If the relaxed Swiss way of life combined with a dose of Mediterranean culture appeals to you, then look no further than Italian Switzerland.
Switzerland’s Italian-speaking southernmost region has a distinct vibe that separates it from the rest of the country. We explain how the region mixes the best of Switzerland and Italy, and how it is the perfect choice for expats thinking of moving to Switzerland.
Enjoy the Switzerland quality of life
Switzerland is known for its high quality of life, but the Italian food and culture combined with Swiss charm and efficiency gives the Ticino canton a distinct quality. The region is home to some incredible food and wine, boasting five Michelin-star restaurants and wine cellars inviting visitors to taste its famous Merlot. Festivals run all year round, including the internationally renowned Locarno film festival, which runs every August, and the free Estival Jazz festival in June/July.
Swiss citizens know how to look after themselves — the country has the second highest life expectancy in the world, the highest in Europe. Ticino is no different and, if you’re into a healthy lifestyle, it has plenty to offer — kayaking on the lakes, skiing in the mountains and hiking across pastures. If you fancy something a little more relaxing, there are numerous local hotel spas or wellness centres to unwind and soak up the atmosphere of Italian Switzerland.
Soak in the Mediterranean climate and way of life
In addition to language, food, and culture, another sign that you’re in Italian Switzerland is the Ticino climate. The weather in Ticino is warmer and sunnier than in the rest of the country, with an average of 2,170 hours of sun annually (compared to 1,693 for Zurich).
You might not imagine sunny coastal resorts dotted with palm trees when you picture Switzerland, but that’s what you get when you explore the wonders of the south. There is more than 160 km of Ticino coastline to explore — including beaches that have been rated excellent in a European report — as well as sparkling lakes and crystal-clear rivers to enjoy. In the evening, you can soak up the vibrant atmosphere in the town squares and piazzas as the sun sets.
Nestled between Lake Lugano and the Alps, Lugano is Ticino’s largest town. It marries cosy Swiss charm with Mediterranean flair and is the place where you can best experience the Italian Switzerland vibe.
Take a splash in the lakes and climb the mountains
Ticino is tucked away from the big Swiss cities, which makes it ideal if you’re looking for somewhere quieter and more idyllic. If sea and sand isn’t your thing, there are beautiful lakes and mountains which provide amazing landscapes and opportunity for thrilling outdoor adventures. Over 50 percent of Ticino is unspoilt green space, compared to the 31.3 percent national average. Attractions include:
- Monte Tamaro, part of the Western Alps which overlooks Lake Maggiore. The highest mountain in the Ticino canton.
- Monte Brè, with spectacular views of the bay of Lugano.
- Monte Generoso on the Italian border, with a railway that leads to the summit and the recently opened Fiore di Petra architectural landmark.
- Lake Lugano, a popular water sports destination for tourists and locals.
Settle in the heart of Europe
Ticino’s position at the centre of Europe means that all parts of the continent — north, south, east and west — are easily accessible. Lugano has its own airport, and you can get train connections to many cities in Western Europe. Ticino’s proximity to Italy makes day trips or short breaks easy. Lugano is 15 minutes from the Italian border: Milan is only an hour away by train, the wine region of Piemonte two hours and the Italian Riviera just three hours.
Since the opening of the Gotthard base tunnel — the world’s longest and deepest rail tunnel at 57 km — in May 2016, access to the Ticino canton has become even easier. The tunnel has vastly improved rail travel between northern and southern Europe, running underneath the Swiss Alps and forming part of a mainline rail connection stretching from the Netherlands to Italy.
With journey times between Lugano and Zurich now trimmed by 45 minutes, expats working in the Zurich region can now settle in Ticino and commute to work without any hassle.
Feel safe and secure in Switzerland
Crime in Switzerland is generally low in comparison to other countries, with the country ranked as the seventh safest in the world. The Ticino canton is a safe zone within a secure country, with a lower crime rate than the Swiss national average and fewer crimes than in major cities. Although it’s always sensible to take precautions, the streets of Ticino are a peaceful environment and the likelihood that you will experience any crime is small.
Take advantage of the excellent Swiss international schools
Switzerland is known for its high standards of education, and the Ticino canton boasts many excellent institutions, offering the chance to learn in a uniquely beautiful environment among students from across the world. Facilities include the multilingual University of Italian Switzerland (Universita della Svizzera Italiana), the only Swiss university where the official language is Italian. Ticino is also home to several outstanding international schools, such as the International School of Ticino.
Expats have many reasons to move to Switzerland, especially in the sunny region of Ticino: the quality of life, the weather, the culture and the education all make for a perfect place to settle with a family and start a new life.