That part of the Swiss Confederation which lies entirely south of the Alps is known as "Svizzera italiana", Switzerland's Italian-speaking region. It comprises the whole of Canton Ticino and four valleys of Canton Grisons (namely Mesolcina, Calanca, Bregaglia and Poschiavo) for a total population of just over 320,000. Lugano is the main city: it forms a conurbation of more than 56,000 and is the third financial centre in Switzerland after Zurich and Geneva. Other towns worth mentioning are: Bellinzona (the seat of Canton Ticino's government), Locarno (renowned tourist centre), Mendrisio, and Chiasso.
Italian is the official language for the whole region: it is spoken by its local residents and used in all forms of official communication in the public sphere and administration. Most local people are to some degree conversant with French and/or German, rather less with English.
Italophone Switzerland blends cultural components that are typically Italian with a tradition of politics and administration that is unmistakably Swiss. Ticino has experienced a great expansion in tourism, and has fully integrated its role as a rail and road axis between North and South. The combination of these two factors has made Ticino a region open and receptive to different influences and able to act as a genuine bridge to Central Europe. Some of its attractive features and opportunities worth highlighting include: a rich selection of cultural events, a natural landscape of moving beauty characterised by its lakes (Lugano and Locarno are the main lakeside towns) but also for its mountains (good ski resorts for winter sports) and a temperate and sunny climate. All of this has an undeniable appeal for anyone seeking to spend a pleasant holiday.