A walk in Selva, Val Gardena
Walking through Selva Val Gardena, humming and carrying a backpack one day, you may come across a smiling villager who asks you: “Ulà ‘jons’a de bel?” and you, unsuspecting traveller, may find yourself looking at him perplexed. The passer-by would then ask in Italian, or perhaps in German or French: “Where are you going?” And reassured, you would start a friendly conversation.
On a walk such as this, you may often encounter signs and placards, written with words that do not make sense in either Italian, French or German.
But what language do they speak in that village of a little over 2600 inhabitants, which, in tourist periods, dozens of languages can be heard simultaneously?
The answer is Ladin.
Val Gardena is one of the few areas in Italy where Ladin is spoken as a native language. It is an ancient language which seems to date back to the Roman Empire, and to have survived thanks to the natural isolation of the mountains. If you would like to know more about the importance of Ladin, you can visit the website for the town of Selva, Val Gardena, on the page in Ladin.
Going back to our holiday, why should a tourist know a few words of Ladin? For two reasons, dear traveller, because without savouring the language you would lose half the experience of the holiday and because you just might miss the meaning of certain phrases, or not fully understand certain foods or drinks. Let’s pretend that during your walk you become hungry, and you come across a sign saying “butëiga dal pan” and from the window you see that it’s a bakery. You come in and find yourself surrounded by the smell and wonderful sight of its delights. There are at least a dozen products on display on the counter with many different labels: “pan” ,“semel”, “fuiacia”, “ciopa”, “nioch de feur”… Which one to choose? The baker then would probably explain to you that, for example, the “fuiacia” is a type of homemade bread with raisins and dried figs, influenced by Austrian cuisine, or that the “ciopa” is a tall, round bread. A product so specific to the region that it cannot be called anything but the local term.
You could also more easily listen to the owners of the Hotel Tyrol, Bibiana and Maurizio, who love to recount and entertain guests with entire stories or news in Ladin and you, dear traveller, may find them a valuable guide to the mountain world.
Val Gardena is not only a place for skiing and sport but also a place to find that roots should not be forgotten, but be a point of reference when exploring the world. Lascëve savëi bel! Have fun!