Forget everything you have heard about Switzerland, because the canton of Ticino is different to what you may think and expect. The Canton of Ticino is in our opinion the sweet spot of Switzerland. From gorgeous green gardens and palm trees, delicious Italian cuisine and the perfect amount of sunshine – Ticino has full Mediterranean vibes with Swiss punctuality and order. If you have not yet been, now is the chance. Read on to learn more about the Ticino Canton, how to get there and more!
what makes ticino different from other cantons of Switzerland?
There are a total of 26 cantons in Switzerland, with Ticino being at the very south of the country. So you’re wondering what is different? Well from what we see, Ticino is like a clean, gorgeous Swiss location with strong Italian influence. There are lush green palm trees, two beautiful lakes, Mediterranean sunshine while maintaining the Swiss order and punctuality.
The top 3 differences to the rest of Switzerland are:
The warm climate
As mentioned in the facts section, Ticino gets over 2300 of sunshine exposure in total per year. Thats pretty special for a Swiss location! Based on the geography, the Alps protects the canton of Ticino from the colder Northern European weather. So you can experience warm and moist summers, and also milder winters.
Ticino is nicknamed as ‘Sonnenstube‘, meaning sun porch. Many travel to Ticino from the rest of Switzerland for their vacations due to the sunshine here as one of the reasons.
The meridional culture
The Ticino culture is very much relaxing, easy going canton. Locals know how to relax, making the work/life balance very clear. If not working, locals are very much enjoying their time off. Whether thats staying at home and relaxing on their balconies, up a mountain for a hike, out on the water for a boat trip or simply doing their weekly food shopping.
Ticino also had lots of cultural events to enjoy too, with many museums, live concerts and local events throughout the year based on the weather.
When it comes to the food and drink, walking around the main cities you will see restaurants 100% inspired some very delicious Italian dishes. Of course you can find delicious Swiss dishes here, but the favourites includes pizzas, pastas, seafood and everything else Italian with bread sticks.
Ticino is also one of the main Swiss cantons that produces wine, with 90% from the region being produced as Merlot.
Where Is Ticino & Geography
So now that you know the 3 main differences from the rest of Switzerland, you are probably wondering where Ticino actually is more specifically. The canton of Ticino is located at the very south of Switzerland, next to the border of Italy. It is one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland and popular among locals for their vacation from the northern cantons. Ticino is pronounced like “Ti-ci-no“, but is also known in German speaking cantons as Tessin.
The capital of Ticino is Bellinzona, a beautifully historical city with 3 fortresses. Back in 2020, it was recorded that Ticino has more than 350k residents for the population, with the most residents living in Lugano, Locarno and Bellinzona.
Ticino is split geographically in two parts, called Sopraceneri and Sottoceneri. Sopraceneri is the northern part with most mountains with Lake Maggiore, with Sottoceneri being the southern part with Lake Lugano. With the Monte Ceneri mountain pass in the middle.
There are also officially 8 districts within the Ticino region;
How to get to Canton of Ticino
If you are already in another Switzerland location like Basel, Zurich or Geneve, there are daily public trains that you can choose to take to visit the Ticino region. Some are direct, such as from Zurich – which takes only 2 hours from Zurich to Lugano. And others just need a small quick changeover along the way.
To arrive by plane, you actually have to fly to Milan in Italy. Lugano has its own airport, but it is very small and only possible if you arrive by private jet. However, there are a direct flights Milan Malpensa airport in Italy from many European destinations, which also has a direct train to Lugano, Locarno and Bellinzona after you land. The train takes around 1 hour 40 to Lugano directly from the airport.
Another option is flying to Zurich first, taking the airport train to the main train station in Zurich and then taking a direct train south to Ticino – but this can take slightly longer.
By car, it’s pretty easy as well as beautiful while driving from another Swiss canton or from Italy. There are some gorgeous routes through Switzerland to get to Ticino, especially if you take some of the mountainous roads and not the highway routes. This is perfect for those who have lots of time, as you for sure will stop lots along the way to enjoy the scenery!
Facts About Ticino
The canton of Ticino is a rather unique canton for Switzerland. Here are some facts about the canton:
- The most used language is Italian and also the only Swiss canton (out of 26!) using Italian. But there is also a local Ticinese language, which can be heard on the local radio and written in the newspapers.
- There are two main lakes, Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano – both officially known as Lake Verbano and Lake Ceresio.
- Both of these lakes mentioned are shared with Italy.
- Ticino gets 2300 hours of sun exposure, which is for example much more than in the north in Zurich (1700 hours).
- The lowest point in Ticino is at the is Lake Maggiore at 193 metres, which is also the lowest point in Switzerland.
- There are 2 UNESCO World Heritage locations in Ticino – The Three Castles of Bellinzona and Monte San Giorgio.
- The majority of the population is Roman Catholic (around 75%).
- The Gotthard Base Tunnel is the longest railway tunnel in the world – connecting Erstfeld (Uri) with Bodio (in Ticino) and passing below Sedrun (Graubünden).
- The main agricultural production in Ticino is wine (mostly merlot!), followed by horticulture, milk and cheese.
- The flag of Ticino is 50% red and 50% blue in a horizontal design.
Things TO Do In Ticino
Ultimately, there is so much to do in Ticino that they all deserve their own blogpost. You can find all Ticino related posts here, but below are already 2 highlights for a sneak preview:
- Lugano Walking Route: 1 Day Self Guided Tour – this post is perfect for those who have a whole day spare to visit Lugano, allowing you to enjoy the city centre, Lake Lugano and up one of the mountains for those gorgeous views!
- Our Guide To Hidden Gem: Lavertezzo – Easy to reach with public transportation, this picturesque spot is the perfect day trip from Bellinzona or Locarno. Take a picnic and go for a swim in the natural waters, before hiking back half the way!
on A Personal Note: why we are moving to Ticino?!
We have all required documents, EU nationality and Swiss contracts to move to Switzerland in the summer of 2022 (which we’ll follow up on a different post soon!). So we picked the canton of Ticino based on the 3 differences Ticino has compared to the rest of Switzerland. After exploring a few other Swiss locations previously ourselves, we fell in love with the region of Ticino most, picking the city of Lugano as our future home sweet home.
To live in Switzerland has of course lots of advantages, such being surrounded by the gorgeous landscape, high quality food and good salaries. But there are also disadvantages that people instantly think about when they think of living in Switzerland. Such as how expensive it actually is, how strict people can be and that the locals are not that friendly. However we believe most typical Swiss disadvantages do not apply to the region of Ticino. Mainly due to more Mediterranean culture and Italian influence.
During a few visits to Lugano in 2021 and 2022 this allowed us to see the touristic side, but also to research local aspects too. There are a lot of differences from our current home location of the Netherlands. But it’s time for somewhere new. So this summer we are taking on our next adventure of our future and moving to Ticino!