South Tyrol lies on the south side of the Alps and is the northernmost province of Italy. It borders the Austrian state of Tyrol to the north and east and the Swiss Canton of Graubünden to the west, while to the south it borders the neighbouring province of Trentino with which it forms the region of Trentino-South-Tyrol, one of twenty Italian regions.

History of South Tyrol
The alpine area has always been a border region. For the Romans, Tyrol was the gateway to the North and for the German Kaisers who had their coronations in Italy Brenner represented the border with the South. For centuries, two alpine passes ensured that the "land in the mountains”, as Tyrol was called, played a central role in European power negotiations. Traders, pilgrims, princes with their retinues, adventurers and soldiers travelled through Tyrol, paid tolls, took lodgings and enjoyed the promise of safe passage.

In 1271 there was first talk of a state of Tyrol. In 1330, men of the houses of Wittelsbach, Habsburg and Luxemburg courted the inheritress Margarete of Tyrol. “Tyrol is a tasty morsel not to be missed,” Wittelsbach is reputed to have said to his son, who was eventually able to court Margarete.

Between 1363 and 1919, South Tyrol belonged to the Habsburg Kingdom together with North and East Tyrol, both of which are now part of Austria.

South Tyrol’s history begins in the year 1919. At the end of the First World War – with the treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye – the area to the south of the Brenner was relinquished by Austria and handed over to Italy. The new border marks the history of a country.

South Tyroleans were not prepared for the events of the 20th century. A fascist politics of Italianisation dissolved every renewed attempt to gain cultural and political independence. All names were translated and the German language forbidden. The choice was either to become Italian or emigrate.

South Tyrol fought for a long time to gain independent status. Now over 500,000 Germans, Italians and Ladins live here with their own languages and cultures – and in harmony. This land on the border has regained its special status and is a role model for the whole world, not least for the Chinese-controlled region of Tibet.

Facts and figures
  • South Tyrol has around 500,000 inhabitants.
  • There are three official languages: 70% of the population speaks German, 25% Italian and 5% Ladin as their mother tongue. Ladin, a Rhaeto-Romanic language, is still spoken in the Dolomite valleys of Gröden and Alta Badia.
  • The school system is divided according to language. Either German or Italian is taught as the first foreign language. In Ladin valleys, pupils are taught in all three languages.
  • With over 100,000 inhabitants, Bozen is the largest town South Tyrol. It is the state capital and seat of the South Tyrol state government. There are a further 7 towns in South Tyrol: Meran (c. 36,000 inhabitants), Brixen (c. 17,000 inhabitants), Bruneck (c. 14,000 inhabitants), Klausen (c. 5,000 inhabitants), Sterzing (c. 6,000 inhabitants), Leifers (c. 15,000 inhabitants) and Glurns (c. 900 inhabitants)
  • South Tyrol covers an area of 7,400 km² of which 80% is mountainous and only 8% described as habitable.

  • The world’s oldest passenger funicular railway runs between Bozen and Kohlern and was built in 1908.
  • The world’s largest ski carrousel, Dolomiti SuperSki, with 1,200 km of pistes incorporates many South Tyrol skiing regions.
  • The world’s oldest glacier mummy, the 5,300 year old Iceman known as “Ötzi”, is on display in South Tyrol’s museum of archaeology in Bozen.
  • Glurns (c. 880 inhabitants) is the smallest town in the alpine region to have a fully preserved town wall.
  • Seiseralm is the largest high mountain pasture in Europe (52 km²=8,000 football pitches).
  • The Kalterer See is the warmest bathing lake in the Alps.
  • South Tyrol boasts the northernmost wine growing area and the best white wines in Italy.
  • South Tyrol mines are the highest in Europe. Nowadays they are museums open to visitors.
  • The free University of Bozen was the first trilingual university to be established in Europe. Lectures are held in German, Italian and English.

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