The traditionally good relations between Switzerland and Italy are characterised by close economic, political, human and cultural ties, a common language and frequent visits at all levels.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Italy
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Italy are based on a complex set of agreements. Representatives of the governments and administrative authorities of the two countries meet on a regular basis. The main institutionalised platforms are the dialogue on economic matters, the dialogue on cross-border cooperation and the Switzerland-Italy Dialogue Forum. In addition, there are regular exchanges on current international issues and cooperation in multilateral bodies, as well as formal institutional contacts between both nations' parliaments. The last state visit by an Italian president to Switzerland was made by Giorgio Napolitano from 20 to 21 May 2014.
Around 320,000 Italian nationals live in Switzerland, constituting the largest expatriate community in the country. The Italian community in Switzerland is an important social factor in relations between the two countries, not least because it gives the Italian language greater weight in Switzerland.
Italy is Switzerland's third most important trading partner. In 2017, Switzerland exported goods worth CHF 15.8 billion to Italy and imported goods worth CHF 19.8 billion, resulting in a total trade volume of CHF 35.6 billion. Investment flows in both directions are of major economic significance for both countries. Total Swiss direct investments in Italy at the end of 2016 amounted to CHF 16 billion. Italian direct investments in Switzerland at the end of 2016 totalled CHF 4.6 billion.
Exchanges are especially close in the Swiss-Italian border region, where over 70,000 Italians cross into Switzerland every day to work.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
There are five Swiss schools in Italy – in Milan, Bergamo, Rome, Catania and Como. Swiss higher education institutions also maintain good and regular contacts 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) have given a new dimension to academic and cultural exchanges between Switzerland and Italy. Scholars and artists from Italy can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships to the State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation (SERI).
Switzerland and Italy also have close relations in the cultural sphere. Since 1947, Switzerland has maintained the 'Istituto Svizzero di Roma', which is dedicated to cultural and scientific exchanges, and has a regional office in Milan, the 'Centro culturale svizzero'. The FDFA participates in joint projects worldwide as part of the 'Settimana della lingua italiana nel mondo', an initiative of the Italian foreign ministry.
Swiss nationals in Italy
At the end of 2017, there were just under 50,000 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 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.