A group of people we know from the US and UK were on a holiday in the Dolomites in Italy last month. Since it’s only a 3 hour drive from where we live, they invited us to meet them there go hiking. It’s a really beautiful area and one that I’m sure we’ll visit again.
The most surprising thing about the trip was discovering the area called Südtirol (South Tirol). It used to belong to Austria, but as a result of WWI and WWII eventually became a permanent part of Italy. While it might officially be in Italy now, the population has chosen to ignore the fact. The homes are the same style of “Heidi houses” that you see everywhere in Austria, and the road signs are in both German, listed first, and then Italian. Most people we met were tri-lingual (along with English), but speak German to each other, and the food was wursts and schnitzels, with a little pasta. Not quite what you imagine when you think about spending a weekend in Italy. I never would have even known that we left Austria, except for all the “I” license plates.
The owner of the B&B where we stayed gave me a history lesson, as well as some strong opinions on the regional government, languages, and the possibility that they would someday vote to re-join Austria. It’s a very interesting piece of history that was completely new to me. You never know what you’ll find when you cross a border.
Here’s a view from the Dolomites in the “Italian” Alps: