Take a look back in timeTradition & customs

Take a look back in time

The Dolomite valleys are rich in tradition and customs as old as time itself. Since time immemorial, countless, meaningful traditions were born and grew around every family event as well as around big, Christian festivities in the Catholic calendar.

During Fat Thursday it is tradition to steal lunch from the stove: barley soup with smoked pork loin; during May, 18-year-old youngsters go around the valley wearing a white shirt, a blue apron and a cap decorated with ribbons and flowers, on the Monday after the kermesse of San Giacomo (Ortisei) boys give a pear with a bow tied to its stalk to girls as a sign of affection during the traditional 'Market of leaves' in October. There are so many other customs which should be discovered.

Another characteristic of Val Gardena are traditional outfits which are the most beautiful in the whole mountain area. The uniqueness and richness of these stems largely from the fact that in the past, merchants from the valley travelled a lot around the world and so had the possibility to acquire new silks, ribbons, laces and jewellery.

Nowadays the outfit is worn during processions or important church festivities, as well as during parades which are a popular tourist attraction for the guests of the valley.

"Bënunì te Gherdëina!" - Welcome to Val Gardena!

We hope you have a nice time here – where this Rhaetian language is still spoken. The origins of the language go back to the Roman Empire, when the legions marched into Rhaetia. The Latin of the conquerors was mixed with the language of the native Rhaetians. During more than four centuries of Roman rule, this Rhaetian language spread from the Swiss Alps to the Adriatic.

When the Germanic tribes of the Bavarians and Alemanni moved south in the 6th century, the area of the Rhaetian language was split up, leaving enclaves in which the language has survived against all obstacles right down to the present day, e.g. in the canton of Grisons, in the Dolomites (Val Gardena, Val Badia, Val di Fassa, Livinallongo, Cortina) and Friuli. The fact that the Rhaetian language was once much more widespread can be seen from the ancient field and place names found in Val d’Isarco/Eisacktal or the upper Val Venosta/Vinschgau.

Because of the small size of the remaining area, the Ladin language could not develop like other roman languages, e.g. Portuguese or Provençal, and conversely it was more susceptible to change. Nevertheless, the sounds of the Ladin tongue will continue to be heard in these valleys for generations to come.

Nowadays Rhaeto-Romanic is taught at school as an obligatory school subject. Furthermore books and magazines are published in this language, too. There are also daily programmes on radio and TV.