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Italianità in Switzerland: cultural exchange that lasts

On September 7, 2016, Sion hosted around a hundred representatives of the world of culture and politics as well as Switzerland’s italophile and italophone community. At the heart of the discussions: being Italian in Switzerland («l’italianité en Suisse»). The Valais State Councillor Esther Waeber-Kalbermatten opened a round table devoted entirely to this subject, recognised as a living tradition in her canton in 2012. Organised by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia and the Office for Culture of the Canton of Valais, the meeting «Italianità e(s)t Suisse» was broadcast in full by a temporary radio installed on the premises.

What types of «italianità» really exist in Switzerland? It is questions like this one and many others that were addressed on September 7 by around a hundred actors from the cultural, political and associative world in Sion’s Médiathèque Valais. Among them, several interest groups including the Italianità parliamentary intergroup, the Association Italia-Valais and Coscienza svizzera underlined the multiple facets of being Italian in Switzerland, while confronting them with questions of identity which are at the heart of the political debate.

A living tradition in the Valais

The event was primarily intended to make its mark in the regional context. The Valais is in fact the canton that had suggested retaining l’italianità in the National List of Living Traditions, which was achieved in 2012. State Councillor Esther Waeber-Kalbermatten was there to remind us of this. Her talk served as an introduction to the round table which enlivened the evening, together with that of the President of Pro Helvetia Charles Beer, whose speech addressed the issue from a national perspective: «Italianità has been rooted in Switzerland’s social reality since the time of the great industrial construction sites. Today it’s part of our historical, social, cultural and political reality.»

Under the apt title «Italianità e(s)t Suisse», this bilingual gathering was thus the opportunity to recall the multiple relations that exist between Switzerland and il Bel Paese, the historical facts that unite them and the current situation on the emigration front. The meeting was the last event that took place in the context of «Viavai – Contrabbando culturale Svizzera-Lombardia», a programme initiated in 2013 by Pro Helvetia (www.viavai-cultura.net). «Viavai» aimed to strengthen the cooperation between the cultural actors on the frontier between Italy and Switzerland, respectively between Lombardy and the cantons of Valais and the Ticino, as well as the city of Zurich.

The discussions, interviews and testimonies were the subject of a live broadcast by the roaming Radio Tramontana. They can be heard again on www.radiotramontana.cc.


Media information: Romain Galeuchet, Communication,

Tel. +41 44 267 71 32, rgaleuchet@prohelvetia.ch

Media Release of the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, 07.09.2016

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