Switzerland and Italy have long enjoyed good relations, characterised by close economic, political, social and cultural ties, a common language and regular contacts at all levels.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Italy
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Italy are based on an extensive set of agreements. Among the most recent are the border tax agreement with Italy and an agreement to strengthen bilateral cooperation to expand railway infrastructure by 2035. Representatives of the governments and administrative authorities of the two countries meet on a regular basis. The most important institutional channels include the bilateral dialogues on economic matters and on cross-border cooperation. Indeed, cross-border cooperation, encompassing a wide range of areas from transport to health, is a cornerstone of bilateral relations between Switzerland and Italy.
In addition, the two countries maintain regular exchanges on current international issues and cooperation in multilateral forums. Formal institutional contacts also take place between the parliaments of both countries.
The most recent state visit by an Italian president to Switzerland was made by Sergio Mattarella in November 2022. In 2020, the then President of the Swiss Confederation, Simonetta Sommaruga, paid a visit to President Mattarella in Rome.
Some 335,000 Italian nationals (excluding dual citizens) live in Switzerland, making them the largest foreign community in the country. The Italian community in Switzerland represents an important social factor in relations between the two countries. The Italian community also raises the profile of the Italian language in Switzerland.
Italy is Switzerland’s third most important trading partner. In 2022, Switzerland exported goods worth over CHF 20.5 billion to Italy. In the same period, Switzerland imported approximately CHF 21 billion in goods from Italy, resulting in a total trade volume of CHF 42 billion.
Some 40% of trade between Switzerland and Italy is generated in the border regions. Moreover, around 89,000 people commute across the border to work in Switzerland every day. At the end of 2021, Swiss direct investments in Italy amounted to CHF 22.6 billion and Italian investments in Switzerland totalled CHF 3.9 billion.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Swiss higher education institutions have long maintained close and regular contact with partner institutions in Italy. The establishment of the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) in Lugano and Mendrisio and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI) has brought new dynamism to relations between the Swiss and Italian academic communities. Researchers and artists who are citizens of Italy can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships. There are also four Swiss schools in Italy – in Milan, Bergamo, Rome and Catania.
Switzerland and Italy also maintain close ties in the cultural sphere. The Istituto Svizzero di Roma, established by Switzerland in the Italian capital in 1947, fosters cultural and scientific exchange between the two countries. The institute also has an office in Milan, the Centro culturale svizzero. A wide range of activities are organised every year in Italy. The FDFA participates in joint projects worldwide as part of the 'Settimana della lingua italiana nel mondo', an initiative of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Since 1982, the two countries have held regular meetings of the Consultative Cultural Committee Italy–Switzerland to discuss cooperation in the promotion of the Italian language in radio and television programming and in education.
Swiss nationals in Italy
At the end of 2022, there were over 51,000 Swiss nationals living in Italy.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland and Italy have enjoyed diplomatic relations since the Italian state was founded in 1861. Two milestones were celebrated in 2011: the 150th anniversary of Italy's unification and the 150th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Italy.
In 1957, the Federal Council upgraded the Swiss legation in Rome, which had been maintained since 1871, to an embassy.