Switzerland shares a 740km border with Italy across the Alps. The Ticino canton of Switzerland speaks Italian (as do several other areas) and within Switzerland itself is the small Italian enclave of Campione d'Italia.
Relations between the two countries are good and with the Schengen Agreement there is effectively and open border. Recent agreements include close cooperation on customs and border controls, crime and suchlike. Swiss citizens are also the only soldiers serving in the Swiss Guard which guards the Pope.
The Transitgas pipeline delivering gas from northern Europe to Italy crosses through Switzerland. In 1882 the Gotthard Railway Tunnel was built and then in 1906 the Simpion Railway Tunnel, mainly by an Italian workforce to link the two countries.
The Istituto Svizzero di Roma (Swiss Institute of Rome) has offices in Rome, Milan and Venice and oversees cultural and scientific exchanges between the two countries; similarly there is the Centro di studi italiani in Zurich.
There are about half a million Italians living in Switzerland (including those with dual citizenship). Prior to the First World War about one third of all foreigners in Switzerland were of Italian origin and by the 1970s this figure had risen to one half. Today Italains make up the largest group of foreigners in the country.
Every day about 50,000 Italians cross into Switzerland to work.
Italy has been Switzerland's second most important trading partner for years. It is Switzerland's third largest export market and second most important country of origin of Swiss imports; it regularly reports a trade surplus (1.7 billion euro in 2009). Switzerland ranks eighth among foreign investors in Italy with direct investments totalling 17.5 billion euro, creating 78,000 jobs. Italian direct investments in Switzerland amount to 4.8 billion euro and create 13,000 jobs in Switzerland. ref
In much of Switzerland the euro is accepted alongside the Swiss franc.
Because of the natural barrier of the Alps and Swiss neutrality for many years there has been less cross border traffic between Switzerland and Italy than, for example, France and Italy.
However, during the Copper Age there was a migration from northern Europe across the Alps into northern Italy. And in 218 BCE Hannibal famously crossed the Alps to outflank the Romans and invade Italy.
At the time of risorgimento a number Mazzini was exiled from Italy and he settled in Switzerland where he joined with a group of dissident Italian socialists there. And Mussolini also fled to Switzerland to avoid military service in 1901.
When Italy was united in 1861 Switzerland was one of the first nations to recognise the new country. In 1901 an anarchist article was published in Geneva which insulted the memory of King Humbert. Following this the Italian minister to Switzerland demanded that the publishers be prosecuted. The Swiss responded that no action could be taken until a formal complaint was lodged by Italy. This did not happen but instead the two countries engaged in a spat which led to the suspension of diplomatic ties in April 1901 which continued for 4 months.
During the Second World War Switzerland was neutral, however the Allies did set up bases in Switzerland to keep in touch with the partisans in Italy. Towards the end of the war Mussolini was escaping to Switzerland when he was captured and killed.
Brothels are illegal in Italy but legal in Switzerland. This has led to the growth of sex tourism between the two countries as Italians cross over to the numerous brothels set up near the border.
In recent years Switzerland has become attractive to members of organised crime gangs in Italy either to hide their resources or themselves.
Notable Italian/Swiss People
- Michelle Hunziker - Italian/Swiss actress
See also, Swiss - Italian Diplomatic Missions.
In December 2010 a parcel bomb sent to the Swiss Embassy in Rome injured one person.
The following are border crossings between Swtizerland and Italy (default sorting, from West to East).
|Col Ferret||Aosta Valley||foot|
|Colle de Gran San Bernadino||Aosta Valley||road pass|
|Theodul Pass||Aosta Valley||foot connecting Breuil-Cervinia|
|Col Collon||Aosta Valley||foot|
|Simplon Tunnel||Piedmont||tunnel connecting Domodossola|
|Lavena Ponte Tresa||Lombardy||road pass|
|Splügen Pass||Lombardy||road pass connecting Berghus|
|Livigno Pass||Lombardy||road pass|
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