Campione d’Italia is an Italian exclave, located entirely within the territory of Switzerland. It is a small town on the eastern shore of Lake Lugano, surrounded on all sides by Swiss territory. Despite being part of Italy, it is not part of the European Union, and has a unique legal status.
Where Is Campione d’Italia?
Campione d’Italia is literally located right inside the Ticino canton of Switzerland. This is an enclave – a closely related term describing a portion of a territory separated from its main part by another territory.
It’s quite easy to get there with your own car or with a local public bus via the village of Bissone Switzerland. The bus via Lugano for locals and visitors is easy to connect the locations together. If visiting from Como, it’s just under 40 minutes of driving.
Campione d’Italia was originally a Roman settlement, building the garrison town of Campilonum in the first century BC.
Pope Julius II granted Switzerland ownership of the Ticino region in 1512 in exchange for Switzerland’s assistance in the Holy League War. This was done as a sign of gratitude.
When Ticino chose to become part of the Swiss Confederation in 1798, the people of Campione chose to remain part of Lombardy.
All of the territory west of Lake Lugano and half of the lake were granted to Switzerland after Italy’s unification in 1861 so that Swiss trade and transportation wouldn’t have to go via Italy. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini changed the name of Campione to include “d’Italia” in the 1930s. He also constructed an opulent gate for the settlement.
In the early 20th century, the Italian government acquired the territory from Switzerland in exchange for ceding some land in the Italian Alps to the Swiss. The town then became a popular tourist destination.
The name “Campione” is derived from the Latin word “campus”, which means “field” or “battlefield”. This refers to the area’s historical significance as a site of military conflict.
Facts about Campione d’Italia
Some facts about Campione d’Italia include:
- All local mail is delivered by Poste Italiane, not Swisspost
- The telephone system remains Swiss
- Firefighters and ambulances are provided by the Swiss authorities
- Euros is accepted, but local salaries are paid in Swiss francs
- Electricity is supplied from Italy
- Motor vehicles have to be registered in Como
Fun Extra: Campione d’Italia has its own police force, as well as its own legal system! These are based on Italian law. However, it is not part of the Italian customs or tax system, and is subject to Swiss customs and tax regulations as per the rest of the Ticino canton. This unique legal status has led to some tensions between the town and the surrounding Swiss authorities, as well as some debate within Italy over the town’s future.
Present Life In Campione d’Italia
Today, Campione d’Italia is known primarily for its casino, which opened in 1917. It is one of the largest and most prestigious in Europe. When on the local trains between Bissone, Melide and Lugano you can easily spot the casino from the windows. The casino employs a large percentage of the town’s population, and attracts visitors from all over the world.
The casino was closed down due to bankruptcy on 27 July 2018, where all locals lost their jobs here, but has since reopened in 2022 with tourism picking up again in the area.
These days you can also see the historical landmarks, including the Church of San Zenone, the Villa Emden, and the Museum of Campione d’Italia.
Plus even though you will no longer be inside the Campione d’Italia border, there is a scenic spot up the mountain called the Balcony of Italy, which has stunning views of the area and Alps in the distance.
Many locals also enjoy warm Mediterranean climate, which is the same as Ticino as the canton of Switzerland with the most sunshine per year.
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