Italy is full of hidden treasures, but an entire region of Italy is virtually undiscovered by many tourists. Those focused on large cities and museums might overlook the pastoral and majestic beauty of one of Italy’s most northern areas – Trentino Alto Adige.
Set at the top of Italy, Trentino Alto Adige is a region full of calm landscapes and deep undercurrents. Many of the towns have two names in the region. This is a testament to the bumpy road the region has traveled to find an identity within Italy and Europe.
The small mountainous region was once conquered by Napoleon, and the General placed the region under the control of the Austrian Habsburgs. The arrangement stayed until the end of World War I when the region was returned to Italy. Many residents were not in favor of the political arrangement and residents elected to leave for Germany and German citizenship when given an ultimatum by Mussolini in 1939. Already a sparse population, the majority of residents moving back to what they considered their homeland made the region almost underpopulated.
But the small number of area residents isn’t a factor in what makes the region so appealing to Italians and visitors. Trentino Alto Adige is the home of many of Italy’s most beautiful and affordable vacation spots with outstanding ski conditions in the winter, breathtaking scenery and hiking in the summer and warm hospitality year-round.
When you set off to explore the region, the mix of the autonomous region will be strongly evident. In the southern parts of the region, particularly around Trento is authentically Italian, but the northern parts of the region are more removed from the strong Italian culture. In fact, you might have trouble differentiating these towns from those in Germany or Austria.
In fact, you might notice that there are some people throughout the mountains completely removed from almost everything Italian. In the hills and valleys of the region, over 80,000 residents cling to a most ancient tradition. These individuals speak a language unlike anything on Earth – Ladin.
The language and traditions of the Ladin people developed over centuries following encounters of the northern people and Roman legions. The dialect that resulted is a combination of Latin and Celtic tongues. A museum in Vigo di Fassa can take you through the history and customs of the Ladin people.
Trentino Alto Adige is most often encountered by those traveling from Austria into Italy, but it is a region well worth the precipitous drives and extreme heights. After all, they don’t call the region The Rooftop of Italy for nothing.