Named after the Ticino 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 Graubünden.
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.
The name Ticino was chosen for the newly established canton in 1803, after the Ticino river 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".
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 Ticino River, 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. 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 [Ticino] is 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.
The canton of Ticino is in the south of Switzerland, almost entirely surrounded by Italy (to its west, south and much of its east). To the north are the cantons of Valais and Uri, to the northeast the canton of Graubünden.
Its area is 2,812 square kilometres (1,086 sq mi), 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 (officially Verbano) and Lugano (officially Ceresio) make up a considerable minority.
The canton can be split into two at the Monte Ceneri pass. The northern, highest part, the Sopraceneri, is formed by the two major Swiss valleys around Lake Maggiore: Ticino valley and Maggia valley. The southern part, the Sottoceneri, is the region around Lake Lugano.
The Ticino river is the largest river in the canton. It drains most of the canton, flowing 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 Graubünden. 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 River. The Valle Verzasca is between the Ticino and the Maggia. There is also a smaller area that drains directly into the Lake Lugano. Most of the land is considered within the Alps (Lepontine Alps), but a small area is part of the plain of the River Po which drains the north of Italy.
The climate of Ticino, while remaining alpine, is noticeably milder than the rest of Switzerland's, 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. Additionally, Ticino is prone to fierce storms and has the highest level of lightning discharge in the whole of Europe.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Lugano is co-extensive to the canton.
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 (Italian: 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, Paolo Beltraminelli, 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 Manuele Bertoli.
The most recent elections were held on 10 April 2011; the turnout was 58.5%. The following table shows the results of the 2011 election.^a
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
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.
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
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.
There are 130 municipalities in the canton (as of April 2016). These municipalities (comuni) are grouped in 38 circoli (circles or sub-districts) which are in turn grouped into the eight districts (distretti). 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, in particular the local judiciary.
Ticino has a population (as of 31 December 2016) of 354,375. As of 2013, 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. The population (as of 2012) 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 presence 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 German is an important prerequisite in many jobs, be they in shops and restaurants catering to German-speaking tourists or in the insurance and banking business.
Despite the overall prominence of Italian in Ticino, the small municipality of Bosco/Gurin is historically German-speaking.
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). The median income in 2011 was 44,400 francs (US$47,220), the second-lowest in Switzerland.
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 2008, Ticino had an unemployment rate of 5%, higher than in rest of Switzerland, where it was estimated at 3.4%, and particularly high for foreigners (over 8%).
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 labor.
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.
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.
There are several tunnels underneath the Gotthard Pass connecting the canton to northern Switzerland: the first to be opened was the 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) long Gotthard Rail Tunnel in 1882, replacing the pass road, connecting Airolo with Göschenen in the Canton of Uri. A 17 km (11 mi) motorway tunnel, the Gotthard Road Tunnel, opened in 1980. A second rail tunnel through the pass, the Gotthard Base Tunnel, was opened on June 1, 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 Canton 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 southern 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 the Italian Switzerland (USI, Università della Svizzera Italiana) in Lugano is the only Swiss university teaching 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 Romanesque and baroque to contemporary styles. 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. Grottos are a kind of rustic, family-run restaurant that is prevalent in Ticino. They serve local wine (usually Merlot or similar) in a little ceramic jug known as boccalino, which is also a popular souvenir for tourists.
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 20km racewalk.