History of Campione d’Italia

Future requires maintained heritage. This statement is one of the theses our philosophy, vision, and work approach are based on. Learning about the history of Campione d’Italia, it is easy to reproduce why this Italian exclave has maintained its special status throughout the centuries and is confidently looking into the future now.

First settlements in the area date back to the first century BC, when the Romans founded the garrison town of Campilonum to protect their territories from Helvetii invasion attempts.

The special status of Campione dates back to 777, as the Lombard ruler Toto of Campione bequeathed in his will the area to the monastery of Sant ‘Ambrogio in Milan. The land has remained in the monastery’s possession for 1020 years.

The village was considered a part of the Lugano Valley and later even a part of the bailiwick Lugano, subject to the feudal rights of the said monastery. In 1412 and 1477, it enjoyed duty free in relation to Lugano, which was confirmed in 1513 by the Confederates. At the beginning of the 16th century, the inhabitants of Campione fought side by side with the Confederates against the French, who occupied the castle of Lugano. At the time of bailiffs, Campione had to pay a war tax for its 1.5 men to the XII cantons. In 1542 they wanted to exercise high jurisdiction in Campione, but the Spanish governor of Milan opposed this project and the cantons had to recognise the high and low jurisdiction of the Saint Ambrose monastery.

On his arrival in 1797, Napoleon Bonaparte confiscated all the church property and annexed Campione to the newly created Cisalpine Republic, while Ticino was raised by Napoleon from the subject territory of central Switzerland to the equivalent federal canton in 1798.

In fact, when Ticino chose to become a part of the Swiss Confederation in 1798, Campione’s people chose to remain part of Lombardy, which subsequently became part of Italy in 1859.

Lombardy and Campione were in 1861 parts of the Kingdom of Italy. In the same year the Swiss and the Italian Governments revised the border that had already been established with many difficulties by the Treaty of Varese (1752). Previously, the territory of Campione has also covered the opposite coast of San Martino with the part of the post road between Lugano and Melide. Since October 5, 1861 the border runs in the middle of the lake. This was important for the Gotthard railway, which was built a few years later, and was thus located exclusively on Swiss territory up to Chiasso. In return, Campione received free access to the Swiss market.

In 1933, the Italian government modified the name of the municipality to “Campione d’Italia”.

Another important event in the history of the enclave took place in 1917 – a casino was founded in Campione.  Originally, it was planned as a site for gathering information from foreign diplomates during the World War I. The Casino of Campione was owned by the Italian government and operated by the municipality. The income from the casino was sufficient for the operation of Campione without  imposition of taxes or obtaining of other revenue. In 2007 the casino moved into new premises, designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta. It is largest casino in Europe. Campione is sometimes called “small Monte Carlo” referring to its high standard of living and glamor of international elite thanks to the presence of the Casino di Campione.