City ofCampione Italia & Casino of Campione d’Italia


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Lungo lago Campione particullary- Photo by Franco D'Aria

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The history of Campione d'Italia

The City > The history of Campione d'Italia (18 July 2006)

The earliest settlements in the territory of Campione, prior to the 4th century B.C., were established by protoLigurian populations dominated by the Celts, who arrived into the Ticinese region from the northwest of Europe.

During the Roman period, the consul Cornelius Scipio established a colony, tra nsferring 5000 settlers into the region in 77B.C. in order to fend off invading barbarians who came from the North.
The presence of Greeks in the territory is attested by the discovery of coins in the town of Cademario, where a colony of Greek merchants established themselves in order to facilitate the traDing of merchandise. The etymology of Campione is uncertain, since according to some scholars the name derives from Campi Liei or Campilyeus (the fields of Bacchus, apparently indicating the local production of wine), while other scholars claim that the name derives from Campi Illionum (namely, camps of ltalian Greeks or perhaps Trojans or even, Byzantines).
Despite the absence of a proper system of roads, navigation on the Lake of Lugano (Ceresio), other nearby lakes, Verbano (Lago Maggiore) and Lario (Lago di Como) and the rivers that flow through the plains to the south of the Alps, permitted the ancient inhabitants to be in close contact with the commercial and political centers of the plains, in particular with Mediolanum (Milan) and Paviae (Pavia).

In AD 571, the Longobard population, which hailed from Veneto and Friuli, settled in Pavia, their capital city. Later, their leader Rothari (crowned King of the Longobards in 636) offered particular praise towards the "Comacini" (people of Como), who were known for the construction of fortifications for the Romans. They are cited in the Edict of 643 where the Magistri Comacini and their associates or members are mentioned as experts in the art  of masonry and building in general.
The wife of Rothari, Gundeberga, was  German Catholic, like the entire Gundualdi family which possessed extensive lands, some of which lay in the territory of Campione; this land was handed down through a hereditary agreement to Totone II, the son of Arochis, Lord of Campione (who died between 777 and 781). His direct line of descendency in the Longobard royal family and consequent relations with the Lords of nearby lands, facilitated the penet ration of the Campione Masters into numerous cities in northern Italy where their abilities of stone laying were soon recognized - so much so that the corporation of the Campione Masters was recognized aiong with the Masters of Como. The Campione Masters play a decisive role in the construction of important monuments, including the Cathedrais of Monza, Modena, Bergamo and Milan. The seasonal nature of construction work created a population of immigrants who left their homeland in the early Spring and only returned with the first frosts of Winter. It is tipical of those who work away from home for long periods of time to have a strong sense of attachment to one's origins, where familiar affections and traditions are preserved. Twenty years prior to his death Totone II formulated a testament whereby upon his death he left  his house, his lands, his servants and everything else to the Diocese of Milan, more specfìcally, to Archbishop Tommaso who, in turn, entrusted the feudal estate of Campione to the Monastery of St. Ambrose. The sole obligation was that the monastery had to supply oil for the votive lamps of the basilicas of St. Nazaro, St. Victor al Corpo and St. Lawrence in Milan. Totone also manifested the desire that his house would be transformed into a xenodochius (from the Greek xenios, guest) or an establishment where visitors who were passing through the region could find a comfortable place to rest.
According to some historians,  Totone's liberality was not infused with religious motives alone; he also realized that since he had heen married in Como by Castelseprio the political-religious center consequently dominated by the Francs, who replaced the Longobards, the institution of a guest residence on the more pleasant portion of Lake Ceresio, in front of Lugano, would lead to the development of the town fame and its potential as a mercantile center.
The cleverly designed obligation to supply  oil for votive lamps in the churches of Milan reinforced the cle connection with the monastery of St. Ambrose, to which Campione was associated as  a feudal estate, and removed it from the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Como. According to local statutes drawn up in 1266, it appears that in addition to oil, half of all agricultural goods raised in Campione were to be handed over to the Monastery/Feudal Lords and housed in a caste located at  the center of town, near the church of S. Zeno.

 The castle, which only exists in small  traces today, was used until the end of the 1600's as the place where the population of Campione could seek refuge during periods of epidemics, since there were no difficulties in sustaining them selves and, thus, no need for contact with the outside world. It was also the seat of the Vicar named by the monks of St. Ambrose, who administered civil and criminal justice until the French Revolution according to an ancient custom followed for centuries.
The solid administrative capabilities of the Ambrosian monks succeeded in resisting Swiss plans to annex the territory.
On February 12th, 1797 the secular power of the monks was substituted by a form of government inspired by the French Revolution; however, the Vicar of Campione maintained the title Abate Mitrato (he was allowed Io wear the Episcopal robes although he was not actually a bishop) and the noble title Count of Campione. These titles were maintained as recently as the early 2Oth century in laws affecting the Italian nobility issued by Victor Emanuel III.
it appears that after having been subsumed by numerous departments within the Administration of the territory of Lombardy, the residents of Campione manifested the firm will to remain faithful to the Monastery of SI. Ambrose rather than pass into the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Como. Nevertheless, it seems that the principal reason for this choice (in truth, not very noble) was to observe the Ambrosian rites as they were in the Diocese of Milan rather than follow the Roman rites adopted in the Diocese of Como, which meant that in Milan the Carnival celebration lasted until Sunday, while in Como the festivities ended on the previous Tuesday.
During the Lombard-Veneto reign, Campione was administratively linked to the 9th District of the province of Como and was known as Campione d'Intelvi. This name was maintained until 1865 when the name was simplified to Campione; a decree mandated in December 1933 formalized the name of the municipality to its modem version, Campione d'Italia.
The anomalous geographic position of this stretch of Italian land, where  the Municpality is governed by a Town Council and a Mayor who is democratically elected by the people and respects italian law is assured by the presence of Carabinieri and the Municipal Police, but has caused several curious episodes through the years. One such instance occurred in 1866 when the Italian authorities were required to ask permission from Switzerland to enter the territory of Campione in order to arrest a band of foreigners who had settled in the area.
Another oddity is the obligation of military officials to turn over their arms to the commander of the barge in order to move from Italian territory to Campione or vice versa, because they have to cross a Swiss section of the Lake Lugano; they may retrieve their arms upon docking.