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History, tradition, language and culture in Selva di Val Gardena

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Get to know the Ladin language, the culture and the traditional customs of the Val Gardena and enjoy a relaxing holiday between nature, sports and tranquility

Besides its beautiful landscapes Selva di Val Gardena offers a wide cultural program and manifold points of interest. Churches, chapels, museums but also permanent exhibitions and events illustrate Ladin culture and traditions. Spend a cultural and stimulating holiday in the heart of the Dolomites.

 

The Gardena Castle:
Located between Selva and Santa Cristina, this work by Engelhard Dietrich built between 1622-1641 is a fairy tale place both for tourists and for local people which unfortunately has been closed  to the public since 1926.

St. James’ Church (Chiesa di S. Giacomo):
Above Ortisei, where the historical high-altitude path locally known as „Troi Paian“ is, you can find the most ancient church of the valley which is dedicated to St. James, protector of pilgrims and hikers. This symbol of the Gardena valley has an important cultural value and hosts valuable sculptures by local wood carvers.

The Chapel of Sylvester (Silversterkapelle) in Vallunga, Selva:
A calm and safe place, dedicated to the patron saint of cattle, under the silent walls of Mount Stevia. In 1993 it was found to hide over 300-year-old frescos depicting the life of Jesus.

The castle ruins in Selva:
No other castle across the whole Alpine region looks as bold and defensive as the castle ruins of Selva do. Situated under mount Stevia, this relic is sometimes referred to as  eyrie or robber baron castle. The first name derives from the eagles that nest on the mountain walls, whilst the latter recalls the criminal stories of the lords of Villandro and of the unscrupulous lives they led. A legend says that Oswald, a minstrel poet from Selva di Val Gardena, hid his jewels there. The castle was much more likely supposed to be used as strategic observation point

 

The Ladin language lies at the core of Ladin culture.

In most cases, the inhabitants of Val Gardena use Ladin to communicate with one another. Nowadays, this ancient Rhaeto-Romance language is still spoken in some linguistic enclaves of the Dolomites such as the Ladin valleys that go under the name of Val Gardena, Val Badia, Val di Fassa, Livinallongo and Ampezzo. It has developed from the Raetian language spoken by the original tribes and the Latin language Roman conquerors used to speak.
Along with German and Italian, Ladin is one of the three languages spoken in South Tyrol and it still is the mother language of most inhabitants of the Gardena Valley.

Here are some sample phrases:
> Good morning = bon dí
> Good evening =bona seira
> How are you? = co vala?
> Thanks! = de gra!

 

 

Wood carving has a long tradition in Val Gardena tracing back to early on in the 17th century.

Until hundred years ago the valley used to be so isolated that people had to find an interesting way to occupy their time during the long winter season. Therefore they would carve in the winter and sell their  products in the summer. By the late 18th century woodcarving had become prestigious and local people started to promote their sculptures abroad. A big number of shows and expositions are organized nowadays such as UNIKA, the famous sculpture trade show that takes place in Val Gardena in the summer. The quality of these wooden sculptures is unique since they are all made of the same material: Swiss pine. Further typical tokens of this local tradition are the wooden cribs which are exhibited to the public before Christmas as well as the snow and ice sculpture contests that take place in the winter.

 

The traditional costume of Val Gardena is one of the most decorated and beautiful costumes of the whole South Tyrolean region even if it has lost its function of daily apparel in the latest decades.

Nowadays it is mainly worn exclusively on important occasions such as religious parades, folk festivals, processions and is also used occasionally as a wedding outfit too.
Music bands accompany the celebration of major feat days.
The main peculiarity of this costume is that it used to differentiate social classes in the past. In the past centuries, when most local people were still farmers, the costume was still plain and simple. Yet, unlike other South Tyrolean people, the inhabitants of Val Gardena liked to change their costume quite often. And when travelling around the world became affordable people got accustomed to drawing inspiration from other countries and adapting their styles.

 

 „The biggest event of the year “ people say in Val Gardena - and they definitely do not mean Christmas or Easter - it is the huge street market called „Marciá de Segra Sacun“ that takes place once a year in October.

It is one of the biggest autumn farmer’s markets with lots of stalls selling gastronomic delicacies and handicrafts. It is also a good-bye party, a day when girls and ladies are given a pear each by a man who must have decorated the fruit with a ribbon: a sign that used to be taken as a declaration of love in the past.

 

 

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