Boundaries. – Within the current borders, established at the Vienna Congress in 1815, Switzerland covers an area of 41,294.9 sq km. The border line (1854.5 km.) Has a sinuous and irregular path, especially in China, where the Canton of Ticino enters, roughly, in the shape of a triangle, in the Italian region, and only partially coincides with natural limits. The longest border is precisely the one that divides Switzerland from Italy (733 km.), Assigning to the former some strips of the southern side of the Alps: upper Ticino basin, Val Bregaglia (crossed by the Mavia, tributary of Lake Como), Val di Poschiavo (Adda basin), Val Monastero (Adige basin).
Switzerland is located at the southern edge of middle Europe and owes its individuality mainly to being an alpine and inland state, located between countries of intense exchange, which, in correspondence with the Alps – the greatest obstacle to communication in Europe – they are forced to follow some obligatory steps. The first nucleus of the state, consisting of the Alpine cantons of Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden, was formed in the 10th century. XIII as a “state of step” to guard the way down from the Gotthard Pass to the Reuss valley to the Rhine, a few decades after the otherwise impassable route of the upper valley of the Reuss. In the century XIV, these mountain communities were joined by those of Bern, Lucerne, Zurich, shopping centers on the roads from Italy to Germany. If the confederation subsequently extended outside the Alpine world to the Jura, it was to ensure the outlet of the roads descending from the Alps in the corridor between them and the Jura and the obligatory passage between the Jura and the Black Forest (watched by Basel) so all these roads lead into the middle Rhine valley, in the heart of Europe.
It is also not without significance that the greatest expansion of Switzerland on the southern side of the Alps is in the Canton of Ticino, where the road and the railway run down from the China Gottardo towards the Po Valley.
Due to its function as a transit country, Switzerland is intimately linked with its neighboring countries, from which it is closely dependent due to its internal position, without access to the sea. Its economy has also developed in such a way as to make it intimately linked abroad, both for purchases and for sales, while the ethnic structure resulting from the coexistence of the nationalities of neighboring countries is the tangible expression of its international character.
The northernmost point of Switzerland is at 47 ° 48 ′ 32 ″ in the canton of Schaffhausen; the southernmost at 45 ° 49 ′ 2 ″ in the Canton of Ticino; the westernmost point is at 5 ° 57 ′ 26 ′ ′ long. E. in the Canton of Geneva; the easternmost at 10 ° 29′40 ″ in the Canton of Grisons.
Fauna. – The whole Swiss wildlife complex, due to its geographical position and the orographic nature of the country, has characteristics purely of alpine fauna. Among the Mammals we will notice the presence of the marmot, the snow vole, the alpine hare, the alpine shrew, various bats. It is worth noting the great rarity of a typical resident of the high peaks: the ibex, now very limited in its distribution and protected by special measures, but which was once common in the Swiss mountains.
The avifauna is very interesting: typical species of the high mountainous areas are the sordone, the alpine cinzia, the rampart that rises to the limit of perpetual snow, the peephole, the snow finch, the alpine swift, the bearded vulture, etc.
The Reptiles do not offer noteworthy species and so do the Amphibians, except, the latter, for the presence of the Salamandra atra, which very rarely descends below 850 msm. Numerous forms of freshwater fish. For the invertebrates we will notice the presence of the glacial flea among the insects, the glacial phalanx among the arachnids and the glacial vitrina among the terrestrial molluscs.
Economic conditions. – Since its origins, Switzerland has been a trading country guarding important European trade routes; and even today the function of transit country is at the fore in its economic life. But the whole economy of the state has organized itself in such a way that it cannot live without abroad, just as the various regions inside could not live without one another. Agriculture has increasingly specialized towards the cultivation of natural and artificial meadows and the breeding of livestock, which feeds a thriving dairy industry, while arable crops have shrunk more and more, so much so that Switzerland has to resort for the most part of its food abroad, and, albeit exporting in large quantities some products of livestock breeding, the trade balance of agricultural products, on the whole, marks an excess of imports. In exchange, Switzerland exports industrial products, generally of high cost, to manufacture which, however, must import a large part of the raw material from abroad. Due to its close relations with foreign countries, Switzerland was strongly affected by the repercussions of the world war and the crises that followed, as well as the tendency towards economic self-sufficiency in other states.