The Ladin language and culture
Bun de, bëgnodü – this is how you will be greeted in Alta Badia: this is Ladin, our language
The Ladin language
In the centuries after the integration of the Alps into the Roman Empire, the Rhaetian people inhabiting the Dolomites at that time adopted the vulgar Latin spoken by the magistrates and soldiers and it gradually evolved into the Ladin language. Numerous factors played into this process: Rhaetian vowel shifts, the conservation of elements from the local vocabulary and the influence of the neighbouring languages in the north and south.
It is assumed that an early and uniform Ladin language belt stretched from the Danube in the north to Lake Garda in the south, from Gotthard Pass in the west all the way to Trieste in the east. In the times of the barbarian migration, the advances of the Alemani and Bavarians southwards as well as the pushes of Slavs from the east led to a constriction of the Ladin language area and an assimilation of parts of the Ladin-speaking people.
IIn the 15th century, the republic of Venice annexed Friuli and Cadore. Since then, a Venetian wedge gradually moved north via the Piave valley which more and more separated the Ladin of the Dolomites from the Ladin of Friuli. Thus, the Ladin (or Rhaeto-Romanic) language has been on the retreat for about 1,500 years. Today, only four Ladin language islands remain: Grisons (Switzerland), Dolomite-Ladinia, Comelico and Friuli.
In South Tyrol, Ladin is spoken in Val Badia valley and Val Gardena valley – by roughly 4 % of the inhabitants; it is officially recognised as one of South Tyrol's three official languages.
Especially the last few years saw increased efforts to promote the language through publications and regular radio and television programmes. Culture clubs, works of literature, magazines, school books and theatre clubs contributed to a re-awakening of the ethnic consciousness of the Dolomite Ladins.
In the Ladin culture institute „Micurá de Rü“ – named after the Ladin linguist Micurá de Rü, alias Nikolaus Bacher (1789 – 1847) – in the Museum Ladin Ciastel de Tor museum in San Martino in Badia and in the Museum Ladin Ursus ladinicus museum, you can get a good overview of Ladinia and the Ladin language.
The Ladin culture
The Ladin people in the Dolomite region distinguish themselves from their neighbours not only through their own language (Ladin) but also through a self-confident culture which has grown for centuries and has its roots in mountain farming and craft work.
The Ladins cherish and protect the appealing, strong and yet fragile mountain nature that surrounds them. Ladinia's typical architecture represents the harmonious bond between people and countryside.
The Viles, century-old, compact dwellings are particularly interesting - a unique form of communal organisation based mostly on self-sufficiency. They are spread across the agriculturally utilised hills and adorn the land. Good and bad soil is divided evenly between the farms and there is a fragile equilibrium between farming and animal husbandry; forests and high-lying alpine pastures are partly used communally. One can find artefacts of the Ladins' agricultural activities in the past and today in the Museum Ladin Ciastel de Tor museum.
Their distinct technical skills and their love and passion for good food are special talents of the Ladin people.