Sunday, October 17, 2021

Overview of the costumes of Ticino and "Italian Switzerland"


Hello all, 
Today I will be covering the folk costumes of Italian - speaking Switzerland, including the Canton of Ticino, and the valleys of Mesolcina, Bregaglia and Poschiavo in the Canton of Grigio or Graubunden. Most of these localities originally spoke variations of Lombard, which today is giving way to Standard Italian. In the latter two valleys, Romansch was a significant language in the past. The history of this region is complicated, and involved various conflicts between nascent Switzerland, Italy, Napoleon's Empire and others. In 1798, however, the inhabitants of Ticino voted to remain part of Switzerland, [except for the singe town of Campione, which remains an Italian exclave]. The canton is traditionally divided into 2 regions, Sottoceneri and Sopraceneri.

For this article I have relied heavily on the drawings of Rachele Giudici, who left us a valuable record of the culture of this region. 

Here is a linguistic map of Switzerland. 

Here are two maps of Ticino, showing physical features, and a schematic of the locations of the various valleys and their names. 


This part of the Canton, relatively low-lying and more populous, is found south of the Monte Ceneri Pass.

Mendrisiotto and Lugano

This is the southernmost region of Ticino, and culturally is completely Lombard. The local costume is identical to that found across the border in Brianza and other neighboring parts of Lombardy. I have written a more in depth article on this costume. This costume is characterized by a sun shaped headdress formed of many silver hairpins, 'la raggiera'.

Val Colla

This valley is found to the northeast of Lugano, and is drained by the Cassarate River, which empties into Lake Lugano. 

Alto Malcantone

This area is found to the northwest of Lugano, and consists of the valley of the Magliasina River. 


This is located north of the Monte Ceneri pass. This is much larger geographically, but includes many high mountains and has fewer inhabitants. 


This consists of the City of Locarno and the northern part of Lago Maggiore. The costume here is again reminiscent of that of lowland Lombardy.

Centovalli  and Valle Onsernone

These valleys lie northwest of Locarno, Centovalli lies in the valley of the Melezza River. Onsernone is a side valley on the north. There is a local Museum of Folk Culture between the villages of Isorno and Loco. 

Val Maggia

This is one of the major valleys of northwestern Ticino. There are a couple different costumes in use. The following images are not defined further, making me assume that they are from the main course of this valley. 

1 Main Valley

This last image is of a group which works to maintain the costume and traditions of this valley. Here is a video of one of their presentations of Folk Culture. 


This village is located in the upper Valle Maggia, where the two rivers converge from the upper valleys. Here are some sketches by Rachele Giudici of the costume of this community. 

2 Fusio, Peccia, Lavizzara

This side valley lies in the northeast of Val Maggia and is labelled 2 on the map above. 

3 Bosco Gurin

This is a side valley on the western side of Val Maggia, labelled 3 on the map above. While Ticino is overwhelmingly Italian [Lombard] speaking, the upper reaches of this valley are inhabited by Allemanic [German] speaking Walser, who colonized this valley from Val Famazza in northeastern Piemonte, and ultimately from Canton Wallis in Switzerland. 

Val Verzasca

This costume has some similarity to that of Val Maggia, having a long gown with no real waist. This is often put forth as the typical costume of Ticino. 

Valle Leventina

This region lies in the north of the canton. The valley  is fairly wide and has some large towns, which add an urban feel to some of the costumes. 

Country costumes;

Town costume from this valley;




This first photo shows Rachele Giudici [center] in Giornico. 

Val Blenio

This valley lies in the northeast of the canton, and officially forms a district. 

Costume of the head of the valley, in the northwest. 

This costume is from Olivone, in the northeast of the valley. 

Aquila, somewhat further down the valley. 

The lower valley, around Malvaglia. 

These images are from somewhere in this valley. The sources do not specify. 


The lower reaches of the Ticino River valley is called Riviera, after one of the main towns. 

These costumes are from around Biasca, at the upper end of this region. 

These are from further down the valley, around Riviera itself. 


This region is in the east central part of the canton, around the major city of Bellinzona. 

This concludes the Canton of Ticino, but I will continue and also cover the Italian speaking valleys of the Canton of Grigio, or Graubunden. 

Val Calanca

Val Calanca officially lies in Graubunden, but is contiguous with Ticino, and forms part of the same river basin. It lies just east of Riviera.

Val Mesolcina

This valley lies just upriver from Bellinzone, and while it belongs to Graubunden, it forms part of the same physical area as Ticino. 

Val Bregaglia

Val Bregaglia used to be Romansch speaking, but today is mostly Italian speaking. I have been able to find very little on the costume. This image looks very Romansch.

Val Poschiavo

Val Poschiavo lies further east than the rest of these valleys. It is surrounded on three sides by Lombardy, and the costume is definitely Italianate. Note that there are two distinct costumes, One much dressier than the other. The dressy costume does resemble the image from Val Bregaglia shown just above. 

Here is a video showing a festival of folk costume in Val Poschiavo. You can also see guests from other parts of the Canton in German and Romansch costumes. 

And that concludes my overview of the costumes of Italian speaking Switzerland. 
Thank you for reading, I hope that you have found this to be interesting and informative. 

Roman K. 



  1. One can see the older clothing changing as the newer town elements show. Interesting to see old bodices and pleated skirts with leg o'mutton sleeve - 1830?
    Thank you. Charlotte in California

    1. Rachele was born in 1887 and did most of her sketches in the early 20th cent. She was of course most interested in older forms of dress that had been retained as traditional.

  2. I just loved those costumes. I think traditional dresses are better now.

  3. Really interesting! Thank you! I really love your blog by the way. I found it while searching for Ukranian clothing/embroidery.

  4. Wow a great blog, thanks for sharing I just loved all the traditional costumes. Kidoriman also provides traditional costumes which you may check on the Kidoriman Review Section.

  5. Hi Roman, I enjoy your posts, however I'd like to subscribe but can't seem to find that function on the website. Could you help me please? Alexandra B.

    1. AT the top left of the screen there is a function that shows some of the people who follow the blog. Beneath that is a button labeled 'follow'. just press that

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