Canton Ticino or Ticino (Italian: tiˈtʃiːno; French and German: Tessin [tesɛ̃] and [teˈsiːn]) is the southernmost canton of Switzerland. The written language is Italian in almost the entire canton (except the Walser municipality of Bosco Gurin, where it is German). It surrounds the Italian exclave of Campione d'Italia. Together with areas of the canton of Graubünden it makes up the so-called Svizzera Italiana (Italian Switzerland). Lombard dialects (Ticinese) are still spoken, especially in the valleys, but they are not used for official purposes. It is named after the Ticino river.
The canton of Tessine is located in the south of Switzerland. It is almost entirely surrounded by Italy which lies to its east, west and south. To the north lie the cantons of Valais and Uri, to the northeast the canton of Graubünden.
Its area is 2,812 km², of which about three quarters are considered productive. Forests cover about a third of the area, but also the lakes Maggiore and Lugano make up a considerable part of the total area. These lakes are known with the above listed names, but are officially named Lake Verbano and Lake Ceresio.
The canton is split geographically in two parts by the Monte Ceneri pass. The northern, more mountainous part, called Sopraceneri, is formed by the two major Swiss valleys around the lake Maggiore: Ticino valley and Maggia valley. The southern part, called Sottoceneri, is the region around the Lake Lugano.
The River Ticino is the largest river in the canton. It drains most of the canton, flowing from the northwest through the Bedretto valley and the Leventina valley to enter Lake Maggiore near Locarno. Its main tributaries are the Brenno in the Blenio valley and the Moesa in the Mesolcina valley in Graubünden. The lands of the canton are shaped by the river, which in its mid portion forms a wide valley, commonly known as the Riviera.
The western lands of the canton, however, are drained by the Maggia River. The Verzasca valley is located between the Ticino river and the Maggia river. There is also a smaller area that drains directly into the Lake Lugano. Most of the land is considered within the Alps (Lepontine Alps), but a small area is part of the plain of the River Po which drains the north of Italy.
As a result of its more southerly position it is one of the warmest cantons in Switzerland. Additionally, the Tessine is prone to fierce storms and has the highest level of lightning discharge in the whole of Europe.
The Canton of Uri conquered the Leventina Valley in 1440. Between 1403 and 1422 some of these lands were already annexed by forces from Uri, but subsequently lost. In a second conquest Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden gained the town of Bellinzona and the Riviera in 1500. Some of the land and the town Bellinzona itself were previously annexed by Uri in 1419 but lost again in 1422. The third conquest was fought by troops from the entire Confederation (at that time constituted by 12 cantons). In 1512 Locarno, the Maggia Valley, Lugano and Mendrisio were annexed. Subsequently, the upper valley of the Ticino River, from the St. Gotthard to the town of Biasca (Leventina Valley) was part of Canton Uri. The remaining territory (Baliaggi Ultramontani, Ennetbergische Vogteien, the Bailiwicks Beyond the Mountains) was administered by the Twelve Cantons.
The lands of the canton of Tessine are the last lands to be conquered by the Swiss Confederation. (After the battle of Marignano in 1515 the king of France Francis I defeated the Confederates, and they gave up any further conquests.) In February 1798 an attempt of annexation by the Cisalpine Republic was repelled by a volunteer militia in Lugano. Between 1798 and 1803, during the Helvetic Republic, the districts of Bellinzona and Lugano were separate cantons, but in 1803 the two were unified to form the canton of Tessine that joined the Swiss Confederation as a full member in the same year. During the Napoleonic Wars, many Ticinesi (as was the case for other Swiss) served in Swiss military units allied with the French.
The weather in the canton is often inverse to that north of the Alps. This, and a warmer climate in general, attracts many tourists from other Swiss cantons. The lakes together with the sunshine are considered attractive. Tourism is the single most important economic factor in the canton.
There is also light industry, mostly concentrated around the three largest towns of Lugano, Locarno and Bellinzona.
The canton is well connected to the rest of Switzerland. There are tunnels underneath the Gotthard massif, both for rail and road. The canton of Grisons (Graubünden) is connected with a direct coach link, whereas the canton of Valais is connected by rail through a tunnel at the Simplon Pass. There are good rail links to Milan and Rome in Italy as well as Germany via Basel and Zürich.
Because of the tourist trade there are a number of small railways in scenic areas in the mountains. Winter sports is important, despite being less developed.