In November 1948, just offshore from Porto Ceresio (Italy) in Lake Lugano, Italian border guards discovered a rudimentary submarine made of timber encased in metal. The pint-sized submarine of Ceresio was 3m long and could carry 450kg –and was propelled using pedal power!
Smugglers and locals would use acoustic or visual signals to communicate and exchange important information. Symbols such as whistling or imitating the cry of an owl or another animal were an excellent way of telling each other where they were or whether the border guards were nearby. The families in Ticino used other tactics. Hanging out the washing meant: the coast is clear. Often, the window shutters would be closed to warn the smugglers to be careful. Some people left a light in the kitchen to indicate that there was no danger. To evade detection and transport even more goods, some smugglers even explored a new route through the lake itself: news about the "pint-sized submarine" discovered in Lake Lugano caused quite a stir. The 3m long, handmade underwater craft was propelled using pedal power and could carry a load of up to 450 kg.
Illustrazione ticinese, 27 November 1948