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capital of Ticino canton, southern Switzerland, on the Ticino River, at the junction of roads to the St. Gotthard, Lukmanier, and San Bernardino passes, east of Locarno. Possibly of Roman origin, it was first mentioned in AD 590 and played a considerable part in the early history of Lombardy because of its strategic location. A possession of the bishops of Como in the 8th century, it was the object of continuous conflict between the Lombardian cities of Como and Milan in the 14th and 15th centuries. Occupied by the French (with the other Milanese lands) in 1499, it was taken by Uri canton in 1500, and the French king ceded it to Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden cantons in 1503. It became the capital of the Bellinzona canton of the Helvetic Republic in 1798 and in 1803 became the joint capital, with Locarno and Lugano, of the newly formed Ticino canton. It has been the permanent political capital of the canton since 1878.