Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol

Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol (Italian: Trentino-Alto Adige; German: Trentino-Südtirol; Ladin: Trentin-Adesc Aut , also Trentin-Sudtirol) is an autonomous region in Northern Italy. It consists of two provinces: Trento and Bolzano-Bozen. The region was part of Austria-Hungary (and its predecessor, the Austrian Empire) from 1815 until its annexation by Italy in 1919. It was officially referred to as Venezia Tridentina between 1919 and 1947 and Trentino-Alto Adige/Tiroler Etschland between 1947 and 1972. In English, the commonly used term is Trentino-Alto Adige; Trentino-South Tyrol is also sometimes used. Together with the Austrian state of Tyrol it is represented by the Euroregion Tirol-Südtirol/Alto Adige-Trentino.


The region is bordered by Tyrol (Austria) to the north, by Graubünden (Switzerland) to the north-west and by the Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto to the west and south, respectively. It covers 13,619 km² (5,256 mi²). It is extremely mountainous, covering a large part of the Dolomites and the southern Alps. The lowest pass across the Alps, the Brenner Pass, is located at the far north of the region on the border with Austria.

Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol is divided into two autonomous provinces:


The region of current Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol was conquered by the Romans in 15 BC. After the end of the Western Empire, it was divided between the Lombards (from the south up to Salorno), Alamanni (Vinschgau-Val Venosta) and Bavarians (from Bolzano to Brenner). After the creation of the Kingdom of Italy under Charlemagne, the frontier mark of Trento included the counties of Bolzano and Venosta, while the Duchy of Bavaria received the remained part.

From the 11th century onwards, part of the region was governed by the prince-bishops of Trento and Brixen, to whom the Holy Roman Emperors had given extensive temporal powers over their bishoprics. The rest was part of the County of Tyrol: in 1363 its last titular, Marguerite of Gorizia (von Görz) ceded it to the House of Habsburg. The northern regions were largely Germanized in the early Renaissance (14th century), and important German poets like Oswald von Wolkenstein were originally of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol.

The two Bishoprics were secularized by the Treaty of Luneville of 1803 and given to the Habsburgs. Two years later, following the Austrian defeat at Austerlitz, the region was given to Napoleon's ally Bavaria (Treaty of Pressburg, 1805). The new rulers provoked a peasant rebellion, led by local hero Andreas Hofer, in 1809 which was soon crushed; the Treaty of Paris of February 1810 split the area between Austria and the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy. After Napoleon's defeat, in 1815, the region returned to Austria. During French control of the region, it was called officially Haut Adige (literally "High Adige", Italian: "Alto Adige"; German: "Hoch Etsch") in order to avoid any reference to the historical Austrian Tyrol province.

During the First World War, major battles were fought high in the Alps and Dolomites between Austro-Hungarian and Italian forces, for whom control of the region was a key strategic objective. The collapse of the Austro-Hungarian war effort enabled Italian troops to occupy the region in 1918 and its annexation was confirmed in the post-war treaties, which awarded the region to Italy under the terms of the Treaty of Saint-Germain.

Under the rule of Benito Mussolini, the Fascist dictator of Italy (ruled 1922-1943), Alto Adige/Südtirol was subjected to an intensive programme of Italianization: all references to old Tyrol were banned and the region was referred to as "Venezia Tridentina," in an attempt to justify the Italian claims to the area by historically linking the region to one of the Roman Regions of Italy (Regio X Venetia et Histria). Hitler and Mussolini agreed in 1938 that the German-speaking population would be transferred to German-ruled territory or dispersed around Italy, but the outbreak of the Second World War prevented them from fully carrying out the relocation. Nevertheless thousands of people were relocated to the Third Reich and only with great difficulties managed to return to their ancestral land after the end of the war.

In 1943, when the Italian government signed an armistice with the Allies, the region was occupied by Germany, which reorganised it as the Operation Zone of the Alpine Foothills and put it under the administration of Gauleiter Franz Hofer. The region was de facto annexed to the German Reich (with the addition of the province of Belluno) until the end of the war. This status ended along with the Nazi regime and Italian rule was restored in 1945.

Italy and Austria negotiated an agreement in 1946, put into effect in 1947 when a new Italian constitution was promulgated, that the region would be granted considerable autonomy. German and Italian were both made official languages, and German-language education was permitted once more. However, the implementation of the agreement was not seen as satisfactory by either the German-speaking population or the Austrian government. The issue became the cause of significant friction between the two countries and was taken up by the United Nations in 1960. A fresh round of negotiations took place in 1961 but proved unsuccessful, partly because of a campaign of terrorism by German-speaking separatists.

The issue was only resolved in 1971 when a new Austro-Italian treaty was signed and ratified. It stipulated that disputes in the province of Bolzano would be submitted for settlement to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, that the province would receive greater autonomy within Italy, and that Austria would not interfere in Bolzano's internal affairs. The new agreement proved broadly satisfactory to the parties involved and the separatist tensions soon eased. Matters were helped further by Austria's accession to the European Union in 1995, which has helped to improve cross-border cooperation.


The regional capital is Trento and the region is divided into two autonomous provinces: Province of Trento (or Trentino), and Province of Bolzano (or Alto Adige/Südtirol). The provincial capitals alternate biennially as the site of the regional parliament. The autonomy of both provinces elevates them de facto to the status of autonomous regions. At the April 2006 elections, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol gave 62% of its votes to Romano Prodi.


The fertile valleys of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol produce wine, fruit, dairy products and timber, while its industries include paper, chemical and metal production. The region is a major exporter of hydroelectric power. Tourism is an important source of revenue and the region is renowned for its winter skiing opportunities, especially in the Gherdëina (Gardena) valley.


Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol has a population of about 985,000 people (487,000 in Bolzano and 503,000 in Trento provinces). The main ethnic groups are Italian-speakers (about 60% of the total) and German speakers (a little under 35%), with a small minority speaking Ladin (5%). In the province of Bolzano, the majority language is German (69% of the population), although in the capital city Bolzano 73% of the population speaks Italian as mother language. In the province of Trento there are very few German speakers. They live mainly in the municipality of Luserna and four municipalities in the Mocheni Valley. There are also Ladin-speakers living in the Fassa Valley. Unlike in Alto Adige/Südtirol, the protection of minority language groups in Trentino is not covered by the new Statuto d'Autonomia, although it is under current provincial statutes. As of 2006, the Italian national institute of statistics ISTAT estimated that 55,747 foreign-born immigrants live in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, equal to 5.6% of the total regional population.

Towns of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol with a population of 50,000 or more:

Comune Population (2006 est.)
Trento 111,044
Bolzano 100,462


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