A lakeside city in the Italian-speaking Ticino Canton of Switzerland, Lugano lies close to the Italian border and the foothills of the Alps. Over the last decade, it has been through a sizable aggregation process with the adjoining municipalities, bringing the population from 28,000 in 2003 to 55,000 in 2012 to become the ninth biggest city in Switzerland. Its location on a major north-south axis makes it a natural staging post between Zurich and Milan—a role that will be further strengthened in 2016 with the opening of the high-speed AlpTransit rail project.
The local economy is firmly rooted in the services industry, which provides around 90% of local employment, notably in finance and tourism. Following a period of particularly rapid growth in the sector, Lugano is now Switzerland’s third largest financial centre—with 15,000 employed in the local area. A total of 74 banks are based here, along with more than 1,000 companies in the fiduciary, trade, real estate and financial sectors and 172 insurance companies. Technology is another key theme of the local economy, and the city hosts the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre and the The Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence Research, which works closely with local universities.
Lugano is also centre for culture and leisure activities. The city’s museums and art galleries, the surrounding mountains and lake—along with the nearby lakes of Como and Maggiore—make Lugano a popular tourist destination. The adjoining Italian enclave of Campione d’Italia is home to a major casino.