Lugano | Guide to Living & Working
A glamorous Italian-speaking city frequented by international movie stars, athletes, and entertainers, Lugano has earned the nickname, “The Monte Carlo of Switzerland”. From the upmarket Italian-style piazzas with their high-end boutiques and five-star restaurants, to the natural wonders of Lake Lugano and the Lugano Prealps, it’s not difficult to see why so many people are attracted to the city. Predictably, tourism plays a major role in Lugano’s economy, although banking, financial services, and urban development are also key industries. Some expats also choose to settle in Lugano to commute to Milan, which is just over an hour’s drive from the city. Whatever your reasons for moving to Lugano, this glittering jewel of the Swiss south is sure to win a place in your heart.
Living in Lugano will make you fairly envied by other expats. The city is not only an excellent testament to the very high standard of life enjoyed by most of the population across Switzerland; it is also the home of the largest Italian-speaking community outside of Italy. As a result, life in Lugano means getting to experience a mix of two different cultures. The result is a diverse city that is unique in the country.
Lugano is located in the Swiss canton of Ticino. This canton is in the far south of the country, and has embraced its border with Italy to the fullest. It is the ninth-largest city in Switzerland and allows you to enjoy the perks of a bigger city within the confines of a smaller area.
The city lies on Lake Lugano (Lago di Lugano). This lake is located to the south of the Alps, between the famous Lago Maggiore and Lago di Como. But living in Lugano doesn’t only afford you beautiful views of the lake.
The climate is definitely favorable to those living in Lugano. The winters are quite mild, and the summers — although they do often see a lot of rain — are usually warm. These attractions have led Lugano to be nicknamed the “Monte Carlo of Switzerland”.
Working as an expat in Lugano can only be seen in a positive light. It is a popular place because of its brilliant rest and relaxation facilities. However, the focus on this tends to eclipse the fact that economically, the city is performing very well, and is the driving force of Ticino.
Banking is especially important. Lugano is now the third largest financial center in Switzerland. If you are an expat trained in finance, working in Lugano will therefore be almost as lucrative as working in Zurich. Lugano is not only home to Swiss banks; plenty of private international banks also have offices there.
In total, there are over 100 banking institutions in the city employing a total of about 20,000 people in Lugano’s financial sector.
Recently, those working in Lugano have seen an increase in the business sector. This has been matched by improvement in the health sector, thanks to scientific research organizations which support Lugano’s medical facilities. The relocation of the Swiss National Supercomputing Center to Lugano in 2012 has also brought further investment to the city.
Living in Lugano is heaven for those who love outdoor activities, and as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Switzerland, both natural and man-made activities abound. If you do enjoy the outdoors, your first activity should definitely be a cycle on some of Lugano’s 300 km of mountain biking trails. This is the largest network of trails in the country.
If you want to enjoy the scenery without so much exertion, you can opt to take the funicular railways to the summits of Monte Brè and Monte San Salvatore — or alternatively, you can simply drive there by car. On top of the first, you will find Switzerland’s (supposedly) sunniest spot, and the old village of Brè. On top of the second, you will discover an ancient church and a museum.
If you decide to live in the center of Lugano, you will find yourself surrounded by historic points of interest. Seventeen sites across the town are nationally significant, and part of the Swiss heritage sites. These sites range from libraries, churches, and museums to a cemetery and the Radiotelevisione Svizzera di Lingua Italia (the Italian broadcasting facility).
The Swiss public transportation system functions excellently. In fact, many declare that they can set their watches by it. This should not be an exception in Lugano. However, the city’s proximity to more relaxed Italy might lead to some slightly longer delays in public transportation.
All longer distance buses are operated by the national company, PostBus Switzerland. This is known locally in Lugano as AutoPostale. The main AutoPostale station and ticket office is located at Via Serafino Balestra 4 (Lugano center). One of the company’s most frequented routes is its “Palm Express” service linking Lucerne and Lugano.
Given the excellent international links offered by the Swiss train service, the city’s airport falls slightly short. Lugano Airport, located at nearby Agno, operates mainly domestic flights, through Darwin and Swiss Airlines.
Lugano is very much a musical city with numerous festivals showcasing different genres of music. For jazz lovers, the Estival Jazz provides open-air concerts in summer free of charge. In the autumn months, the Blue’s to Bop festival gets the town centre dancing with a variety of different music, from pop to soul being played out on stages. Free to enter, this lively festival can be the perfect end to the summer. If food excites you more than music, the colourful and vibrant Festa d’Autunno is the place for you. With a range of different, often unique treats on offer as well as some fine local wines, this festival is perfect to truly get a taste of Lugano.