God Bless the Dolomites
There are times when you have the opportunity to see a place that is so breath-taking that anything you can write about will fall short to describe its beauty; and there are times when words won’t come out easily in writing. Combine these two things, and Houston (or may I say Bolzano??) we have a problem.
With that in mind, the purpose of this particular post on the Dolomites was to come up with a story that would be different from the others already describing the Dolomites. I would not say much to my readers by describing the wonders of this place, would I? You have infinite resources on the web to look for information on the Dolomites.
As we were approaching the village of San Cassiano, in Alta Badia, a beautiful district of the autonomous Italian Alpine region of Alto Adige or South Tyrol, and after a long and exhausting bumper to bumper drive on the Brennero highway -, I started noticing the signs written in three languages: Ladin, German, and Italian.
I also noticed that a lot of these signs had peculiar ecological messages (like the type – your car is on holiday as well), with the top in Ladin, an ancient Neo –Latin language spoken by most of the inhabitants of Fassa, Gardena and Badia valleys, right in the heart of the Dolomites – Unesco World Natural Heritage – the land of the Ladin people, who are behind the greatness of this spectacular place.
We arrived in San Cassiano at sunset, just when the golden and pink colors of the giant limestone mountains are best appreciated.
Despite the multicolored geraniums adorning South Tyrolean farmhouses and hotel windows, the wide and bright green fields contrasting with the mystic intense evergreen forests, nothing really stroke me until the morning after – when an old Ladin lady at the local bakery greeted me kindly with a smile and said: Bon dì, co vala? (Good morning, how are you?). This had a southing effect on me: holidays have just begun.
As days passed in the peaceful and picturesque San Cassiano, I tried to observe and to understand the Ladin culture and came to the conclusion that it has a contracting beauty – the age-old traditions and culture of Ladinianas who are proud of their deep roots, yet so avant-garde in environmental issues (no.1 Italian region for energy efficient and sustainable design and construction) and hospitality (maybe the region with the best customer service in Italy). And indeed, Ladinians are out of this world.
It’s like if they lived isolated in their own microcosm, but at the same time so open-minded to look outside of their fences, and not afraid of innovation.
Just as many cultures living in the mountains, Ladin people take pride in keeping their culture existent, alienating them from the metropolitan culture. Their biggest virtue is to look at things in a different dimension from the rest of the world, and establishing their priorities in their daily life.
Their relationship with God, so intensively expressed by the ubiquitous crucifixes along the different pathways to the mountains and on local roads.
Their love and respect of nature- everything they do revolves around the preservation and management of natural resources.
Social ties with family and friends are traditional (gatherings in celebration of ceremonial occasions) yet at the same time contemporary.
Their relationship with nourishment is about what the land can produce, and how food can be processed sustainably in respect of the environment. Even though this Italian region is not particularly famous abroad for its gastronomic and wine culture, it is regarded as one of the best in Italy for its high level of cuisine (due to the use of excellent local products) and high quality of its wines (both red and white).
Below piles of speck – a delicious smoked prosciutto typical of this region.
Below some delicious Krafpen - similar to doughnuts (but better!)
Below stuffed pasta with speck and ricotta, cannellini bean sauce and balsamic vinegar reduction at Rifugio Ütia de Bioch
Below deer meat with potato and apple wedges and finferli mushrooms at Rifugio Ütia de Bioch
As I look back at my vacation in the Dolomites, I figured that Ladinians are perhaps the perfect example of “anti-urban modernity”, and a perfect case study for sociology, especially in a world of ever-growing cultureless and decadent “global” societies.