ABSTRACT. This article critiques the ‘cultural turn’ in Italian Risorgimento historiography by examining Italian Switzerland, and specifically Ticino. This area paradoxically aided and abetted Italian patriots, especially Giuseppe Mazzini, yet rejected becoming part of the Italian national project. This paradox is heightened by the fact that the vast majority of the Italian nationalist literary canon, as identified by Alberto Maria Banti, was republished in Ticino. The paradox is explained in terms of the conflict between long-standing traditions of local autonomy and the idea of any form of uniform or centralised control, as originally represented by the Cisalpine Republic and then by both versions (Napoleonic and Piedmontese) of the Kingdom of Italy. However, I also use Banti's cultural concepts to demonstrate the creation of a powerful counter-myth of Italian Swiss nationalism in the character of William Tell.