Ticino (), sometimes Tessin (), officially the Republic and Canton of Ticino or less formally the Canton of Ticino,, informally ''Canton Ticino'' ; lmo|Canton Tesin ; german: Kanton Tessin ; french: canton du Tessin ; rm|chantun dal Tessin . is one of the 26 cantons forming the Swiss Confederation. It is composed of eight districts and its capital city is Bellinzona. It is also traditionally divided into the Sopraceneri and the Sottoceneri, respectively north and south of Monte Ceneri. Red and blue are the colours of its flag. Ticino is the southernmost canton of Switzerland. It is one of the three large southern Alpine cantons, along with Valais and the Grisons. However, unlike all other cantons, it lies almost entirely south of the Alps. Through the main crest of the Gotthard and adjacent mountain ranges, it borders the canton of Valais to the northwest, the canton of Uri to the north and the canton of Grisons to the northeast; the latter canton being also the only one to share some borders with Ticino at the level of the plains. The canton shares international borders with Italy as well, including a small Italian enclave. Named after the Ticino, its longest river, it is the only canton where Italian is the sole official language and represents the bulk of the Italian-speaking area of Switzerland along with the southern parts of the Grisons. In , Ticino had a population of . The largest city is Lugano and the two other notable centres are Bellinzona and Locarno. The canton is a major tourist destination and is renowned for its distinct culture and gastronomy, and also for its warmer climate, especially around Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano. The land now occupied by the canton was annexed from Italian cities in the 15th century by various Swiss forces in the last transalpine campaigns of the Old Swiss Confederacy. In the Helvetic Republic, established 1798, it was divided between the two new cantons of Bellinzona and Lugano. The creation of the Swiss Confederation in 1803 saw these two cantons combine to form the modern canton of Ticino. Because of its unusual position, the canton relies on important infrastructures for connections with the rest of the country. The first major north-south railway link, the Gotthard Railway, opened in 1882. In 2016, the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the first flat route through the Alps, was inaugurated.


The name ''Ticino'' was chosen for the newly established canton in 1803, after the river Ticino which flows through it from the Novena Pass to Lake Maggiore. Known as ''Ticinus'' in Roman times, the river appears on the Tabula Peutingeriana as ''Ticenum''. Johann Kaspar Zeuss attributed Celtic origins to the name, tracing it to the Celtic ''tek'', itself from an Indo-European root ''tak'', meaning "melting, flowing". The official name of the canton is ''Republic and Canton of Ticino'' ( it|Repubblica e Cantone Ticino) and the two-letter code is TI. It is one of the four cantons of Switzerland officially referred to as "republics", along with Geneva, Neuchâtel and Jura.


In ancient times, the area of what is today Ticino was settled by the Lepontii, a Celtic tribe. Later, probably around the rule of Augustus, it became part of the Roman Empire. After the fall of the Western Empire, it was ruled by the Ostrogoths, the Lombards and the Franks. Around 1100 it was the centre of struggle between the free communes of Milan and Como: in the 14th century it was acquired by the Visconti, Dukes of Milan. In the fifteenth century the Swiss Confederates conquered the valleys south of the Alps in three separate conquests. Between 1403 and 1422 some of these lands were already annexed by forces from the canton of Uri, but subsequently lost. Uri conquered the Leventina Valley in 1440. In a second conquest Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden gained the town of Bellinzona and the Riviera in 1500. Some of the land and Bellinzona itself were previously annexed by Uri in 1419 but lost again in 1422. The third conquest was fought by troops from the entire Confederation (at that time constituted by 12 cantons). In 1512 Locarno, the Maggia Valley, Lugano and Mendrisio were annexed. Subsequently, the upper valley of the river Ticino, from the St. Gotthard to the town of Biasca (Leventina Valley) was part of Uri. The remaining territory (''Baliaggi Ultramontani'', ''Ennetbergische Vogteien'', the Bailiwicks Beyond the Mountains) was administered by the Twelve Cantons. These districts were governed by bailiffs holding office for two years and purchasing it from the members of the League. The lands of the canton of Ticino are the last lands to be conquered by the Swiss Confederation. The Confederation gave up any further conquests after their defeat at the battle of Marignano in 1515 by Francis I of France. The Val Leventina revolted unsuccessfully against Uri in 1755. In February 1798 an attempt of annexation by the Cisalpine Republic was repelled by a volunteer militia in Lugano. Between 1798 and 1803, during the Helvetic Republic, two cantons were created (Bellinzona and Lugano) but in 1803 the two were unified to form the canton of Ticino that joined the Swiss Confederation as a full member in the same year under the Act of Mediation. During the Napoleonic Wars, many Ticinesi (as was the case for other Swiss) served in Swiss military units allied with the French. The canton minted its own currency, the Ticinese franco, between 1813 and 1850, when it began use of the Swiss franc. In the early 19th century, the contemporary Franco-Danish scholar Conrad Malte-Brun stated that: "The canton of Tesino icinois the poorest, and the people the most ignorant of any in Switzerland. Until 1878 the three largest cities, Bellinzona, Lugano and Locarno, alternated as capital of the canton. In 1878, however, Bellinzona became the only and permanent capital. The 1870–1891 period saw a surge of political turbulence in Ticino, and the authorities needed the assistance of the federal government to restore order in several instances, in 1870, 1876, 1889 and 1890–1891. The current cantonal constitution dates from 1997. The previous constitution, heavily modified, was codified in 1830, nearly 20 years before the constitution of the Swiss Confederation.


Ticino is the southernmost canton of Switzerland. With a few exceptions in the extreme north and south of the canton, it lies entirely in the Ticino basin, a tributary of the Po. Along with Valais and the Grisons, it is one of the three cantons whose territory comprehends the Po basin, therefore south of the Alps. However, contrary to those cantons (and all others), all settlements of Ticino are on the south side of the Alps, therefore separated from the Swiss Plateau (and most of the country) by the great Alpine barrier. The canton also comprehends some small areas in the Rhine basin in the north, at the Gotthard Pass and around lake of Santa Maria. The extreme south of the canton is drained by the Po as well, but through the Breggia and Adda. The canton is traditionally (but not officially) split into two regions. The northern region, the Sopraceneri, is formed by the valleys around Lake Maggiore. The southern region, the Sottoceneri, is the region around Lake Lugano. Between the two regions is Monte Ceneri, a moderately elevated mountain pass and important north-south axis. The Sopraceneri is constituted by the districts of Bellinzona, Blenio, Leventina, Locarno, Riviera and Vallemaggia. The Sottoceneri is constituted by the disctricts of Lugano and Mendrisio. While Lugano, the largest city, is in the Sottoceneri, the two other main cities, Bellinzona and Locarno, are in the Sopraceneri. The Ticino, which gaves its name to the canton, is the largest river of Ticino. It flows from the northwest through the Bedretto Valley and the Leventina Valley to enter Lake Maggiore near Locarno. Its main tributaries are the Brenno in the Blenio Valley and the Moesa in the Mesolcina Valley in the Grisons. The lands of most of the canton are shaped by the river, which in its mid portion forms a wide valley, commonly known as the ''Riviera''. The western lands of the canton, however, are drained by the Maggia. The Verzasca Valley is between the Leventina Valley and the Maggia Valley. There is also a smaller area that drains directly into the Lake Lugano. Most of the land is considered within the Alps, but a small area is part of the plain of the Po which drains the north of Italy. Although it includes the lowest point of Switzerland (Lake Maggiore) as well as its lowest town (Ascona), the topography of Ticino is extremely rugged, as it is the fourth canton with the biggest elevation difference. It lies essentially within the Alps, in particular the Lepontine Alps, the Saint-Gotthard Massif and the Lugano Prealps. The longest and deepest valleys are those of the Ticino, Verzasca and Maggia. The two highest mountains are the Rheinwaldhorn and the Basòdino. Other notable mountains are Pizzo Rotondo (highest of the Gotthard Massif), Pizzo Campo Tencia (highest fully within the canton), Monte Generoso (highest south of Lake Lugano) and Monte Tamaro (most prominent of the canton). For an exhausitve list, see list of mountains of Ticino. The area of the canton is , of which about three-quarters are considered productive to trees or crops. Forests cover about a third of the area, but also the lakes Maggiore (or ''Verbano'') and Lugano (or ''Ceresio'') make up a considerable minority. The canton shares borders with three other cantons across the main ridge of the Alps: Valais to the northwest, to which it is connected by the Nufenen Pass, Uri to the north, to which it is connected by the Gotthard Pass and the Grisons to the northeast, to which it is connected by the Lukmanier Pass and the Mesolcina Valley; the latter valley, a few kilometres north of Bellinzona, being the only (natural) low elevation access to another canton. Ticino shares international borders with Italy as well. To the southwest is the region of Piedmont and to the southeast is the region of Lombardy. The main border crossing between Italy and Switzerland is that of Chiasso, in the extreme south of the canton.


The climate of Ticino, while remaining alpine on the upper regions, is noticeably milder than the rest of Switzerland's on the lower regions, enjoying a higher number of sunshine hours and generally warmer temperatures. In German-speaking Switzerland, Ticino is nicknamed ''Sonnenstube'' (sun porch), owing to the more than 2,300 sunshine hours the canton receives every year, compared to 1,700 for Zurich. The Basòdino, Ticino's second-highest mountain, is covered by the largest glacier of the canton. In winter, skiing is popular in the highest locations, notably in Airolo and Bosco/Gurin. In the lower regions, especially around Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano, vineyards and olive trees are grown. Several types of cold hardy palm trees and other tropical species may be grown here, and although none are native, their presence in the ecosystem is increasing. Many gardens near the lakes, such as the Brissago Islands and the Scherrer Park, are renowned for their numerous exotic plants.


The Roman Catholic Diocese of Lugano is co-extensive to the canton.

Wine region

Ticino is one of the wine regions for Swiss wine. The defined region encompasses all of the canton plus the neighbouring Italian-speaking district of Moesa (Misox and Calanca valleys) in the canton of the Grisons.


The current Constitution of the Republic and canton of Ticino, originating from a draft approved on 18 August 1801 during the Helvetic Republic, was approved on 14 December 1997. In its preamble, it states that it was created by the Ticinese people (popolo) ''"in order to guaranty peaceful life together with respect for the dignity of man, fundamental liberties and social justice (...) faithful to its historic task to interpret Italian culture within the Helvetic Confederation"''. The Grand Council (''Gran Consiglio'') is the legislative authority of the canton, exercising sovereignty over any matter not explicitly delegated by the constitution to another authority. The Gran Consiglio has 90 members called ''deputati'' (deputies), elected in a single constituency using the proportional representation system. Deputies serve four-year terms, and annually nominate a President and two Vice-Presidents. The Gran Consiglio meets in Bellinzona, the cantonal capital. The five-member Council of State ( it|Consiglio di Stato), not to be confused with the federal Council of States, is the executive authority of the canton, and it directs cantonal affairs according to law and the constitution. It is elected in a single constituency using the proportional representation system. Currently, the five members of the Government are: Claudio Zali, Raffaele De Rosa, Manuele Bertoli, Norman Gobbi and Christian Vitta. Each year, the Council of State nominates its president. The current president of the Council of State is Norman Gobbi. The most recent elections were held in April 2015; the next elections will be on 7 April 2019.


Federal election results

: FDP before 2009, FDP.The Liberals after 2009 : "*" indicates that the party was not on the ballot in this canton. : Part of the SP/PS

Referendum decisions

Since a referendum in September 2013, Ticino is the only Swiss canton where wearing full-face veils is illegal. Supporters of the ban cited the case of a 20-year-old Pakistani woman from Bellinzona, who was killed by her husband for refusing to wear a headscarf. The Burqa ban was later approved by the Grand Council in November 2015. In September 2016, Ticino voters approved a Swiss People's Party-sponsored referendum that gives precedence to Swiss workers, as opposed to foreign workers, defying freedom of movement agreements between Switzerland and the EU.

Political subdivisions


The canton is divided into eight districts: *Bellinzona with capital Bellinzona *Blenio with capital Acquarossa *Leventina with capital Faido *Locarno with capital Locarno *Lugano with capital Lugano *Mendrisio with capital Mendrisio *Riviera with capital Osogna *Vallemaggia with capital Cevio

History of the districts

Leventina was a subject of the canton of Uri until 1798, the year the Helvetic Republic was founded, when it became part of the new canton of Bellinzona along with the Swiss condominiums of Bellinzona, Riviera and Blenio. The condominiums of Locarno, Lugano, Mendrisio and Vallemaggia became part of the new canton of Lugano in 1798. These two cantons formed into one canton, Ticino, in 1803 when it joined the (restored) Swiss Confederation as a member canton. The former condominiums and Leventina became the eight districts of the canton of Ticino, which exist to the present day and are provided for by the cantonal constitution.

Municipalities and circles

There are 115 municipalities in the canton (). These municipalities (''comuni'') are grouped in 38 ''circoli'' (circles or sub-districts) which are in turn grouped into the eight districts (''distretti''). The mayor (''sindaco'') is the president of the municipal government (''municipio'') which comprises at least three members; a council also exists. The members of the council and the ''municipio'' are elected every four years by the citizens resident in the ''comune'' – the next elections are scheduled for April 2020. Since the late 1990s there is an ongoing project to aggregate some municipalities, with the constitution of the canton allowing for the Grand Council of Ticino to promote and lead in deciding on mergers. This has resulted in changes to some of the circles, with many circles now consisting of just one or two municipalities. The most populous municipality – Lugano (having merged with numerous other municipalities) – is subdivided into ''quartieri'' (quarters) which are grouped into three (cantonal) circles. In the modern day, the circle serves only as a territorial unit with limited public functions, most notably the local judiciary.


Ticino has a population (as of ) of . , the population included 94,366 foreigners, or about 27.2% of the total population. The largest groups of foreign population were Italians (46.2%), followed by Croats (6.5%) and the Portuguese (5.9%). The population density (in 2005) is 114.6 persons per km2. As of 2000, 83.1% of the population spoke Italian, 8.3% spoke German and 1.7% spoke Serbo-Croatian. As of 2019, 70.0% of total population is Roman Catholic. According to a 2012 survey, the population aged 15 years and older is mostly Roman Catholic (70%), further Christian denominations account for 10% of the population (including Swiss Reformed 4%), 2% are Muslims and 1% of the population has another religion (including Jews 0.1%). The official language, and the one used for most written communication, is Swiss Italian. Despite being very similar to standard Italian, Swiss Italian presents some differences to the Italian spoken in Italy due to the influence of French and German from which it assimilates words. Dialects of the Lombard language such as Ticinese are still spoken, especially in the valleys, but they are not used for official purposes. Despite the dominance of Italian-speakers, fluency in Standard German and Alemannic German is sometimes taken to be an important prerequisite for employment, regardless of sector or sphere of work. In 2016, Ticino was the European region with the second highest life expectancy at 85.0 years, and highest male life expectancy at 82.7 years.


Tertiary sector workers make up 76.5% of the Ticinese workforce, compared to the Swiss average of 67.1%. Commerce (23.1%), tourism (10.1%) and financial activities (3.9%) are all important for the local economy, while the contribution from agriculture and fishing is marginal, employing 6.5% of the workforce on a Swiss average of 15.4%. The median gross private sector monthly salary in 2012 was 5,091 francs (US$5,580), below the national average of 6,118 francs (US$6,703). However, due to lesser cost of living and lower taxation compared to most other cantons, the overall disposable mean income is high. The GDP per capita at 82,438 francs in 2014, was seventh highest in Switzerland. Ticino is counted among the most prosperous regions of Switzerland and of Europe. Lugano is Switzerland's third largest financial center after Zurich and Geneva. The banking industry alone has 8,400 employees and generates 17% of the gross cantonal product. Because of Ticino's shared language and culture, its financial industry has very close ties to Italy. In 2017, Ticino had an unemployment rate of 4%, higher than the Switzerland average where it was estimated at 3.7%. ''Frontalieri'', commuter workers living in Italy (mostly in the provinces of Varese and Como) but working regularly in Ticino, form a large part (over 20%) of the workforce, far larger than in the rest of Switzerland, where the rate is below 5%. Foreigners in general hold 44.3% of all the jobs, again a much higher rate than elsewhere in the Confederation (27%). Frontalieri are usually paid less than Swiss workers for their jobs, and tend to serve as low-cost labour. Italy is by far Ticino's most important foreign trading partner, but there's a huge trade deficit between imports (5 billion CHF) and exports (1.9 billion). By 2013, Germany had become the canton's main export market, receiving 23.1% of the total, compared to 15.8% for Italy and 9.9% for the United States. Many Italian companies relocate to Ticino, either temporarily or permanently, seeking lower taxes and an efficient bureaucracy: just as many Ticinese entrepreneurs doing business in Italy complain of red tape and widespread protectionism. The region has been attracting multinational companies particularly from the fashion industry due to its closeness to Milano. Hugo Boss, Gucci, VF Corporation and other popular brands are located there. Because the international fashion business has become a significant employer for Swiss and Italians alike, the region has also been termed the "Fashion Valley". Three of the world's largest gold refineries are based in Ticino, including the Pamp refinery in Castel San Pietro, the leading manufacturer of minted gold bars. Large companies based in the canton include: Bally, Hupac The opening of the Gotthard Railway in 1882 led to the establishment of a sizeable tourist industry mostly catering to German-speakers, although since the early 2000s the industry has suffered from the competition of more distant destinations. In 2011, 1,728,888 overnight stays were recorded. The mild climate throughout the year makes the canton a popular destination for hikers. The Verzasca Dam, known for the opening scene of the 1995 film ''GoldenEye'', is popular with bungee jumpers. Swissminiatur in Melide is a miniature park featuring scale models of over 120 Swiss attractions. The Brissago Islands on Lake Maggiore are the only Swiss islands south of the Alps, and house botanical gardens with 1,600 different plant species from five continents.


Several tunnels underneath the Gotthard Pass connect the canton to northern Switzerland: the first to open was the long Gotthard Rail Tunnel in 1882, replacing the pass road, connecting Airolo with Göschenen in the canton of Uri. A motorway tunnel, the Gotthard Road Tunnel, opened in 1980. A second rail tunnel through the pass, the Gotthard Base Tunnel, was opened on 1 June 2016. The new tunnel is the longest tunnel in the world, reducing travel time between Zürich and Lugano to 1 hour 40 minutes. Treni Regionali Ticino Lombardia (TiLo), a joint venture between the Italian Ferrovie dello Stato and the Swiss Federal Railways launched in 2004, manages the traffic between the regional railways of Lombardy and the Ticino railway network via a S-Bahn system. The Regional Bus and Rail Company of Ticino provides the urban and suburban bus network of Locarno, operates the cable cars between Verdasio and Rasa, and between Intragna – Pila – Costa on behalf of the owning companies, and, together with an Italian company, the Centovalli and Vigezzina Railway which connects the Gotthard trans-Alpine rail route at Locarno with the Simplon trans-Alpine route. The canton has a higher than average incidence of traffic accidents, recording 16 deaths or serious injuries per 100 million km in the 2004–2006 period, compared to a Swiss average of 6. Lugano Airport is the busiest airport in south east Switzerland, serving some 200,000 passengers a year.


There are two major centres of education and research located in the canton of Ticino. University of Italian Switzerland (USI, Università della Svizzera Italiana) in Lugano is the only Swiss university teaching primarily in Italian. The University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI, Scuola Universitaria Professionale della Svizzera Italiana), in Manno, is a professional training college focused on a practical method of teaching in the areas of applied art, economy, social work, technology and production science. There is also a small American and Swiss accredited private college, Franklin University Switzerland, located above Lugano, as well as The American School in Switzerland in Collina d'Oro, a K-13 international school accepting day and boarding students.


Ticino hosts two World Heritage sites: the Three Castles of Bellinzona and Monte San Giorgio. The city of Locarno is host to the Locarno International Film Festival, Switzerland's most prestigious film festival, held during the second week of August. Estival Jazz, a free open-air jazz festival, is held in Lugano and Mendrisio in late June and July. Past lineups have included Buddy Guy, Van Morrison, Yes, Jethro Tull, Yellowjackets, Al Jarreau, Randy Brecker. Ticino has a rich architectural heritage, ranging from the anonymous rock architecture of grottos and splüi, over Romanesque and baroque to contemporary styles. Grottos were ubiquitous cellars in Ticino, and symbolize rustic, family-run restaurants in the latter part of the 20th century. They serve local wine (usually Merlot or similar) in a little ceramic jug known as ''boccalino'', which is also a popular souvenir for tourists. The canton is home to internationally recognized architects, such as Mario Botta, Aurelio Galfetti, Luigi Snozzi, Livio Vacchini. As early as the 18th century, aristocrats from Russia and Italy employed numerous architects from Ticino. More recently, the region became a centre of the Neo-Rationalist ''Tendenza'' movement. Polenta, along with chestnuts and potatoes, was for centuries one of the staple foods in Ticino, and it remains a mainstay of local cuisine. ''Gazzosa ticinese'', a soft drink available in lemon and a number of other flavours, is one of the most popular beverages from Ticino, and is also common in other regions of Switzerland. It usually comes in flip-top bottles. The estimate for the production of ''gazzosa'' in Ticino is 7–8 million bottles a year. Newspapers and magazines published in Ticino include Corriere del Ticino, LaRegione Ticino, Giornale del Popolo, Il Mattino della Domenica, Il Caffè, L'Informatore, and the German-language Tessiner Zeitung. Bocce is a folk game that was once a popular pastime locally, but by the early 21st century it was seldom played by younger people. Notable sports teams include HC Lugano, HC Ambrì-Piotta (ice hockey), FC Lugano (association football) and Lugano Tigers (basketball). Lugano has hosted the Italy-Belgium match at the 1954 FIFA World Cup, the 1953 and 1996 UCI Road World Championships, the 18th Chess Olympiad, and the annual BSI Challenger Lugano tennis tournament and Gran Premio Città di Lugano Memorial Albisetti 20 km racewalk.

Notable people

*Francesco Borromini, architect *Carlo Fontana and Domenico Fontana, architects *Carlo Maderno, architect *Carla Del Ponte, international jurist *Flavio Cotti, politician *Flora Ruchat-Roncati, architect *Lara Gut-Behrami, ski racer *Mario Botta, architect * Aurelio Galfetti, architect * Luigi Snozzi, architect * Livio Vacchini, architect * The Bernasconi family of stuccoists, architects and sculptors * Giovanni Pietro Magni, stuccoist




* *Marcello Sorce Keller,"Canton Ticino: una identità musicale?", Cenobio, LII(2003), April–June, pp. 171–184; also later published in Bulletin – Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Musikethnologie und Gesellschaft für die Volksmusik in der Schweiz, October 2005, pp. 30–37.

External links

Cantone Ticino
official site
Ticino Tourism
official website of tourism office

* {{Authority control Category:Cantons of Switzerland Category:Cantons of the Helvetic Republic Category:1803 establishments in Switzerland Category:States and territories established in 1803 Category:Italian-speaking countries and territories