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A look back in time

A small province with a thrilling history

Our province was already settled 5,300 years ago, as the discovery of Ötzi the Iceman in the South Tyrolean mountains attests. The history of South Tyrol becomes somewhat more complicated when we consider the shifting of the region's national borders throughout the course of history: From 1363, South Tyrol was part of the County of Tirol in the Habsburg Empire. Then, after the end of World War I in 1919, it was annexed by Italy. This political change has shaped the culture as it stands today: It’s why we speak German and Italian, the reason you'll find Knödel dumplings and spaghetti in our cuisine, and why as people we’re reliable and calm at the same time.

The history that shaped us

Many changes: Ötzi, the Rhaetians and Romans & Austria and Italy

• The side valleys in South Tyrol began to be settled around 3,200 BC, as evidenced by Ötzi the Iceman. Older than the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge, Ötzi was in the process of crossing the Tisenjoch ridge in the Schnalstal valley, when he perished and was preserved in the ice until he was eventually discovered.

• From 400 BC to the 5th century, South Tyrol was ruled by the Rhaetians and Romans. The Ladin language, which is still spoken today in Val Badia and Val Gardena, has survived from this period. It is the province’s third native language spoken.

• As an important link between the Germanic north and the Italian south via two Alpine passes, the region has always been of great strategic importance. Trade routes, stately residences, imposing fortifications, medieval marketplaces and, last but not least, more than 800 castles and palaces still bear witness to this history today.

• Until 1918, South Tyrol had belonged to the County of Tyrol and thus to the Habsburg Empire for over 550 years.  

After the World Wars

After World War I, South Tyrol was broken off from Austria and annexed by Italy. The years that followed were defined by Benito Mussolini's Italianisation policy, the Option Agreement, the bombing years, numerous protest rallies and tough political power struggles with the government in Rome.

In 1972, the Second Statute of Autonomy was enacted to protect the people of South Tyrol. This allowed decisions to be made independently of the government in Rome, for example in the areas of education, culture and local public transport.

History has defined what South Tyrol has become today: the bridge between cultural contrasts. Between German, Italian and Ladin. Between cultivated traditions and contemporary trends. Between deep roots and new identities.

Experience history up close and personal

Our past is important to us. This is why many traces of that time have been preserved, which we have safeguarded for the future with a great dedication. Here are our recommendations for places where you can trace the history of South Tyrol in all its facets.

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