Alta Badia and its history
On bears, shepherds, hunters, hardworking farmers and welcoming hosts
Probably, our region's first settlers were bears. Finds in the Conturines cave (2,800 m/9,186 ft above sea level) in the Fanes-Sennes-Prags natural park prove this. In 1987, numerous bear bones were found in a cave at the foot of Mount Conturines. They are between 60,000 and 34,000 years old.
The first settlers
Some 9,000 years ago, the first humans discovered Val Badia valley. They were hunters and gatherers who obtained the food needed for the harsh winters during the summer months on the meadows and in the forests. Starting at around approx. 1700 BC, the first permanent settlements in Alta Badia were built ¬- finds from the Bronze age near Sotciastel in Badia prove this. The archaeological finds are on exhibit in Ladin Ciastel de Tor museum in St. Martin in Thurn.
The people who inhabited the Alps before the Roman invasion are referred to as the "Raetians". Little is known today about their origins and language. Excavations suggest an agricultural culture. Up to today, the oldest written document in the Ladin valleys is a small, stony inscription from Buchenstein, found on Mount Pore. The alphabet used has its roots in the Etruscan culture.
A little more than 2,000 years ago, the Romans conquered the Ladin regions in the Dolomites and absorbed them into the Roman empire. The Romans revolutionised the conquered country's political system. The vulgar Latin spoken by the soldiers and magistrates merged with the Rhaetian language. Over the centuries, the Ladin language evolved on this basis.
The fall of the Roman Empire
After the fall of the Roman Empire, insecurity and chaos also ruled in the Alps. The tribes that lived in what today is South Tyrol were constantly under threat from Bavarians, Lombards, Franks and Slavs who also partly subdued them. Large parts of South Tyrol were germanised and by the year 1200, two thirds of the people inhabiting what is today South Tyrol already spoke German. The ethnic groups who had retreated into the mountainous valleys of the Dolomites, however, remained Rhaeto-Romanic.
Around the year 1000, the Alps were christianised. Many old, pagan traditions, however, have survived to this day. In the year 1027, the ecclesiastical organisation founded the prince-bishopric Brixen and the left orographic side of Val Badia valley was assigned to the bishop of Brixen. Roughly by the year 1030, the right orographic side of Val Badia valley - Enneberg, La Val, Badia, San Cassiano, La Villa and Corvara - were assigned to the Benedictine monastery of Ciastel Badia. The first traces of the word "Badia" date back to this time, to the aforementioned Ciastel Badia at the northern entrance to Val Badia valley.
After the abandonment of the monastery Ciastel Badia (1785) and with the secularisation of the prince-bishopric Brixen (1803), Val Badia valley's people were subdued by the state Tyrol and after the invasion by Napoleon's troops, annexed by the Habsburg monarchy.
The First World War
The war started in 1914 in the Ladin valleys that, at that time, belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. During the war years, the country in the Dolomites turned into the arena for an atrocious war. Even today, one can find traces of the battles in the mountains. When the war ended in 1919, South Tyrol was annexed by Italy.
In the second half of the 18th century, some young men started climbing the Dolomites and also began to take the first "strangers", as tourists were called back then, onto the mountains. The country could boast a number of famous Dolomite mountain guides which have been trained in the German-Austrian Alpine Club's school.
In Corvara, it were the brothers Kostner and in Badia, Josef Adang. Franz Kostner attended a course for mountain guides in Igls in 1904 and graduated as the best of his year. From 1908, he took over the Hotel Posta in Corvara. Tourism saw its first incline.
The 1st World War, in which also main destinations for visitors to Alta Badia were involved, brought tourism to a halt.
In the years between the 1st and the 2nd World War, tourism in the Dolomites began to grow again. The time was right for winter tourism. The first ski school was opened in Corvara in the 1930s and the first lift in 1938 on the Col Alto run - a sledge lift that took the people up the mountain in a large sledge. 1946 the sledge lift was replaced by Italy's first chair lift which went into operation in 1947.
Gradually, inns, mountain huts and guest houses were built. Alta Badia evolved into a leading international tourism destination without loosing sight of its own roots.