Last Updated on August 24, 2020
Quick Summary ↬ Campione d’Italia is a unique semi-autonomous Swiss enclave or Italian exclave to be more correct. Located entirely within Switzerland yet separate from Switzerland, Campione is not subject to Swiss laws, Swiss taxes, or Swiss tax treaties. It also escapes the most burdensome rules and taxes of Italy.
Campione a strange accident of history, geographic anomaly, and climatic freak that will continue to be a useful as a low profile, safe residence and tax haven in the coming decade. In this extended report you will learn about the cost of living, tax matters, residency or investment opportunities.
Campione d’Italia is a unique semi-autonomous little Swiss enclave (or Italian exclave, to be more correct). It’s located entirely within Switzerland. As a separate country from Switzerland, it is not subject to Swiss laws, Swiss taxes, or Swiss tax treaties. In fact, Swiss police in uniform may not even enter Campione!
Strange as it may seem, becoming a resident of Campione gives one all the advantages of being Swiss, but none of the disadvantages. There are no compulsory, lifetime, military summer camps; no heavy Swiss income taxes. And none of the disadvantages of being outside the European Common Market. As Switzerland is.
Campione d’Italia is a part of the EU. With all the benefits of passport-free, visa-free travel, and the right of Campione citizens or residents to travel, work, engage in commerce, or perform services anywhere in the EU.
Additionally, Campione has a special deal on income taxes for foreigners. Income taxes are either low or for some, non-existent. Instead of high property taxes, they are zero for individuals and very low for corporations. The local government practically pays you to be a property owner!
Campione d’Italia is the only place in the EU that we know of where there is no VAT (Value Added Tax). This could make all goods and services purchased in Campione 25-40% cheaper than in the rest of Europe.
History of Campione d’Italia
Campione d’ Italia is a unique enclave. It is a part of Italy that, by accident of history, is entirely surrounded by another country – Switzerland.
Campione itself has a strange legal status, sort of a jurisdictional “limbo”. For many centuries, in feudal Europe, it was a Papal State (ruled benignly by the Pope). When the Swiss Federation was formed, Campione was a poor town, half the size of New York’s Central Park.
It had several magnificent churches and many mansions built by Campione Master Stonemasons. At the time, Campione was under the political sway of the Bishop of Milan.
Later, when Italy took over the Papal States, title to the feudal village of Campione passed to Italy. Even though it was located entirely within Switzerland. Today neither the Italians nor the Swiss bothers the residents much about such matters as taxes.
When the Confederation of Switzerland came into being, to avoid antagonizing the then powerful Popes of the Catholic Church, tiny Campione was recognized as a separate state.
Many years later, when the Papal States were taken over by the civil government of Italy, Campione became Italian, but nobody paid much attention to its unique status. Until just before World War Two, Campione was just a rocky square mile of seaside slopes with some luxury summer homes and sleepy vineyards tended by a few monks.
Its only claim to fame is that for about three hundred years, up until 1940, Campionese monks trained young boys from the area to become expert masons and stone-cutters. Thus, many of the finest Catholic Churches in Europe, and even abroad in America and Argentina, were built or supervised by Campionese master builders.
(Did you see them in the 1988 hit movie Good Morning Babylon?) Of course, no one ever paid much attention to the Campionese stone masons portrayed in the film except the Campionese who are very proud of their “gift to the world of architecture”.
A few exceptionally fine churches were built in Campione by master masons. Most of these master builders moved to other cities, many sent back remittances. A few were able to build mansions that still stand today. Because there was no local economy, Campione was for many generations an exporter only of stone-carvers.
Until just before World War Two few events of economic significance happened in Campione. It would still be a sleepy little vineyard had Mussolini not given local entrepreneurs the right to start a municipally-owned Casino (one of four in all of Italy, the authorized others being at St. Vincent, Venice, and San Remo). Rome (the Italian Government), gets a cut of Casino profits still today. The balance of casino earnings is spent by commune officials on local civic betterment.
With a pre-war population of a few hundred now grown to 3,000 as of 2011, Campione still is not Manhattan, or even Monaco (which crowds 35,000 in a similar space). But at least on summer weekends when day-tripping gamblers from Italy arrive by the busload, downtown Campione does get lively and noisy.
Tourists can’t stay overnight in Campione because there are no hotels. Fortunately for the locals, day-tourists don’t usually venture uphill into residential areas. They park on the main street or in the parking lots near downtown and go straight to the casino.
Casino profits from foreign gamblers pay most bills for the locals. Rome gets a cut of the casino’s take. In return, Italy seems happy to grant the locals many privileges not enjoyed by other Italians. These include freedom from currency controls, most taxes, regulations, and all economic restrictions.
The Municipal Casino, the largest gambling emporium in Europe, was authorized by Mussolini and originally built just prior to World War Two. During the World War, it was a center of intrigue where spies and black marketers could meet on neutral ground.
The old casino was torn down and replaced with a magnificent new high-rise in 2010. Revenues from its support perhaps the highest level of municipal services in the world, virtually eliminating the need for local property taxes, VAT, and most local taxes.
Each Campione property owner receives – from the Casino and other sources – the equivalent of some US$10,000 per year in the form of municipal services and free entertainment. The streets are so well maintained and so spotless you could almost eat off the public sidewalks. The gardens and parks are outdoor sculpture galleries. Public buildings, churches, and schools look like they were endowed with unlimited funds for maintenance and repair. Sound good?
Another secret of Campione d’Italia is a freak Mediterranean climate found only in the small Italian Swiss Province of Ticino, where Campione is located. Because it is on lovely Lake Lugano and considerably lower in altitude than the rest of mountainous Switzerland, Campione’s sandy beach of Lido supports a small grove of tropical palm trees. Your sea-view villa in Campione will be gently caressed by balmy, yet non-humid, tropical breezes.
If you woke from a nap on the beach in Campione (in the summer anyway), you might look around for semi-nude hula dancers, not those legendary frost-covered gnomes of Zurich in woolly long underwear. Those gnomes and trolls are frolicking around the rest of the Swiss Alpine landscape. Campione is a “Banana Belt” where warm weather fairies play.
For lovers of snow, nearby ski slopes are clearly visible. Half an hour on the local funicular railway takes you up to legendary powder runs!
Until recently, Campione was known only to architect-builders of Catholic cathedrals as the source of the world’s most skilled masons and stone carvers. Some young men still follow that trade because the land around Campione is too steep and rocky to farm profitably. As a result, for hundreds of years, the only local export was granite and people. Then in 1938, the municipally-owned casino opened.
After World War II a group of about 1,500 wealthy tax-exiles moved in, mainly from Germany, bringing more prosperity. Then came a Belgian Countess, an Arab Financier, and a sprinkling of celebrities longing for more privacy and a quieter life than they could get in Monaco. The former rocky vineyards became building lots. The few remaining undeveloped sites were snapped up at ever-increasing prices.
The larger estates and mansions were originally developed by retired stonemasons. Then came the wealthy foreigners who didn’t wish to pay Swiss or their home country taxes. They built the waterfront villas. Lately, most of the old villas have been torn down and replaced by low-rise (six to seven-story) apartment condominiums. High rise buildings over four stories are now banned. Local ecologists don’t want further development or “progress”.
The present population of 3,500 is just 10% of Monaco’s. Monte Carlo has 35,000 people on a similar square mile of waterfront. Campione in 2011 is like Monte Carlo in 1955 before Grace Kelly made it an “in place” and developed Monaco into a mini-Manhattan.
Campione property values should escalate again once the present slump peters out. This report gives the who, what, where, when, and why. Campione is a great place to escape to, while still relatively uncongested.
In twenty or thirty years if it becomes overcrowded, it may become the place privacy seekers should escape from. But by then your $550,000 villa will hopefully be a $20 million hotel or apartment site. In the meantime, you can have a conveniently located European home base.
Campione – an Accident of History
Campione is by an accident of history, an Italian territory located entirely within Switzerland. In one respect it differs from Monaco and nearby Liechtenstein. They are sovereign countries. There is another important difference: Monaco, Liechtenstein, Sark, the Cayman Islands, and similar places are tax havens because they never imposed personal income taxes on their residents.
Campione does have the same rather heavy income taxes of Italy –officially at least. But Italian income taxes are never enforced against foreigners, because Campione is, well, Italy, and because Italian tax inspectors would have to leave their country to reach Campione.
They do investigate the occasional Italian in Campione, but we have never heard of a non-Italian with an invisible income getting looked at by the fiscal authorities.
In Italy, tax evasion is the national pastime. It is said that the Italian government has such a tough time collecting from its own citizens that it does not bother foreigners living anywhere in Italy…if they stay out of politics and have no visible Italian-source income or investments in Italy.
As with any personal tax haven, Campione is most suitable for the person of independent means, or the owner of a business that can be run from a Campione apartment without a big physical plant, or a large staff.
There are virtually no offices, warehouses nor office buildings in Campione. Many foreigners operate online businesses out of their apartments or a second apartment rented for office purposes. No worries about zoning. You can do as you wish inside your own apartment.
Some individuals rent stores, warehouses, or office space across the lake in Swiss Lugano. Lugano is the third-largest banking city in Switzerland.
Communications to and from Campione are excellent. As mentioned earlier, the local PTT (Postal Telephone & Telegraph) is run by the Swiss Government, despite the fact that Campione is technically a part of Italy.
Campione, we stress again, is not a sovereign political entity. It is not even like a province or state. As an Italian “commune” it is more like an American or British county, or township. Campione has no “foreign relations”. These are handled entirely by Italy. Campione does not even have a Chamber of Commerce. Any major commercial activity in Campione, outside of the casino is strictly underground.
Tax treaties covering Italy theoretically cover Campione, but as there are no serious banks nor any tax collectors in Campione, there is no one that any foreign government official can ask for financial information.
If you are a non-Italian individual living in Campione, the tax officials in Como (the county seat) may know your name, but they will not bother you. There is no liaison at present between the police when you register as a resident and the tax authorities.
Campione is called a “Commune”. That is the equivalent of a municipality (or town) within the administrative area of the Province of Como.
As a result, there is no Campione “company law”. It is legally impossible to have a “Campione Corporation” or any such legal entity. For most purposes, it would also be foolish to form an Italian company.
Subjecting your business to Italian corporate taxes, reporting requirements and the communist-inspired employee-rights regulations would be a very poor move indeed.
Forming an Italian business entity is not anything a sane person would do. Your corporation couldn’t ever fire a totally inept worker—except with outrageous termination pay.
A very wealthy person based in Campione might, however, try to insulate himself against lawsuits or any future imposition of personal taxes by establishing something like a Liechtenstein or other foreign Foundation.
This legal entity could own his car and his house or condo in Campione. In this way, he would have no visible assets. The cost of such an entity would be at least 3000 to set up and 1500 per year to administer.
Thus, unless your house and car were owned free and clear or were of considerable value, setting up a foreign holding entity would be, in our opinion, an unnecessary expense.
Where Is Campione d’Italia? What’s the Area Like?
Campione, being only about one-mile square (1.6 km) is not even on most maps. It’s about the same size as Monaco. Like Monaco, it is also an “enclave”. To be absolutely correct it is an exclave! Monaco is a sovereign protectorate surrounded by France on three sides. Campione is an Italian owned exclave located totally within Switzerland. In other words, Campione is not a country. It is a part of Italy. Like an island, it is detached from the mainland and can be reached directly from Italy only by water.
If you have a map of Switzerland, find the Swiss City of Lugano in the southernmost province of Switzerland’s province of Ticino. Campione is a half-mile swim, just across the lake of Lugano. It is about two kilometers southeast of the City of Lugano.
If your home Atlas map doesn’t show Lugano, Campione will be found on road maps a forty-five-minute freeway drive due North from Milan, Italy. In fact, the Milan airport, known as “Malpensa”, is halfway between Campione and Milan.
From Malpensa-Milan or Linate-Milan airport, there are direct flights via Alitalia and many other airlines to every major city in the world.
Campione is easier to get to with public transportation than most other tax havens including nearby Liechtenstein. Liechtenstein, for instance, is two hours by public bus from Zurich International.
There is no train, and one must change buses three times to get to Vaduz, Liechtenstein. For Campione, one can fly into Milan International, take the airport bus into Milan, and then take a bus or train to Lugano.
There is even a free bus every day sponsored by the Casino. This will mean about two hours of travel time from the airport to Campione. Our favorite shortcut is to rent a car at either of the Milan airports. Getting to Campione by car from either of the Milan airports should take under one hour.
The only other tax haven more convenient to a major airport is Monaco, served by the Nice International Airport.
Because there are so many wealthy people in Monaco, there is a connecting helicopter flight every few minutes to downtown Monaco as well as trains, limo service, or taxis.
Campione is not quite so well served, but with a rental car, it’s just as fast and easy to get from the airport to Campione as it is to get to Monaco.
Since there is an excellent freeway between Linate-Milan and Campione, we have found the best option is to fly into Milan and rent a car for a round trip to Campione.
Just before you enter Campione, on the only road into town, on the Swiss side of the great Arch marking the border, there are a couple of very agreeable, reasonably priced hotels.
The Hotel Campione is located just outside the Campione border overlooking the Campione Welcome Arch. It has a very agreeable Thai restaurant. On the other side of the street is Hotel Lago di Lugano: Lakefront Family Resort Hotel, in Switzerland, a few meters from Campione. It has (Swiss) apartments for rent and for sale, good restaurants, great pool, and recreation area.
In Campione itself, there are no hotels currently operating. The historic Swiss town just South of Campione is called Bissone. The freeway entry/exit is clearly marked Bissone/Campione. It is only 3 kilometers (just over a mile) from the freeway exit to Campione.
Local roads in Campione are at least two lanes and paved. There is no border nor any formalities when passing between Switzerland and Campione. One is seldom asked to show a passport or identity card at the major border crossing Como\Chiasso when crossing into Switzerland from Italy proper.
When you get to Campione, there is a big masonry welcome arch locally called the “Arco”.
Passing the Arco is the only way in or out, aside from a couple of “secret’” footpaths going up the rather steep mountain slope behind Campione. If you want the romance of crossing a border James Bond style, you can spend about an hour hiking at a 45° angle up a quarter-mile trail through an uninhabited road-less part of Switzerland.
Eventually, you get to the picturesque Italian mountain top ski-resort towns of Sighignola or a little further on, Lanzo d’Intelvi. There you’ll find charming bars, restaurants, ski rentals, and a pleasant après-ski atmosphere.
Hiking back to Campione from Italy proper is all downhill and much easier. No one seems to care about the dozens of Campionese hikers and Italian visitors who use this shortcut to walk across the border. It is marked with hard-to-find engraved boulders.
You will find the wild mountain flowers of summer and spring, and the ambiance of winter quite charming in Campione — if you like that sort of thing. The surrounding area is certainly very scenic at any time of year.
Your automobile trip from Milan can be on a major highway. If you take one of the picturesque side roads you will meander through what this author feels is the world’s most magnificent blend of natural and man-made splendor.
Hopefully, you too will like alpine scenery, mountain lakes, and romantic palazzos, gardens, and castles. You will be passing through the Italian Lake District, an area that has been the traditional vacation destination of Europe’s aristocrats for many centuries.
There are abandoned grand hotels, plus many mansions, palaces, and castles in various states of restoration or disrepair. Many mansions have been in the same family for many generations. In America, property changes hands on average, once every seven years. In Italy, the typical holding period is centuries.
Do you like wonderful gardens full of terraces and classical sculpture? If so, you are in the area of some very special sights.
We particularly recommend a lunch visit on a sunny day to Stresa Island located in nearby Lake Maggiore. Be prepared to be bowled over by a once private palace now open to the public. There are several “must-see” places when you are living in the Campione area. Villa Pallavicini, for example, is particularly worth a visit. Be sure to take a ferry-boat ride to Isole Borromee. This will give you a taste of the local geography. It will show you how rich people used to live in the 18th century.
Mussolini gave the palace at Stresa to his mistress and then used it for entertaining foreign visitors of state. He brought them to Stresa to enjoy the aristocratic Italian atmosphere.
Campione itself used to have quite a few impressive mansions. Most of the best ones were torn down, giving way to condominiums for tax-exiles. The few remaining lakefront mansions in Campione, if for sale, would cost over 5 million! Should you want to buy a run-down mansion in nearby Italy, there are plenty for sale at the price of a large condo in Campione.
Climate, Weather, and Ambiance
Campione’s sub-alpine climate is invigorating. In fact, the surrounding area is a Swiss health resort region. The local weather is not as cold as in the rest of Switzerland. The seasonal changes are mild and the winds light to moderate. It is more like Monte Carlo, in temperature. But say 5 degrees Centigrade colder.
The air quality is better. Instead of auto-exhaust fumes to breathe, Campione has clean, unpolluted, mountain air. Plus great mountain spring water. This is one major advantage over Monaco.
There is no heavy “drive-through” tourist nor any truck traffic. Campione is the end of the road, a destination, not a transit point. Aside from the weekend casino crowd, it is not on any tourist itinerary.
Casino visitors are mainly Italians from Milan who come up Friday or Saturday for the dinner show. Wealthy Swiss visit too, getting away from Switzerland to exotic Italy. During summer weekends, the large municipal parking lots fill up, and only then there is no free street parking to be had.
Most of the time, Campione streets are empty. On the two-block long main street, there are several sidewalk cafes and bars that have a charming ambiance.
Cost of Living
The cost of living is less than half that of Monte Carlo, Paris, London, or New York. Property is relatively cheap also…for the moment! There is no pollution, industry, or crime. The mountain and lake scenery is breathtaking. The sub-Alpine climate and year-round temperature is second to none. Free classical and pop concerts are offered weekly in Campione. Want film and jazz festivals? You’ll have plenty from which to choose.
A vibrant, never-ending social and cultural life is a few minutes drive away in Lugano, Bellan-zone, Ascona, and Locarno.
More? Take the superhighway due South from Campione and in forty-five minutes you can hear the world’s best grand opera at La Scala, Milan, or visit the fabulous shops and restaurants of downtown Milan.
There are more banks and stockbrokers locally in Lugano and Chiasso than you can count. These all welcome Campione residents as private/confidential clients. The area is second only to Zurich in the proliferation of financial services.
Tokyo, London, and Wall Street publications are available at many stands on the day of publication. Locally you can eat in several hundred ethnic gourmet restaurants, see first-run English language films in a movie palace the likes of which no longer exist in other big cities.
In the summer, films are shown outdoors. Most of the action is in Lugano, ten minutes across the lake by bus, or over the one-mile long causeway with your car.
Shopping, dining, nightclubbing, golf, horses, tennis clubs, spectator sports – every pleasure known to man is available. Modern hospitals and internationally known clinics attract the wealthiest people of the world to the Lugano area for a variety of cures and treatments.
As to morality and personal eccentricity, local Italian-Swiss are easy-going and more tolerant than their German-Swiss neighbors to the North.
For an inexpensive, stress-free, tax-free life, we suggest, “Move to Campione.
Only a short drive from Italy, France, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Germany, Campione is still a sleepy peaceful, and unspoiled tax haven.
Local Cops in a Crime Free Area?
In Campione d’Italia, there are two big police stations: Carabinieri & local Polizia. Both patrol all Campione streets in their cars about every hour—day and night.
The Carabinieri or national police have the reputation of being user-friendly – always polite and very helpful to normal citizens. In other words, they never push people around. If you are in trouble of any kind, they help.
The local Polizia in the rest of Italy is not nearly as friendly as the local cops in Campione. They soon get to know all new residents. We understand that aside from traffic accidents, casino cheaters, money laundering, and lovers quarrels, there has been no crime in Campione for around 75 years. In other words, no violent crime. It would be hard for a burglar to make off with anything large as there is only one road in and out. Swiss police are often in position at or near the Arco, watching for suspicious activity. I have never felt safer than here in Campione!
In my other home in the Riviera, there are dozens of pick-pocketing, armed robbery, murders, and other violent crimes every single day—, especially in summer. We have been robbed twice in the last 15 years near Antibes & also San Remo. Never even an incident in Campione.
A Back Door to Paradise?
The main attraction of Campione is that it is a “back door” to Switzerland. One can live inside Switzerland, take advantage of all the attractive aspects of Switzerland, and yet not be subject to relatively heavy Swiss personal income taxes or Swiss military service.
For those who don’t know about the Swiss Military Service, it involves two months of active duty every summer, for life! Additionally, it is not easy to get a Swiss residence permit. It’s even harder to get a permit to buy or sell property in Switzerland. In fact, a foreigner who buys property in Switzerland opens a can of worms: he may not be permitted to sell his property for up to fifteen years.
In Campione, life is more simple. A foreigner can arrive and immediately rent or buy without any permit. When the time comes, he can sell to anyone he pleases, again without any official permits.
Unlike Switzerland, in Campione foreigners buy, sell, trade, rent, or do anything else concerning real estate on the same terms and at the same prices as local citizens.
Most people do not know that in Switzerland, there are all kinds of special rules to discriminate against the non-Swiss. For instance, in Switzerland (and also in Bermuda, Jersey, Guernsey, and many other tax havens) there are two tiers of real estate prices: A foreigner must buy at the top tier (up to double market price) and usually sell only to locals at the bottom tier. There are also special permits required, and discriminatory taxes applicable only to foreigners.
Any non-EU foreigner venturing into a real estate investment in Switzerland or in most other tax havens is virtually guaranteed to take a financial bath. A loss of about 50% on any property purchased in Switzerland can be expected if it is sold in less than 15 years.
Additionally, if a Swiss real estate purchase is made without proper paperwork and government approvals, the entire property can and probably will be confiscated. The reason for all this is that Switzerland does not really want foreigners to buy their real estate.
Note, however: In 2009, Switzerland by treaty opened up Switzerland to all EU Citizens on a reciprocal basis. Therefore, for E.U. citizens only buying is on an equal footing. For non-EU people is Swiss property still an unattractive proposition.
The Swiss, Bermudians, Channel Islanders, and existing residents of similar small desirable tax haven communities felt that without restrictions, rich foreigners would rent or buy up all the property and make it impossible for locals to own desirable property.
Campione has no such restrictions and none are likely. You or anyone can buy, lease, rent out, sell, trade, or mortgage Campione property on the same terms as a local person.
Campione d’Italia Tax Haven
As I’ll explain in this report, all of Italy is just as much of a tax haven for non-Italians as Campione is. The only advantage of Campione is the fact that once legally resident in Campione, you are for all intents and purposes, also a resident of Switzerland.
For some people, this can be an important factor. But if Swiss mail, phones, and great Swiss medical treatment are not terribly important to you, it is possible to live in a far grander style a few miles away in the “real Italy”. The rest of Italy is equally tax-free and a whole house may be had for the price of a small Campione apartment.
The reason for the price difference is that Campione is inside Switzerland, receives Swiss government services, yet the locals do not have to shoulder the obligations of being Swiss. Why? The Casino pays most of the municipal expenses of Campione. The Campione Casino is the largest in Europe.
Residency Permit: Seldom Refused
If a Campione legal residence permit is desired, you will get one almost as a matter of course but it could take as long as six months. Three months is possible.
Things will go smoother if, for a non-EU Citizen, before leaving home, you get a “long duration” residence permit for Italy. To get the visa, go to the nearest Italian consulate where you now live.
The next step for everyone (EU Citizen or not) is to register your ownership of a property, or your long term lease at the “Entrate” in Como. This registration is then taken to the Commune in Campione and an application for residence is filed there.
In a few months, you are notified by mail at your Campione address that your application for residence has been approved. The Commune issues you an ID card on the spot. This happens at the Commune building which is located just below the Casino, facing Lake Lugano.
With an official residence permit one may then drive to the town of Camorino in Switzerland and, on the spot, get a Swiss Driving license (in exchange for your old license), plus Swiss car registration and Swiss license plates. In most cases, you can keep your old driver’s license.
Even before you are a legal resident of Campione, any renter or owner as a customer of Swiss-com will automatically get a Swiss listed telephone number. The Campione telephone area code, by the way, is “+ 41” (for Switzerland) followed by “91” for Campione.
All Campione telephone numbers start with “649”. Italian government “equivalent” postal services are also available in Campione. Everyone living there has a Swiss postcode and an Italian Zip Code. It can be very convenient for some people to be able to use one or the other, as needed.
Swiss mail services (with mailboxes and offices combined with the Italian mail services in Campione) are the most efficient in the world.
The Italians are artistic, lovable anarchists, but we don’t rely on them for the most efficient mail! Fortunately, in Campione, you don’t have to. For mail coming to you in Campione just use “CH-6911”. “CH” stands for Confederation Helvetia. In case you didn’t know it, that’s what the Swiss call Switzerland.
For outgoing mail, you can use Swiss or Italian stamps and the Swiss-Italian post office located in downtown Campione. For incoming mail, we suggest you use your Swiss postal code. The Italian postcode for Campione is “I-22060”
Who Should Get Campione Residence & Why
The Campione Residency Card is the equivalent of an Italian or Swiss passport for visa-free travel in the EU. Non-EU citizens can also use it just as they would use any EU resident’s card.
The Campione Residence Card makes it easy (almost automatic) to get visas for any other places that any Italian or Swiss passport holders could go.
Being a Campione resident opens the door for confidential Swiss and Liechtenstein banking plus working in or owning a business in the EU or Switzerland.
This report explains how anyone with a substantial net worth and without a criminal record can become a legal resident of this enclave.
The main reason anyone moves themselves or their business to a tax haven is to escape high taxation. Job or employment opportunities in any tax haven are normally limited to the service occupations.
This is true of Campione. There is no reason to come here looking for a glamorous job or any job. Employment opportunities are limited to domestic services (like house cleaning) and working at the Casino. It’s a very good place for wealthy retired people or those with a low profile business that could be run from a home or apartment.
In Monte Carlo or Gibraltar, it may be possible to get employment working for a bank or stockbroker in the vibrant financial services sectors.
But in Campione, there is no financial service industry. Campione is a tax haven for individuals, not a recommended place for setting up administering companies. The Italian Government would probably tax any high profile holding company based in Campione if they found out about it.
On the two-block long main street, known as Piazza Roma, there are two small storefront Italian banks in Campione: The Banks of Sondrio and Bergamo. These banks will generally establish accounts for Campione physical residents only.
They are not too strict about this and when introduced by an existing customer, need only minimal proof of residence and a “Codice Fiscale”. This is kind of an Italian social security number.
It is required to do anything in Italy—buy a car, get your electricity connected, get a charge card. The bank also wants to see proof of your local Campione address like a lease or ownership papers.
They must be officially registered with the Como Entrate. Some bank papers will be mailed to your address to verify your physical presence in Campione. Over a dozen small stores have failed in recent years. These stores are now vacant and have “for rent signs” in their windows. As in most communities, small businesses have been replaced by giant hypermarkets.
There are no Wall-Marts nearby, but there are an IKEA and a huge shopping mall a few minutes away in Grancia (Switzerland).
Commercial activity within Campione is very limited. Among the stores that closed in recent years were both of the mom and pop grocery stores, a pizza joint, and one of the two jewelry stores. Remaining in operation is a pharmacy, several beauty salons, a barber, a butcher, dry cleaner, art gallery, bakery, and a travel agency.
There are several restaurants in addition to the restaurants in the Casino. One of the restaurants is pricey but excellent: Candida. Their special surprise lunch or dinner is 76 CHF or around 50. Good and more moderately priced are typical Italian restaurants: “Monello” on the waterfront, and “Rialdo”. Send us a reader comment about your experiences with any store or restaurant in Campione.
Under a treaty with the Swiss no foreign (non-Italian) banks or deposit takers are allowed to be based in Campione. There are several real estate brokers, lawyers, tax experts, dentists, plumbers, electricians, and medical doctors in Campione. No stockbrokers, no supermarkets. Not even a gas station. No worries however, these are all five or ten minutes away.
Most professional and financial services are performed across the border in Switzerland, or where appropriate, in Italy. In Lugano and Chiasso there are plenty of stores and shops of all kinds including huge supermarkets and an oriental grocery.
In Campione, as in every other tax haven, there are always many local people and establishments serving the wealthier tax-exiles. The range of local services runs from outdoor cafes and hostess bars to beauty shops and restaurants.
The particular needs of tax-haven residents are met but not so blatantly as with the “conspicuous consumption” prevalent in Monaco.
There are no poodle grooming establishments nor even any veterinarians. No Rolls-Royce/Aston Martin servicing and no investment counseling. Requirements seem to be more modest in Campione. But then too, the population is only 3,500 versus 35,000 in Monaco.
The more exclusive professional services for well-heeled Campionese tend to be in nearby Lugano. Arguably, the largest Ferrari/Maserati dealership (Kessel) in the world is across the lake there — along with all the usual high-end shops and many luxury auto dealerships.
The main physical feature of Campione town is the huge Casino. This is the largest landmark building Campione. Everyone for five hundred miles around thinks only of the Casino when they think “Campione”.
Few know that Campione has about 1,000 non-Swiss, non-Italian living there. About 85% of the population lives in low rise condo apartment buildings. For the moment, four stories is the height limit: A sensible rule put in place by the old-timers who don’t want it to become a mini-Manhattan like Monte Carlo.
There are still a few large single-family homes. These large villas have been rapidly disappearing. The local government is taking steps to preserve old villas and prevent further demolitions. There are also several architecturally significant old churches. And two cemeteries (one being more properly identified as a Columbarium).
The dense historic old town is a quaint place to live, but there are few parking spaces. The streets narrow with not as much sunlight as I would like to see. Old town apartments are relatively cheap. You’ll find 4 story walk-up buildings that can be as much as 500 years old. Some of the apartments have been nicely modernized. Others are in a sad condition.
A parking sticker good for unlimited parking in the nearby public parking lots is currently only CHF 50 per year.
One can rent an apartment in Campione or buy any house and live there indefinitely without any government residence permit!
It is almost impossible not to leave Campione every few days for supplies or gasoline. Thus one can be a perpetual tourist and live there forever.
Daily Living in Your New Tax Haven
If a new resident of Campione wants to take a job in the Casino, set up a high visibility business, rent office space in Campione, or enter into professional practice, it is necessary to get a local government residence permit.
This will be harder for a non-EU citizen who says he wants to take a salaried job in Campione. To be an artist, writer or to do an invisible or internet-based business, I don’t see any problem in just doing it – quietly. The residence permit is more or less automatic for self-supporting individuals or pensioners.
The administrative center governing Campione is called the Entrate, located in Como. The city of Como, Italy is located about a half-hour to the South by car. Americans or Brits would call it the “County Seat”.
Although with any Italian administrative matter there is a great deal of running around for appropriate stamps, seals, and signatures. Normally, residential permission can be requested as soon as your lease is signed and registered, or property is purchased.
Once you have moved in and registered your lease in Como, the next step is to get your utilities connected and registered in your name. It is not a bad idea to open a local bank account in Campione and arrange for automatic payment of your rent and electricity.
Failure to pay on time can result in disconnection and a huge fine of maybe 600. Then, you apply for resident status at the local commune (town hall) in Campione.
When the legal resident status is granted, then you can apply for a Lombardy Health Insurance card, a Swiss Medical Insurance card, and a Ticino driving license.
These days, to get the coveted “resident status” there will a personal interview with the Chief of Police (or Giacomo his elegantly uniformed Vice-Commandante) who will come to visit you personally at your new Campione home.
This will happen, usually about a month after you move in. He may sniff around to see that you are living there with clothes in the closets and food in the fridge.
He will ask how you intend to support yourself, and why you have chosen to live in Campione. It is important to be respectful, friendly, and to give the right answers and to know what NOT to say.
You can mention Quiet life, excellent police force, friendly people, fine cultural life, no crime, clean air, good schools for your kids, etc. He wants to hear that your intention is to make Campione your real and permanent physical residence, indefinitely.
Italians in general and even Italian bureaucrats tend to be happy, good-natured people. A smile and a few words of Italian will help you get whatever you need. However, if your Italian is bad, take someone fluent with you over to Como for your registration. It involves several steps including a visit to a Tabac for your “Bollo” or tax stamp, and a bank visit to pay your registration fees.
No official permission is needed by the holder of a Common Market passport to live or work in Campione. But all new residents – EU citizens or otherwise – are theoretically required to register after a continuous stay of more than three months.
This requirement is standard in Europe. Americans or non-EU citizens after three continuous months of residence theoretically need a residence permit. This is normally granted upon a showing of good character and sufficient assets. What is a good character and what are “sufficient” assets? In the old days, it might be sufficient to show a Visa credit card.
There is no restriction on foreigners owning or dealing in Campione real estate. There are no rent controls nor special concessions for locals. This is a unique feature in Campione. In most Europe, rent controls are in effect. New properties are usually exempt, but the rules change country by country.
Campione has a “free market” in real estate. New construction building permits are tough to get. To remodel or fix up interiors of your apartment or villa, generally, you don’t need any permit. Exterior changes –not so easy.
In Monaco, and much of Europe, older, pre-World War II apartments were reserved for established local citizens who pay ridiculously low rents to unfortunate property owners who are stuck with them for generations.
In Sark, locals have the first right of refusal on any property coming on the market and only British subjects can own freeholds. In Campione, there is a “level playing field” for old-timers, foreigners, and newcomers. House prices and rents tend to be about the same as comparables in adjoining Switzerland. Any property in Campione costs at least double comparable Italian prices.
Because in Campione old single-family homes were mostly torn down and replaced with apartment buildings, the main product on the market these days will be condominium apartments.
The cheapest condo, a studio with not much view would be about CHF 200,000. The cheapest freestanding small single-family home would cost over CHF 500,000. In the old town, a very small house with party walls would start at CHF 250,000. At the high end, a luxurious six-bedroom, six bath villa with private boat dock might be CHF 10,000,000. That is ten million.
You can Google apartments and houses for rent or sale in Campione. There are always a few. You will see pictures and prices.
Many rent or buy a studio apartment in Campione. A studio is legally sufficient for two people. For a larger family, a 1 bedroom apartment is required.
If they like the area, after a few years a typical new Campionese may rent a more spacious chalet and a few acres of land in one of the small nearby hamlets of Switzerland.
Renting an apartment or Villa in Switzerland or Italy is another attractive option for Campione residents. Because there are so many lakes, decent waterfront property or a rental house with a boat dock on Lake Lugano is available for as little as (rental) CHF 4,000 per month. This is the top end of the market.
Summer rentals are usually all taken at somewhat higher prices by German tourists. Tourists flood the area during June, July, August, and September. Smaller apartments in Campione can be rented as cheaply as CHF 600 per month on an annual basis.
The summer price would be double or triple. Most Campione property is owned “free and clear”. Bank loans are now available. Seller financed property is rare, and hard to find.
New arrivals will find Swiss (as opposed to Campione) requirements for foreign ownership of real estate hard to understand and cope with. Generally speaking, outside of a few designated resort areas, only Swiss and EU citizens can buy Swiss real estate.
Exceptions are made for prominent people like movie stars or super-rich individuals. Also, Swiss prices are exceedingly high by USA standards. Part of the reason for this has been the availability of low interest-only roll-over loans.
On a million-dollar Swiss home, a million dollar loan at 3% that never had to be repaid, was common. The owner paid the interest only, and the bankrolled over the loan every year. This arrangement allowed the homeowner to have a cash outlay of less than an Italian might be paying on a home of one-quarter the value.
If you are sure that you wanted to keep the same house for over 15 years, because of low, interest-only, perpetually renewable loans, carrying costs of Swiss property ownership will be cheaper than renting.
That is why some well-informed foreigners will buy Swiss property in spite of the many restrictive and discriminatory laws. These laws generally make Swiss property investments a very bad business investment for non-EU citizens.
Buying a Swiss property for the long-term may not be a bad idea because it is cheaper than renting. But you can’t walk away from a mortgage debt in Switzerland.
There is no bankruptcy, and non-payment of a debt is so unthinkable in Switzerland that it is not only considered gross immorality, it is a serious criminal offense. Funny because not paying taxes is not criminal in Switzerland.
The Italian attitude towards debt is much more casual. As a result, Swiss banks won’t lend money on Campione property unless one is a bank customer and has sufficient other assets on deposit – as security to cover the entire loan, “back-to-back”.
Real estate developers and brokers can, however, often arrange for Italian bank or insurance company guarantees of mortgage loans on new condo developments in Campione.
The interest rate on borrowed Euros tends to be about double the Swiss rates. Italian banks have lost experiences with customers to justify the difference. We always recommend renting for a while and looking over at least fifty real estate deals before committing yourself to buy.
For retired individuals, in particular, a permanent move to Campione and making it your home base is not a bad idea.
Around half of the dwellings are condominium apartments inhabited by “foreigners legally resident in Campione”. There are many new apartment buildings. The older apartments are cheaper in the old town because they get less sun and usually have no sea views.
Perhaps up to half of the ex-pat residents are absent at any one time, usually traveling abroad. The technical requirement is to be in physical residence over six months a year. But the local authorities now just want to see all the “legal residents” have a real apartment or house and show their faces from time to time.
Years ago, five millionaire Germans shared an unfurnished basement room. There was a scandal when the German tax inspector came to visit and verified that the Germans claiming Campione residence was never there.
Today, the residence needs to be real. You need a suitable, liveable apartment. Two people can occupy a studio; three people are expected to have a one or two-bedroom apartment. The author has found Campione a very pleasant place to live and an improvement in noisy “conspicuous consumption” Monaco.
However, it is a matter of personal taste. From a cost of living point of view, property ownership is roughly 10% of the cost of Monaco.
This Italian enclave enjoys a steeply sloping waterfront location. Lake Lugano is a swimming lake, but only if you like it cold. The best views are towards the exceptionally beautiful, historic city of Lugano, Switzerland.
Because Campione is a very small geographic area, every home is within walking distance of “downtown Campione”. The commercial area boasts a busy sightseeing boat dock in summer, the famous casino, a post office, and many small cafes and restaurants.
Shopping in Switzerland
Most Campionese do their shopping in Switzerland at the nearby commercial center called “Grancia”. You can’t miss it on the way to Lugano. There’s a huge IKEA, several supermarkets, electronics stores, pet supply stores, garden centers, fast food.
Every major exotic car dealer is in Grancia. Ferrari, Lotus, Lamborghini, Jaguar, Porsche, Mercedes, and all the ordinary cars too. Pretty much everything you could want or ever need can be found there. Downtown Lugano has all the large department stores including names like C&A and Migros. The high end, big-name high fashion shops are all on Via Nassa in Lugano.
Campione is not as “glitzy” as Monaco. There are no “boutiques”, furniture or clothing stores. They are all in neighboring towns. The local cost of living for rent and food in Italy is far less than Switzerland or the Riviera. Cars, appliances, and electronics tend to cost less in Switzerland than in the rest of Europe.
The usual European 33 % Value Added Tax (sort of a sales- tax) does not apply in Switzerland. The Swiss sales tax is normally about 5%. But it gets even better in Campione: No tax! If you buy an expensive car in Switzerland, with a Campione address you don’t even have to pay the Swiss tax.
Campione itself, along with Andorra, is one of the only communities in Europe where there was no VAT. (update: As of January 1st, 2020 Campione’s residents will be paying VAT)
Nonetheless, for the best selection and prices, we personally patronize the Hypermarkets and discount stores at a giant commercial shopping center just off the freeway in nearby Como, Italy.
The main stores there are Bennett and Carrefour. Inside Switzerland, just South of Campione there is another huge factory outlet operation called “Foxtown”. It is a genuine shopper’s paradise. Avoid crowds on weekends and save half on almost everything! Within Switzerland, the Migros discount chain (with stores in Lugano) always offers good values and discount prices.
A passenger boat (locally known as the Vaporetto) is available for pleasant sightseeing tours or daily lunch/dinner cruises around Lake Lugano.
Lugano with its many gourmet quality restaurants, hotels, luxury department stores, playhouses, banks, brokerage firms, night clubs, and bars is a major tourist destination.
There is a tourist office at the Lugano train station. The larger, main tourist office of Lugano with free maps and zillions of brochures is located next to the Burger King just off the main town square.
Lugano has one of the prettiest town squares in Europe. It is full of lively outdoor cafes and a big fountain. No cars! A wonderful place to stroll around. You can rent paddle boats or motor boats at the waterfront. World-class art museums, parks, and gardens are in downtown Lugano. Villa Ciano, next to the new Convention Centre is one of the many local tourist attractions. There are several universities including the American-run Franklin College.
Swiss Miniature Village, a favorite of children is just outside of Campione. In Swiss Miniature, all the famous buildings and landmarks of Switzerland are arranged into a tasteful little “scale model town” that the kiddies can wander through.
Houses are chest high, for a four-year-old, knee-high for adults. Located near Swiss Min is the gorgeous waterfront town of Morcote with many outdoor restaurants.
Music and dancing can accompany a late dinner. For the older kids, there is no shortage of discos—located near the previously described Grancia Commercial Centre.
The same area has a dozen car dealers including Lori Kessel Ferrari arguably, the largest Ferrari/Maserati dealership in the world. Museum-quality race cars are on display there because the late owner was Ferrari’s top driver. As a dealer, he had a special relationship with Ferrari.
The ancient and picturesque town square of Lugano has a charming old European atmosphere. It is filled (during warm weather months) with outdoor cafes and always has a festive atmosphere.
It is the site of the annual world-famous Lugano Jazz Concerts. Literally, hundreds of specialty shops, boutiques, and delicatessens on nearby Via Nassa are all open until after dark. There are several great homemade ice-cream (gelato) stores and an abundance of bars and pizza parlours.
Quaint Local Customs
The quaint local custom in European coffee shops and bars is to supply customers with free newspapers and magazines. Thus you can have a hot wine in winter, or a cold beer in summer, and always get a free local paper to read.
With luck, you will find the Wall Street Journal, Herald Tribune, Time, Newsweek, Financial Times, Economist, Playboy, or just about any English language publication.
If not, plenty of English language publications are available at local news kiosk on the day of issue. Swiss Radio and television have high-quality programming in German, French, Italian, and English.
Internet broadband connections are mostly free to customers in all hotels, and many fast-food restaurants (free to customers). If you live anywhere in Switzerland or in Campione, unlimited telephone calls and great internet broadband is available from Swiss- Com for around CHF 75 per month.
Day Trips from Campione d’Italia
Distances are very short in Europe. Since Switzerland is a small country crisscrossed by excellent freeways (no tolls), it is possible to go by car to Montreux, Geneva, Turin, or Zurich for some event and be back the same day. The freeways or autostradas in Switzerland require users to pay a once-a-year fee of around CHF 40 for a “Vignette” which is stuck on the windshield. In Switzerland.
Sports in Campione d’Italia
Other advantages unique to Campione include several nearby first-class mountain ski resorts. Some ski slopes are visible from your Campione home.
A short drive or boat trip plus a ride on the funicular railroad from Lugano can have you on some fine Swiss slopes in an hour. Or if you are energetic and like cross country skiing, you could hike up the slope behind Campione and be positioned to enjoy a day in Italy’s Alps, away from the crowds.
The more popular Swiss resorts are full of people in fancy sports-gear. Resorts like St. Moritz or Grindelwald are trendy and expensive. If you are a real “raggedy blue jeans” skier Italian local ski areas may be more suitable.
In our skiing days we found that instead of planning a ski-weekend and confronting bad weather, it was great being in Campione. There we could see skiers on nearby slopes with field glasses. We could jump in the car and go up the mountain only when the conditions were ideal. Powder snow and sunshine, a favorite combination is very often available. This was a great plus factor for me.
Campione is very big on Tennis. It has a complex of several municipal courts. Good lessons are available. It also has its own football (soccer) team and a sports complex worthy of a medium-sized city.
There is an excellent golf course near Lugano, and several others to choose from in the area. In and around Campione you will also be able to enjoy horseback riding, swimming, lung-busting cycling, and a visit to local gyms in Lugano. A trip to the Campione Tourist Office will tell you exactly what is available.
Ethnic Communities in Campione d’Italia
Rich Germans discovered Campione about twenty years ago. The German expatriate community is one of the largest local ethnic groups, coming after the Italians and followed by the Swiss. There are about two dozen American or British families. One extremely wealthy Arab owns and usually occupies a small palace on top of the hill. If you visit Campione, you can’t miss seeing this imposing structure. Look up to the end of the Campione switchback road known as Via Totone. Let me know if you ever hear of this “Villa Nada” coming up for sale at a bargain price. I’d be interested in it.