Campione is a small satellite community of about 3800 people. This drops to under 2000 in the winter months, even though winters in Campione are quite mild and usually without snow.
It is not as rural as Sark and certainly not a miniature Manhattan like Monaco. There are no highrise buildings. Around 75 per cent of the dwellings are condominium apartments inhabited by “foreigners resident in Campione”. Perhaps half of them are absent at any one time, usually travelling abroad.
ENTERTAINMENT, SIGHTS AND SCENERY
This enclave enjoys a steeply sloping waterfront location across the lake – a swimming lake, if you like it cold – from the exceptionally beautiful, historic city of Lugano, Switzerland. Because Campione is a very small geographic area, every home is within walking distance of the centre. This commercial area boasts busy passenger-boat docks, the famous casino, a post office and no more than a dozen small stores and restaurants. A passenger ferry, locally known as the Vaporetto has frequent departures for the pleasant 20 minute ride to Lugano with its many gourmet quality restaurants, hotels, luxury department stores, theatres, banks, brokerage firms, night clubs and bars.
The world-class Thyssen-Romemisza art collection and gardens at Villa Favorita, near Lugano, has been one of the many local tourist attractions. However, the owner, angered by a steep Swiss tax increase, has decided to move the best items in his collection to the Prado museum in Madrid as of 1993. Just outside Campione is the Swiss Miniature Village, a favorite of children. In “Swiss Min”, all the famous buildings and landmarks of Switzerland are arranged into a tasteful little “town” that the kiddies can wander through. Houses are chest high for a four year old, knee high for adults. Located next to “Swiss Min” is Villa Romantica, one of many waterfront restaurants where music and dancing accompany a late dinner. For the older kids, there is no shortage of discos. The ancient and picturesque town square of Lugano has a charming old European atmosphere. During warm weather it is filled with outdoor cafes and always has a festive atmosphere. Literally hundreds of speciality shops, boutiques and delicatessens are open until after dark. There are several good ice-cream parlours and an abundance of bars. There are even a few night clubs and “live porno shows”, which surprised me. The fact that they were there, not the shows themselves! Switzerland does have such things. There is even a Thai massage parlour in Lugano.
A quaint local custom in coffee shops and bars is to supply free newspapers and magazines to customers. Thus you can have a mulled wine in winter or a cold beer in summer and always get a free local paper to read. With luck you may find the Wall Street Journal, Herald Tribune, Time, Newsweek, Financial Times, Economist, Playboy or just about any English language publication at our favourite, the Investor Bar, near the Lugano post office. If not free they will be available at local news kiosks on the day of issue. Radio and television has high quality programing in German, French, Italian and English, including two local TV stations including TeleCampione, two local radio stations and all Swiss and Italian stations nationwide, whether they be state, private, national or local. Video taped movies in all languages are available for rent. Cable or satellite now brings in everything, including a dozen English language stations.
Distances are very short in Europe. Since Switzerland is a small country criss-crossed by excellent freeways, it is possible to go by car to Montreux, Geneva, Turin or Zurich for some event and be back the same day. Instead of paying tolls, one buys an annual windshield sticker for Sfr 30. Austria is also close enough for a day trip. Paris, Munich, Prague, Budapest, Genoa, Monte Carlo and Venice are all within a four to ten hour drive.
For the tax haven seeker who also loves classical music, ballet, or avant-garde theater, Campione may have an edge over Monaco if only because of the nearby big-city facilities of Milan and Lugano. Because there are no industrial plants in the vicinity, Campione’s clean air, verdant foliage and sub-Alpine flora make for an exceedingly healthy and inspiring environment. Palm trees grow on the sandy beach of Campione, indicative of the unusual and unexpectedly mild climate. The water of Lake Lugano is crystal clear sky blue. Almost every day brings ideal breezes for sailing. A network of waterways seems to go on endlessly through Switzerland and Italy. The cost of keeping a yacht in Campione would be about one-fifth the cost of a similar boat in Monaco. But you can go on the water every day without owning a boat. The same ferry system already mentioned has Vaporetto connections to many other towns in Italy and Switzerland. These ferry boats provide a refreshing way of getting to nearby towns, reminiscent of those in Venice.
Going for a Vaporetto ride is ideal for making friends and enjoying the scenery. You can rent rowing boats, motor boats and sailing boats in the bigger lakeside towns.
Would you be comfortable in Campione? The only way to know is to stay there for a month or so. There are no first-class hotels in Campione per se, but there are many hotels and vacation apartments in the vicinity. One inexpensive gast haus with more gast than haus, the Bellevue, is right in town. In nearby Lugano, there is a much wider selection of rental units. You might want to try the Utoring Apartments (by the week) in Lugano or just outside Campione, at the entry arch. Except for weekends, there are plenty of parking places and good tables at local restaurants. The Tavema is the best, see the Resource List at the back of this book for more recommendations. Most people you’d be likely to come in contact with will speak English. I personally rate Campione very highly for quality of life, privacy, peace and quiet, communications, political stability and other factors important to me.