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 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 and the dialogue on cross-border cooperation. The two countries also conduct regular exchanges on current international issues and cooperate in multilateral bodies. Formal institutional contacts also take place between the Parliaments of both countries. The last state visit to Switzerland from an Italian president was on 20 and 21 May 2014 by President Giorgio Napolitano. The next state visit to Switzerland by President Sergio Mattarella is scheduled for the end of November 2022. Former President of the Swiss Confederation Simonetta Sommaruga last visited President Mattarella in Rome in 2020.
Some 321,000 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. Cross-border cooperation on a range of issues, including transport and healthcare, is also of great importance to bilateral relations.
Italy is Switzerland’s third most important trading partner. In 2021, Switzerland exported goods worth over CHF 15.5 billion to Italy. In the same period, Switzerland imported almost CHF 19 billion in goods from Italy, resulting in a total trade volume of CHF 34.4 billion.
Some 44% of trade between Switzerland and Italy is generated in the border regions. Moreover, 82,000 Italians commute across the border to work in Switzerland every day. At the end of 2020, Swiss direct investments in Italy amounted to CHF 21.4 billion and Italian investments in Switzerland totalled CHF 4.1 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) have given a new dimension to academic and cultural exchanges between Switzerland and Italy. 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 five Swiss schools in Italy – in Milan, Bergamo, Rome, Catania and Como.
Switzerland and Italy also maintain close ties in the cultural sphere. The Istituto Svizzero di Roma, which was established in Switzerland 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.
Swiss nationals in Italy
At the end of 2021, there were 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 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.