from Caprino and finishing in Lugano, initially at the Sailing Club, then at the Rivetta Tell and finally at the Lido di Lugano. Participants have grown from 49 during the first edition in 1987 to 700-800 during the most recent editions.



Born as an open water competition to close the swimming season of the Lugano Swimming Society (SNL). It was open to athletes involved in national and international competitions. The staring line was at the Conca d’Oro in Paradiso (Villa Cirla) and the finishing line was at the Rivetta Tell with a total lenght of 2000mt. For youger participants there were shorter distances (500mt and 200 mt). It continued until 1966, year in which it was suspended because of the swimming prohibition.


Franco Righetti of the Water Rescue Team (SSL), after partecipating to the traversata Dirinella-Brissago (Maggiore lake), has the idea of reproposing an event with the same characteristics on the Ceresio lake. SNL and SSL support the initiative. It is not a competitive race anymore, but rather a community event open to everyone older than 14. No timing or ranking is provided. Everyone races against themselves for the satisfaction of swimming across the lake. Swimmers are provided with the numbered swim cap and the safety buoy. The time limit is 2 hours.


The first community Traversata of the lake is organized with start from Caprino and finish at Circolo Velico (CVLL). Sign up and locker rooms are at CVLL and the transfer of the participants to the starting location is made with private boats. The buffet offered at CVLL is included in the fee. Participants safety is guaranteed by volunteers’ private boats, SSL’s, Mendrisiotto Water Reasce team’s and Ambulance boats. Number of participants: 49.


After asking and obtaining the support of the city’s Tourims Office (ETL) for the propaganda, it is proposed, for visibility reasons, to move the finishing line to the Lungolago (Pontile Mascetti), in front of the city centre. The SSL also organized a small restaurant open to the public at the Rivetta Tell. This formula has repeated itsalf until 1993.


Because of the increasing number of participants – over 200 – for the transfer of the athletes to Caprino the committee turned to the Touristic Service of Motorboats Reunited for their boats, and still a few private boats. In order to improve the atheletes’ safety, every private boat takes on board a certified rescuer. The organization is led by the city’s Sport Department (Pia Kalatchoff) with the cooperation of SSL and SNL.


For the first time a large motorboat owned by the Navigation Society is used for the transfer of the swimmers to Caprino. Unfortunately, for safety reasons (strong storms in the region), the Traversata is, for the first time, cancelled. The motorboat will always be used from that year on.


Sign up online are now available. An increased number of participants is immediately noticed, even from abroad. 500 sign ups are rapidly achieved. For safety reasons it is the maximum number accepted and the sign up therefore is closed.


Seen the increasing effort demanded by the increasing number of participants, an official committee (Mike Donada) is founded in order to coordinate all the actors of the event. The safety personnel is joined by the kayaks. The limited number of 500 participants is confirmed.


Change of the committee leadership from Mike Donada to Mauro Antonini. The Lugano FotoClub is invited to take pictures to document the event.


It is the eighieth anniversary of the event, celebrated by taking the limit of partecipants up to 800. It is also celebrated with the publication of a photographic book in collaboration with Lugano FotoClub and a graphic-didactic program which involved the elementary schools of the city.


The first edition of the Mini Traversata takes place: a 250mt long swim around the rafts of the Lido di Lugano. It is open to kids between from 6 to 13 years old, accompained by an adult.


The presidency of the organizational committee passes from Mauro Antonini to Matilde Gaggini Fontana.


The organization obtains a legal status: the Association “Traversata del Lago di Lugano 1932” is born.