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News

Solid roots

01.05.2024

We are talking about traditions, aspects of a culture that do not end in the course of one generation but are passed on to the succeeding ones. A complex of skills, knowledge, values that you learn when you are part of a certain society.

The Ladins have been living in Val Gardena since the earliest times, a people that blends aspects of European heritage and the Latin world, people who have always lived in simple, humble houses, working as farmers, proud of their identity; hard workers and keepers of the secrets and legends of the area, strongly attached to their land and their people.

It is exactly this isolation that has allowed them to strongly preserve their most intimate traditions. With the establishment of the national states and the discovery of the Dolomites, the Ladin valleys around the Sella group (Livinallongo, Cortina d'Ampezzo, Badia, Gardena and Fassa) found themselves at the centre of conflicting interests and it was during this period that the Ladin identity was born, becoming stronger during the 20th century. Since the 1970s, Ladin identity has been protected by the Province and includes the teaching of this language and culture in schools, radio and TV broadcasts (including the Italian state broadcaster RAI), as well as a newspaper, also written in Ladin.

How is this culture expressed? In many ways and facets, but if we want to synthesise the main forms, we can speak of language, art, cuisine and costumes.

Ladin is the primary language spoken in Val Gardena, alongside Italian, German and English. It is part of the Romanic language family, originates from Rhaetian and is still the mother tongue of over 90% of the Val Gardena population, namely, just under 10,000 people.

Regarding Art, the matter is more detailed. In Val Gardena, the tradition of wood carving is rooted around 1600, when families, during the winter months, would begin to create utensils, religious figures and toys, which they would later sell at markets in spring. In the late 18th century, this form of craft became a very significant activity for the local economy and the woodcarvers established a versatile and innovative school of art, demonstrating great mastery. Today, more than 200 artists and sculptors work in Val Gardena, and exhibit their works in important galleries and art museums all over the world.

The Museum Gherdëina is, together with UNIKA (the association of Val Gardena artists), a witness to the creativity and artistic wisdom of the valley and houses unique works of sculpture and painting, as well as a complete collection of Val Gardena toys, which in the 19th century were exported all over the world.

Turning to Ladin cuisine, it reflects the influences of its origins and features typical Central European dishes and products, such as rich combinations of meat, dumplings, goulash, speck, sausages and potatoes, but also more Mediterranean dishes such as the 'crafuncins' (Tyrolean half-moons) and other pasta-based dishes. The multiple origins behind Val Gardena cookery can be found in the Ladin dish par excellence: the 'tirtles', delicious fritters filled with ricotta cheese and spinach.

Finally, the costumes. The traditional costumes of Val Gardena are characterised by their refinement, richness of decoration and preciousness. Although the local peasants used to wear simple clothes, with the passage of time and the long journeys of traders, decorative elements such as ribbons, gems and fabrics were brought to the valley, transforming the costumes. Traditional clothes, therefore, became extremely beautiful and rich and to be worn on important occasions.
Hairstyles and clothes in fact became symbols of a family's status.