Trentino-South Tyrol

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Regione Autonoma Trentino-Alto Adige
Autonome Region Trentino-Südtirol
Image:Trentino-Alto Adige-Bandiera.png
Capital Trento-Trient and Bozen-Bolzano
President Luis Durnwalder
Provinces Bozen
Municipalities 339
Area 13,607 km²
 - Ranked 11th (4.5 %)
Population (2003 est.)
 - Total

 - Ranked
 - Density

16th (1.6 %)
Image:Italy Regions Trentino 220px.png
Map highlighting the location of Trentino-Alto Adige - Trentino-Südtirol in Italy

Trentino-South Tyrol (in Italian: Trentino-Alto Adige, in German: Trentino-Südtirol, in Ladin Trentino-Sudtirol) is an autonomous region in northern Italy. It consists of two distinct areas, the Italian-speaking Trento and the largely German-speaking South Tyrol. The region was part of Austria-Hungary until its annexation by Italy in 1919. It was called Venezia Tridentina between 1919 and 1947.


Geography and Economy

The region is bordered by Austria to the north and by the Italian regions of Lombardy to the west and Veneto to the south. 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 Brennerpass, is located at the far north of the region on the border with Austria.

The fertile valleys of Trentino-South Tyrol 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 Val Gardena area.


Trentino-South Tyrol has a population of about 940,000 people (460,000 in Bozen and 480,000 in Trento). The main ethnic groups are Italian-speakers (about 60% of the total) and German speakers (a little under 35%), with a small minority speaking the Ladin language (5%). In Bozen/Bolzano province or South Tyrol, the majority language is German (about 68% of the population), although in the capital city of the same name Bozen/Bolzano three quarters of the population speak Italian. In Trento province or Trentino there are very few German-speakers. They live mainly in the municipality of Lusern/Luserna and four municipalities in the Bersntol/Mocheni Valley. There are also Ladins living in the Fassa Valley. Unlike in South-Tyrol, the protection of minority language groups in Trentino is not covered by the new Statuto d'Autonomia, although it is under current provincial statutes.


From the 11th century onwards, part of the region was governed by the prince-bishops of Trento and Brixen-Bressanone, to whom the Holy Roman Emperors had given extensive temporal powers over their bishoprics. The rest was part of the County of Tirol, which, from the 14th century, was a possession of the House of Habsburg. This arrangement came to an end at the start of the 19th century with the dissolution of the Empire. The Bishoprics were secularized in 1803 and given to the Habsburgs. Two years later, following the Austrian defeat at Austerlitz, the whole region was annexed to the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy; after Napoleon defeat, in 1815, the region returned to Austria. The large Italian minority agitated for unification with Italy, making the issue a key priority for the irredentist movement in Italian politics. Some say that in reality, aside from certain political circles based in Trento, the vast majority of the population never really warmed up to the idea of joining the newly created Italian Kingdom, as their alleagence lays with the Habsburg Empire; also they cite a meeting between Alcide De Gasperi, a Trento representative at the Reichsrat in Vienna, and Italy's Foreign Minister Sonnino during which De Gasperi affirmed that, should a referendum be held in the region, 95 percent of the population would most likely confirm their loyalty to Austria-Hungary.

During the First World War, major battles were fought high in the Alps and Dolomites between Austrian and Italian forces, for whom control of the South Tyrol was a key strategic objective. The collapse of the Austrian war effort enabled Italian troops to occupy the region in 1918 and its annexation was confirmed in the post-war treaties, which awarded the Trentino and South Tyrol 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), the region was subjected to an intensive programme of forcibly imposed 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 the Republic of Venice (in fact the Republic never ruled Trentino). 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 "Alpenvorland" (literally "Alpine Foreland") and put it under the administration of a Nazi Gauleiter. 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 came to an end 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 Italo-Austrian treaty was signed and ratified. It stipulated that disputes in Bozen province would be submitted for settlement to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, that the province would receive greater autonomy from Italy, and that Austria would not interfere in Bozen'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: Trento and South Tyrol. 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.

External links

Regions of Italy Flag of Italy
Abruzzo | Basilicata | Calabria | Campania | Emilia-Romagna | Latium | Liguria | Lombardy | Marche | Molise | Piedmont | Apulia | Tuscany | Umbria | Veneto
Friuli-Venezia Giulia | Sardinia | Sicily | Trentino-South Tyrol | Aosta Valley
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