Switzerland is one of the oldest political units in Europe. The Central Alps, cradle of the first confederation formed by Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, have helped to safeguard an independence that has survived the disappearance of similar political constructions. Switzerland, a singular example of the adaptation of a human community and its political organization to a mountainous and fragmented physical environment by its nature, has defended its identity and its cultural expressions over the centuries, which have deep roots in the Alpine world. The territory is characterized by a plot of large and small valleys, generally not communicating with each other, in which particularisms find conditions very suitable to perpetuate themselves over time. In this sense, Switzerland is among the most conservative European countries; but it is also, in some ways, among the most modern because it has been able to develop and integrate forms of protection organization, with a federative structure, of its local autonomies and of its “Cantons”, in full respect of those peculiarities of the relationship between man and nature which in mountain regions is particularly evident but also fragile. Switzerland is one of the nations that has best been able to take advantage of environmental constraints, maintaining its unity in spite of physical and cultural fragmentation (just think of the four languages declared national), but it has also been able to adapt to modern life while maintaining a tenacious bond with the values of history and tradition. Its position between central (Germanic) and Latin Europe, between the Catholic and Protestant world, has allowed it to come into contact with the major European cultural experiences, to then make it a driving force in its relationship with the rest of the world. continent. Sanctified since 1815, col Congress of Vienna, a policy of neutrality to prevent its splitting up for the benefit of its powerful neighbors, and without giving up any aspect of its sovereignty. For these reasons it was not involved in the two world wars and was able, in an era of growing international tensions, to act with extraordinary ability as an intermediary between nations, hosting many international institutions and non-governmental organizations. It therefore represents a sort of “political oasis”, even if this neutrality, as well as a guarantee of peace and internal stability, appears to be placed at the service of the most varied economic interests and lucrative commercial advantages. The economic situation of the last decade has remained substantially favorable: the flexibility of the labor market, a consolidated social peace, contribute to this. the good trend in consumption and the monetary policy of the Central Bank, aimed at balancing the Swiss franc against the euro and the dollar. However, the country lost five positions in the special ranking of world competitiveness drawn up by the IMD of Lausanne, falling, in 2001, from 5th to 10th place.
The hydrographic network is remarkably articulated and includes three main river basins: that of the Rhine, which flows towards the North Sea and affects approx. 70% of the territory; that of the Rhone (16%), which goes down to the Mediterranean; that of the Po (10%), directed to the Adriatic. Less important (only 4% of the national territory, all included in the Canton of Grisons) are the basins of the Danube (directed towards the Black Sea and of which the Inn is tributary) and of the Adige to which the Ram flows, which plows through the Val Monastero. The hydrographic hub of the country, one of the most complex in the entire Alpine system, is the Gotthard, from which the Rhine, the Aare, its largest tributary and Swiss river par excellence (as it is the only one that flows entirely in Swiss territory and which with its tributaries collects the waters of the entire Mittelland and those of many of the major lakes), the Rhone, Ticino, tributary of the Po. The courses of the Swiss rivers, which have a nival regime, with spring and summer floods, are interrupted by reservoirs of glacial origin today occupied by lakes, which constitute a characteristic element of Swiss geography. Large lake basins occupy basins carved and shaped by the glaciers at the foot of the Alps or the Jura; the largest are those of Geneva (or Geneva; 581 km², of which 347 km² in Switzerland, and the remainder in France), fed by the Rhone, and that of Constance (or Boden; 539 km², of which only 171 km² Swiss, the others divided between Germany and Austria), fed by the Rhine. Other important lakes are located in the Mittelland (Lake Zurich, of the Four Cantons etc.) and on the internal side of the Alps. Lake Lugano is located in the Canton of Ticino (shared with Italy), which flows into Lake Maggiore via the river Tresa, which is also crossed by the Italian-Swiss border. Finally, another important lake is that of Neuchâtel, in the depression of the Aare.
Subject mainly to Atlantic influences in its central-northern portions and, secondarily, to Mediterranean influences in the more limited southern areas, Switzerland enjoys a relatively temperate climate. However, despite having a very limited territory, there are considerable regional variations in the country due to the different exposure of the slopes and the presence of large lake masses, which exert a certain mitigating action. The distribution of precipitation is rather uneven, depending on the prevailing winds and the relief: so the Atlantic humid winds find an obstacle in the Jura, for which they mostly discharge before reaching the Mittelland. Precipitation increases approaching the Pre-Alps and the Alps, where they reach their maximum (2000-3000 mm per year) around 2000 m, and in the Bernese Alps. 3/4 of the territory record rainfall of approx. 1000 mm per year. The middle Rhone valley is the driest area (600-700 mm), together with the Rhine plain and the portion of the Mittelland at the foot of the Jura. The duration of snow cover varies for the lower regions from a few days in Ticino and Geneva to two months in the Canton of St. Gallen; the Gotthard is one of the areas that receive the highest annual amounts of snow.
According to findjobdescriptions, the average annual temperature in Switzerland is around 8 ºC at an altitude between 400 and 500 m, with highest values in the Canton of Ticino (Lugano, 12 ºC) and naturally lower in the Alps (Gran San Bernardo, – 2ºC). The Atlantic cyclonic air masses, which bring about perturbations, alternate during the year with the anticyclonic ones of Central-Eastern Europe; we thus have a field of variable winds, with humid and moderating masses of SW, dry and continental winds of NE, such as the bise. The föhn is of particular importance, typical warm and dry alpine wind, capable of raising the temperature by several degrees; its intensity, its dryness and the high temperature influence many aspects of the landscape: in spring it favors the melting of the snow, the awakening of the vegetation and the early exploitation of the pastures; in autumn it facilitates the ripening of grapes or corn.