BeanScene Magazine

Trentino Alto Adige - worlds apart

From the May 2014 issue.
Trentino Alto Adige - worlds apart

Trentino Alto Adige is a natural wonderland boasting many impressive sites – from the world-famous Dolomites mountain range in the north to the stunning Lake Garda in the south. It is also a land where three different cultures now sit in harmony.

By Danielle Gullaci

Trentino Alto Adige is as revered for its snow-capped mountains, lush valleys and impressive lakes, as it is for its castles and gorgeous little towns that play host to many festivals and markets.

It is Italy’s northernmost region, bordering Austria and Switzerland. Here, the characteristics of Italy and Austria are flawlessly intertwined. Italian and German are recognised as official languages, and as such, street signs are written in both languages. A third language, Ladin, is also spoken in some mountain areas.

Trentino Alto Adige is comprised of two provinces – Bolzano in the north and Trento in the south. Although the two make up one region, they are very diverse. The predominant language in Trento is Italian and this area has maintained a strong Italian culture, while in Bolzano (also known as Südtirol or South Tyrol), the German language is more common.

When examining Bolzano’s history, its strong Austrian and German influences are not very surprising. It had been part of the Austrian state of Tyrol for centuries, but ownership was transferred to Italy in 1919, following World War I.

In a bid to Italianise the province during the 1920s and 1930s, under the rule of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, the German language was largely banned, including in schools, and surnames and names of places were Italianised – moves that resulted in a great deal of tension.

In 1946, an agreement between Italy and Austria meant that both German and Italian became accepted as official languages and German surnames that had been Italianised were restored.

Today, the Trentino Alto Adige region remains divided in many ways, with the provinces of Bolzano and Trento continuing to operate independently, under their own governments. 

But despite its turbulent past, Trentino Alto Adige is today celebrated for its blending of the Germanic, Italian and Ladin cultures, which can be seen in everything from the language and food through to the architecture.

Bolzano is part of the Alto Adige area of the region. This alpine province has become known as the ‘Gateway to the Dolomites’, with the renowned mountain range found along the eastern side. 

Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009, the Dolomites, or ‘pale mountains’, features 18 peaks that soar higher than 3000 metres and stretches for almost 142,000 hectares.

Ladin people are the oldest permanent settlers of the Dolomites and their language is spoken in Val Gardena and Alta Badia in the Bolzano province, the Fassa Valley in Trento, and the Livinallongo Valley in Venice. These areas are also steeped in Ladin culture and traditions.

Much of the architecture in Bolzano is more akin to that found in Austria than the typical buildings of Italy. Of particular significance are the Benedictine Abbey of Monte Maria and the Bolzano Cathedral. The area features countless castles including the Roncolo, Mareccio and Flavon castles.

Piazza Walther is Bolzano’s main square. It is named after German poet Walther von der Vogelweide, who lived during the Middle Ages. The focal point of Piazza Walther is a monument of its namesake. Made of white marble, it stands tall in the middle of the square. It was moved well away from the town centre in 1935 under the rule of the fascist Italian government but returned to its rightful home in 1985.

The province of Trento, historically known as Trentino, is characterised by mountains and valleys. Along with the Dolomites, which stretch through both of Trentino Alto Adige’s provinces, Trento is also home to the Tridentine Alps.

Running through the Dolomites are the stunning Fassa, Fiemme and Non valleys. They feature many picturesque lakes and lush forests.

The Non Valley is famous for its apples, with five varieties cultivated. Its Renetta Canada, Red Delicious and Golden Delicious apples are DOP certified. The area’s other varieties are Gala and Fuji.

Lake Garda is Italy’s largest lake. Its northern shores, which lie in Trento’s south, feature stunning mountains as a backdrop and offer a much milder climate than that found elsewhere in the province. While the mountain areas are great for winter sports, the lake is perfect for water sports during the warmer months. The Mediterranean-style climate is complemented by Mediterranean vegetation, with lemon and olive trees aplenty.

When visiting this area of Lake Garda, the town of Riva del Garda is not to be missed. Dubbed the ‘pearl of Lake Garda’, the water here is said to be a more intense shade of blue. Its most important building is the Rocca Castle, built in 1124.

Characterised by its countless mountains, valleys and lakes – with so many quaint little villages and imposing castles dotted in between – Trentino Alto Adige is a truly unique natural treasure far removed from Italy’s beaten tourist track. The varied landscapes make it an ideal escape any time of the year – perfect for skiing in winter and hiking in summer. But the region is much more than a jewel of nature, it is a fascinating melting pot where several cultures come together, sitting side by side.

To read the full story, pick up your copy of the May/June 2014 issue.

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