Discover Morcote

Morcote’s coat of arms is green and red, the colours of hope and courage. The green lower half features a sow with numerous suckling piglets, a symbol of abundance and fertility that owes its origins to the Antonian monks of Vienne, who established themselves in Morcote in the Middle Ages and used it as their emblem. The red upper section features a shepherdess seated on a pile of wheat sheaves in a flower-filled meadow, symbolising the municipal freedom achieved by the people of Morcote from the chief magistrate and the castellan.


The name Morcote derives from the Proto-Latin term MORA, which indicates a stony area, and CAPUT, which means head or end. MORAE CAPUT therefore means end of the mountain or rock, the tip of the peninsula.


The expression used to describe an inhabitant of Morcote for the first time appears in a document from 926: HABITATOR IN MURCAU. During the ancient village of Morcò’s period of greatest splendour, the settlement evolved in the shape of an amphitheatre and extended from Vico Morcote to Porto Ceresio, then called Porto Morcote.


If the papal chronicles are to be believed, the family of Anicetus the martyr, who was pope from 157 to 168, originally came from Vico Morcote. It is therefore possible that Morcote’s history goes back much further.


Until 1847, the year the Melide dam was constructed, Morcote was a flourishing commercial site and intense trade took place there, as it was the biggest harbour on Lake Lugano.


Large barges and rafts shuttled between Morcote and Porto Ceresio, transporting passengers and goods. They were the quickest way to travel to Varese, Como and Milan.


In 1412, the people of Morcote obtained exceptional statutes, privileges and the coat of arms from the Dukes of Milan. For the village’s 2000 inhabitants, this meant autonomy and therefore the faculty to proclaim a popular republic in order to administer the public good. A small parliament elected the chief magistrate, two consuls, twelve judges and the captain. The people of Morcote were also responsible for their own justice and the executioner carried out death sentences near the executioner’s chapel, on the outskirts of the village in the direction of Figino. In addition to fishing rights in the bay of Porto Morcote and on the River Poiana near Brusino, all the way to Forca di San Martino near Paradiso, the privileges also included market rights, such as the sale of fish in Milan, and exoneration from tolls.


In exchange for these rights, the people of Morcote paid 100 florins initially to the Visconti family, then to the Sforza family, the Rusca family, the Sanseverino family, the Spanish, the French, the Austrians and, most recently, during the three centuries of Swiss rule, to the reeve (Landvogt). Vico Morcote and Arbostora were areas of summer residence, favoured by noble patrician families. Various regions, such as the outskirts of San Giorgio, Finate, Campo di Prete, Pian Porto and Carabietta, were colonised during this flourishing period. Only the plague, which broke out in 1432, inflicted a harsh blow on the splendour of this era: it struck with such force that the members of just seven families survived.


The years that followed the plague coincided with the start of the history of Morcote’s most famous inhabitants and their families. Engineers, architects, painters, sculptors, stucco masons, chisellers, doctors, scientists, writers and artisans helped to shape Western culture in numerous European countries.


The 1984 almanac of the Swiss Society of Genealogical Studies mentions a list, drawn up by Sylvia Palombo-Fossati, which features the names of more than 100 noteworthy members of families from Morcote. In 1623, the famous architect Giuseppe Fossati founded the Comacini Morcotesi school, or rather the school for artisans, which prepared children for emigration and for long future years of itinerant apprenticeship.


Particularly bright scholars could enrol at the age of ten, while the less gifted were usually only admitted to courses at the age of twelve. The training lasted three years.

Alongside Fossati himself, lessons were also taught by the painter Pietro Isella (Schönbrunn castle), the engineers Caccia and Paleari, the painter Maspoli, the sculptor Tiravanti and many others over the course of the centuries.


The priest in office often held the chair of drawing teacher, taught Italian and allowed the most gifted to learn Latin as a second language. Once their training was complete, the thirteen- or fourteen-year-old boys followed their fellows to other countries, with a view to finding adequate employment as a painter, restorer, stucco mason or sculptor.


The opening of the cantonal drawing school in Morcote in 1902 led to the closure of the Comacini Morcotesi school.


Taken from “Morcote La perla del Ceresio”

by Adriano Antonini – Carlo Meazza, published by Macchione

Twinned with Viarmes



Val d'Oise, France

4'700 inhabitants



Cantone Ticino, Switzerland

750 inhabitants


Origin of the twinning

The twinning between Morcote and Viarmes was advocated in the 1950s by Pierre Salvi, who was mayor of the French town at the time. Following a trip to Ticino, he was fascinated by the beauty and history of the village overlooking Lake Lugano. Salvi, who passed away in 1989, put his idea forward and it was accepted by the mayor of Morcote, Rolando Fedele, and implemented by his successor Martino Perlasca, with the support of forward-thinking local figures. New authorities have taken over the leadership of the respective municipalities over the years and have always helped to keep this link alive.


Nature of the relationship

The enthusiastic participation of local people has transformed initiatives designed to get to know each other and exchanges into examples of solidarity and understanding between peoples of different cultures. The summer colony certainly represents one of the most significant and productive examples of the understanding that has bound the two communities together for over forty years. Thanks to exchanges between young people, the families of the two regions have established mutual friendships. The agreement between Morcote and Viarmes also involves local societies. Regular exchanges of documentation, books, artworks and crafts help them learn more about each other.



These ties of sincere friendship are reinforced every five years with the renewal of the twinning act, which takes place in the respective municipalities in the presence of representatives from both locations.

Municipality data


Municipality name

Comune di Morcote





Neighbouring municipalities

 Vico Morcote, Lugano
Surface area 2,8 Km2
Altitude272 m a.s.l.
Regulatory planApproved in 2002
Land groupingConcluded

Tax multiplier


Torna su

Municipal chancery
Riva da Sant Antoni 10
CH-6922 Morcote
Tel. +41 91 986 00 00

Opening hours

Mon 14.00 - 17.00
Tue 08.00 - 12.00 / 14.00 - 18.00
Wed 14.00 - 17.00
Thu 14.00 - 17.00
Fri 14.00 - 16.00