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Ticino Area Guide

Buying, owning or selling property in Ticino

As you may be aware, the law on Acquisition of real estate in Switzerland has numerous restrictions for foreigners (otherwise referred to as “Lex Koller”). This law clearly distinguishes between categories of real estate (residential and commercial) and categories of purchasers such as those interested to purchase a property in Switzerland as a holiday home, to relocate their main residence to Switzerland or even to establish their permanent business in Switzerland.

It is therefore fairly difficult for non-Swiss residents to purchase property in Switzerland unless they are located within the designated ‘holiday zones’ these zones are predominately found in ski resorts as well as certain lakefront villages.  With all these areas the maximum size allowed per individual buyer is 200 sq m of official living space (this does not include balconies or basement areas).

The region immediately surrounding Locarno and Ascona alongside Lake Maggiore and the villages surrounding Lake Lugano are all designated as a ‘holiday zone’ so this means that a non-resident may buy in this area. The area of Sopraceneri however, does not allow a purchase without a residents permit.

Please refer to our buying guide for more detailed information

Living in Ticino

Linguistically, culturally and temperamentally Italian, Ticino has been controlled by Switzerland since the 1500s. The canton of Ticino (Tessin in French and German) is roughly divided into two by the Monte Ceneri mountain range: the area to the north is known as the Sopraceneri (“Above Ceneri”) and to the south Sottoceneri (“Below Ceneri”). The area is often referred to as having an “Italian lifestyle with Swiss efficiency.” The lakeside resorts of Locarno and Lugano are perhaps the best known of the canton, situated as they are where mountain scenery unites with the subtropical climate. Their palm fringed lake shores are almost overwhelmingly romantic.

The lake shore is peppered with achingly pretty villages for example: the exquisite lakeside town of Morcote is rightly considered the ‘pearl of Lake Lugano’; the elegant village of Costagnola with its typical Ticino architecture and artistic community is situated at the foot of Monte Bre - which is widely considered the sunniest point in Switzerland and Montagnola, the former home of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Herman Hesse, that can trace its history back to 1226.

The most alluring of Ticino’s lake resorts, Lugano, with its clusters of Italianate piazzas and tree-lined promenades, is a chic, exciting and sassy place, full of energy and style. Lugano basks on a south facing shore, framed on all sides by wooded, sugarloaf hills rising sheer from the water. Its city centre is Switzerland’s third most important financial centre and plays host to numerous banking and business conferences throughout the year.

Art connoisseurs are also drawn to this city by the high standard of exhibitions it presents and to the architecture all around. Lugano, alongside Geneva and Zurich, stands as a Swiss banking centre. The city centre, a mass of old alleys and winding streets, graceful villas and apartment buildings is full of commerce.


There are numerous excellent public and the American international school within Lugano and in the surrounding communities.


The Alto Ticino offers some of the best walking in Switzerland.


Overland: Switzerland is well connected by high-speed trains, famous for their cleanliness and efficiency, from across Europe.

By air: Lugano has its own small airfield with connecting flights to both Geneva and Zurich. Milan is the closest international airport approximately 135km away.

(All distances are approximate)

Read more about property in Switzerland in our Swiss Lake Insight.