Val Gardena

Information and History of Val Gardena and the Ladin Language

Val Gardena stretches for 20 km from west to east, from the beginning of the valley in Ponte Gardena to the Dolomite passes of Gardena and Sella, encompassing the towns of Ortisei (1,236 m), Santa Cristina (1,428 m), and Selva (1,563 m). The population numbers approximately 9,000 inhabitants, with a significant majority being Ladin speakers (about 80%), while the rest are German and Italian native speakers. Val Gardena's ability to maintain its originality and authenticity despite thriving tourism makes it a truly unique destination.

The Dolomite Ladin Language
When the people of Val Gardena are among themselves, they predominantly speak in the Ladin language. Ladin is the third official language of South Tyrol and originated around 15 B.C. At that time, the Roman general Drusus conquered the Alpine region, leading to the fusion of the local Rhaetian culture with the Latin culture of the Romans. This gave rise to a new language, Ladin, which has been preserved intact in some Dolomite valleys like Val Gardena, Val Badia, and Val di Fassa until today, naturally with specific local variations.

Some examples of Gardena Ladin:
Good morning bon di (bon di)
Good afternoon bon domesdi (bon domësdi)
Good evening bona sëira (bona sëira)
Goodbye assudëi (assudëi)
Good night bona nuet (bona nuët)
Thank you de gra (de grà)
Mountain crëp (krëp)
Sky ciel (tschiël)
Snow nëif (nëiff)
Sun surëdl (surëdl)
Water ega (ega)

Wood Carving
The art of wood carving is as integral to Val Gardena as the Dolomites themselves. It emerged in the early 17th century as a means to pass the long winter months and generate additional income beyond agriculture. During winter, wood was carved, and in summer, artisans traveled the world to sell their sculptures. By the 18th century, the art of wood carving from Val Gardena had achieved worldwide renown. The assortment included sacred and profane sculptures, nativity scene figures, ornamental objects, and children's toys. Today, Val Gardena's wood carving art has become an independent economic sector while still remaining original and authentic craftsmanship. This is evidenced by the annual UNIKA sculpture fair held in Ortisei, where Gardena artists showcase their magnificent, diverse, and unique works.

"Originals" from Val Gardena
"Ladins are like Swiss stone pine trees—strong, indestructible, and enduring." These are the characteristics that have contributed to the international fame of some Gardena residents.
Luis Trenker (1892-1990), for example, represents the most famous Gardena native in every sense. A true mountain climber, actor, filmmaker, writer, and architect. As an artist and ambassador of the Gardena Dolomites, he indelibly shaped the valley's history. The Val Gardena museum in Ortisei houses the Luis Trenker archive and a permanent exhibition.
Luis Trenker's nephew also achieved great fame: Giorgio Moroder, a composer, songwriter, and producer of famous film soundtracks (including Flashdance, Metropolis, The NeverEnding Story, etc.), born in Ortisei in 1940, has been awarded three Oscars and four Golden Globes. He frequently stays in his Val Gardena.
Val Gardena also boasts prominent figures in sports, such as Carolina Kostner, born in 1987, a three-time European figure skating champion, and successful skier Isolde Kostner, Caroline's cousin and, of course, a Gardena native!



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