Italy’s South Tyrol: Language disputes

italy south tyrol languageIn the Italian region of South Tyrol a language dispute has emerged over the exclusive use of German on mountain trail signs. In the Telegraph, Nick Squires provides an overview of what he terms a “language war.”

South Tyrol’s German-language Alpenverein is responsible for replacing all trail signage. Squires claims that around 1500 of these hiking path signs are written exclusively in German.

At stake is the maintenance of a difficult linguistic balance in the region, though mountain rescue workers also point to the issue of safety for hiking Italian speakers unable to understand the German-language signage. Squires notes that anonymous Italian-speaking hikers have taken matters into their own hands by scrawling Italian place names on signs.

In 2001, almost 70 percent of the region’s residents spoke German. Italian speakers are concentrated in Bolzano (Bozen in German), the capital of the region.

Language disputes aside, South Tyrol is an exciting place to hike and a great culinary tourism destination, with strong agricultural and wine production and an impressive tally of Michelin starred restaurants. It’s also ridiculously beautiful. See the above image, taken from the town of Sexten, for inspiration.

The kicker is that it is also surprisingly affordable. Check out our inclusion of the region among a recent list of budget-friendly destinations across Europe.

[Image: Flikr | lorenz347]