|Trentino-Alto Adige region
Region composed of two provinces:
Bolzano or Südtirol (to the north) and Trente (to the south).
Regional capital: Trento
over 900,000 inhabitants
Italian, German, Ladin
Surface area: 13,613 km2
Location: North-east Italy, to the south of Austrian
When one evokes images of the magnificent Mediterranean country
that is Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige is not exactly what comes to mind. Far,
far away from the burning sun of Sicily where we were transported last month,
we now find ourselves at the other extremity—in the “Great North”
of Italy! The stage upon which a rich and exciting history was played out,
the meeting ground of people from the north and south of Europe, a place
that boasts the most breathtaking of scenery, Trentino-Alto Adige is indeed
Was darf ich Ihnen bringen? (Hello, what would you like
to order?) When you speak German, it’s easy to know what to answer.
But, if you don’t, there is still no reason to panic! Chances are
the waiter will naturally switch to the language of Dante which is still
easier to understand, even for those who don’t quite master it—after
all, it is a Latin language! The reason for this ease in moving from one
language to another, you see, is that most of this region’s inhabitants
are bilingual, if not trilingual! Let’s take a look at how exactly
this came to be.
A bit of history…
Surrounded by Lombardy to the west, by Switzerland to the northeast, by
Austria to the north and by Venetia to the east, Trentino-Alto Adige was
home to a succession of peoples of Latin and Germanic cultures. This piece
of history is precisely the reason for this region’s very unique personality.
In the 1st century B.C., Trentino-Alto Adige was conquered by the Romans
who Latinized the entire population. Then, in the 5th century, the Ostrogoths
left the influence of their Germanic language. The Lombards (6th century),
the Francs (8th century) and the Holy Roman Empire succeeded one another,
with only a small portion of the Latinized population preserving its language—Ladin
(Italian and German are the official languages of the area and Ladin is
considered a minority language. In present-day Trentino-Alto Adige, all
three languages are used).
Under the sovereignty of the Habsbourgs of Austria, the prince-bishops
governed the region from 1363 until 1802, when the principality was secularized
and merged with Austrian Tyrol. Seized by the French in 1809, the region
remained under the rule of the latter until it was returned to Austria
in 1814. Then, during the First World War, under the Treaty of Versailles
signed on June 28, 1919, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was officially declared
dissolved and, with the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, also signed in
1919, South Tyrol and the province of Trent were awarded to Italy.
At that time in history, the region had only 7,000 Italian-speaking
people compared to 220,000 German-speaking people. Today, things are significantly
different as Italian predominates, with 62% of the population speaking
the language, second in line is German at 31% and finally Ladin at 3.2%.
However, in 1946, after the Second World War, an agreement between Italy
and Austria granted Trentino-Alto Adige its status of independence thereby
ensuring the parity of the Italian and German languages.
Trentino-Alto Adige is, in short, a region replete with stunning landscapes,
cities and monuments of an extraordinary beauty, and one that offers culinary
treasures born out of the best of two cultures!
An indulgent tour
A magnificent region of deep valleys, endless greenery, majestic mountains,
and tranquil lakes… serenity permeates every last corner through
wide open spaces that bring about a feeling of peace and tranquility.
This peacefulness and abundance of nature is doubtless a big part of the
reason why the region’s many thermal springs—true oases of
well-being that were once a favourite getaway for Empress Sissi—are
In addition to its some 300 moderately sized lakes—perfect for fishing
or sailing—the region also boasts a splendid array of mountainous
landscapes including, most notably, that of the Dolomites, mountainous
red-rock peaks considered among the most beautiful in the world in part
due to their glorious colours—colours that change continuously throughout
the day! The Dolomites owe their name to Déodat de Dolomieu, a
geologist from Dauphiné (France) who discovered their chemical
composition in 1789.
A stay in Madonna di Campiglio, San Martino di Castrozza or even Val Gardena
is a must for any winter sport enthusiast. These now highly coveted getaways
are sure to please! And, with its Dolomites Superski, Alto Adige
boasts the most extensive ski facilities in all of Europe: 1,200 km of
slopes divided into 12 zones.
For those who aren’t into skiing, the mountain also offers an endless
stream of surprises and discoveries. Let’s not forget that it was
here, in the glaciers of the Dolomites that Ötzi, the Ice Man, was
found… 5,300 years after his death!
A wealth of monuments, the beauty of the architecture and endless discoveries
are what lend the cities in this region their special quality—that
of being a true embodiment of history that visitors can enjoy with respect
Let us discover them, starting with those of the province of Trentin:
Rovereto is revered for its castle and the church of
San Marco—two beautiful XVth-century monuments—as well as
for its Teroldego Rotaliano wine and its Marzemino wine, which served
as an inspiration for Mozart, particularly when composing for the Don
Giovanni opera in which it is mentioned! More modern-day attractions
include the Museum of Contemporary Art whose opening in 2002 was an international-recognized
Trento, amidst its thousand and one wonders, is most
recognized for its dome of Roman and Gothic architecture which, between
1545 and 1563 was the gathering place of one of the most renowned ecumenical
The valleys bordering the province of Alto-Adige, with names as beautiful
as the views they offer—Val di Non, Val di Fassa, Val Gardena
and Val di Fiemme—are vast and luxurious, inviting visitors
to enjoy truly memorable strolls through magnificent landscapes.
Bolzano, the meeting place of Latin and German culture,
is home to a number of artistic treasures. Its beautiful marketplace and
the Porta del Vino (Wine Gate) located within the city’s Gothic
Cathedral and artistically engraved with images of grape-pickers hard
at work in the vineyard are not to be missed. Among the wines which are
masterfully produced in this region are Terlano and Colli di Bolzanos!
Merano and the surrounding area, as well as Bressanone,
are splendid medieval cities whose array of numerous, magnificent castles
stand as a reminder of the power of the prince-bishops who once governed
A taste of Trentino-Alto Adige!
As you enjoy all of the enchanting discoveries this region has to offer,
meal times are sure to lend their own savoury finds. In Trentino-Alto
Adige, Italian and German influences make their way onto your plate to
make dining a truly memorable experience!
In the province of Bolzano, rye bread and smoked meats such as Speck
serve as the basis for many recipes and are used in traditional meals
such as Schlutzer, a type of rye-flour ravioli and Knodel—also
known as Canederli—made with stale bread, eggs and milk.
In Trentin, soups, meat and game dishes accompanied by polenta and dairy
products are common culinary choices. Lake Garda, for its part, serves
as the inspiration for local fish-based specialties such as aole
escabeche or salted meat carpaccio.
A platter of typical cheeses would also be a welcome addition, with Asiago,
Valpadana Provolone, Grana Padano—products also made in bordering
regions—as well as Ubriaco which literally means “drunk,”
most likely because it is soaked for 6 to 10 months in red wine and matured
with a coating of grape skins and seeds so that its rind is stained purple!
Pretty original, wouldn’t you say?
And, why not accompany this culinary voyage with a regional wine that
is perfect for pairing with the delectable flavours of these traditional
dishes. White wines from Alto-Adige, made from Sylvaner, Riesling, Pinot
Gris or white grape varieties are renowned, and reds created from Schiava
and Lagrein varieties are equally as excellent, particularly those from
Santa Maddalena! Among the most popular of Bolzano’s DOC appellations
is the Alto-Adige appellation of which Colli di Bolzano, Meranese, Santa
Maddalena, Terlano and Valle Isarco have recently been made a part.
To the south, in the province of Trentino, one can indulge in wines of
Casteller, Teroldego Rotaliano, Trento, Trentino Marzemino and Valdadige
appellations made from typical varieties such as Teroldego, Lagrein, Schiava
as well as Merlot for reds, and Trebbiano, Nosiola, Garganega, Müller
Thurgau and countless others for whites.
And, of course, who could forget this region’s spumante (sparkling
wines), some of which are recognized as being among the best in all of
Lastly, for a sweet finish, what better than a tasty strudel—a pastry
made with apples, which, along with grapes, are also a regional specialty.
There are over 55 varieties of this fruit grown in Trentino-Alto Adige…
enough to confuse even poor Eve when it comes to choosing just one!