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History of South Tyrol

Ever since, there have been important trade routes across the two Alpine passes Brenner and Reschen, connecting the north with the south. Already in early historic times, the European cultures had been making contacts via the Alpine passes.

In Roman times, the important Via Claudia Augusta lead across Reschen pass. In the Middle Ages, the route across Brenner pass had gained in significance for travelling salesmen as well as for the move of emperors. However, this north-south connection went across Ritten high plateau until the expansion of Kuntersweg, as there was no possible way through the narrow Eisack gorge in the north of Bozen. Over 800 castles and ruins are witness of the strategic importance of South Tyrol.

Before you will learn more about the history of South Tyrol, we will explain some general information about the term South Tyrol and its history.

Already in the 19th century, the term South Tyrol was in use. Most of the times, the denomination referred to all areas of Tyrol south of the main Alpine ridge and in fact also to Trentino. Also, the name was used for several smaller areas south of Brenner pass.

South Tyrol as a political and administrative unit

The history of South Tyrol, separated from those of Tyrol, had only begun with the end of the First World War. Prior to that, South Tyrol was almost continuously 550 years part of the Habsburg Monarchy being a part of Tyrol. In 1919, South Tyrol and Trentino were annexed to Italy with the Peace Treaty of St. Germain.

In 1927, the province of Bozen was created under the fascist Italian government. However, the province achieved today’s geographical extent only with the First Statute of Autonomy in 1948, being nonetheless called “Tyrolean Etschland”. This has changed in 1972: With the Second Statute of Autonomy, the commonly used term South Tyrol used since the 1920s has found acceptance. Since then, the official name is “Autonomous Province Bozen – South Tyrol”.

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