Traveling in the Trentino -Alto Adige region of Northern Italy, also known as the SudTirol, begins with an Italian opera and ends with a Swiss yodel. The alpine valleys, snow-capped mountains, chalets and ski resorts will make you re-think Italy and re-invent your palate when it comes to Italian food. A trip through the region will likely find you feeling like Dorothy in the Italian Land of Oz saying “I don’t think we’re in Italy anymore”.
The southern half of the region (Trentino) is ethnically Italian, the northern half (Alto Adige, or SüdTirol) is ethnically Germanic and the entire region was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until Italy annexed it at the end of WWI. Although you are in Italy, because of geographic boundaries and historical alliances, Italy’s South Tyrol is a melting pot of flavors, food customs and languages.
As you cross the border you begin to see not only a change in the scenery but a change in the language. The official languages of the area are German and Italian however there is a third spoken language called Ladin. Ladin is a Romanized version of the Germanic dialects that were once spoken here and today the language clings to existence with fewer than 100,000 speakers left. It is not uncommon to see menus written in German and Italian, or local sights identified in all three languages. Road signs have to be bi-lingual (tri-lingual where Ladin is spoken) and normally the first name identifies the majority population in the area.
In the Ladin language, Ben uni means benvenuti and streda means strada and if you are looking for a plate of gnocchi try the tirolese dumplings or canederli aka Tiroler Knodel along with the stinco, wurtzel and some awesome German beer.