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The BBC's Julian Keane
"To much laughter he explains he feels Tyrolean by day and Italian by night"
 real 28k

Monday, 7 May, 2001, 01:08 GMT 02:08 UK
Postcard from South Tyrol
Milan 8 May South Tyrol 7 May Rome 11 May Rome 12 May Rome 14 May Messina 9 May Palermo 10 May

7 May

Italy, we are told, is a land of contrasts, a country split in two between the industrial heartland of the north and the poorer agricultural south.

castle in Juval, South Tyrol
South Tyrol used to be part of Austria
But here, in Terlan, a picture-postcard village near Bolzano surrounded by snow-covered mountains and pine forests, Italy reveals another side to its multi-faceted appearance.

I say "Terlan", but my map has it down as "Terlano". I had dismissed that as just a misprint, but in fact, it was just a very visible sign that the region is caught between two cultures, a fact underlined when I made my way to a cafe on the village square.

To accompany my cappuccino I'm offered a choice of desserts: Tiramisu or Apfelnstrudel.


There is obviously something quite un-Italian about Terlan. The reason: the village is in South Tyrol, Italy's most northern region, a linguistic and cultural melting-pot. A former Austrian province, it was ceded to Italy after World War I.

Looking around me, it is clear that efforts to Italianise the region have come to nothing.

Italian speakers are in a minority - two-thirds of the population speak German.

Julian Keane with South Tyroleans in Terlan
Terlan - where most people speak German - shows no sign of election fever

Both communities have found a sort of modus vivendi. They have their own churches, schools, sports centres and political parties. Public housing is allocated according to which community you belong to.

The only concession to the needs of a central state are in public service.

In order to work in the administrazione or Verwaltung, South Tyroleans have to sit a bilingual test. An acceptable knowledge of both regional languages is compulsory. Successful candidates even receive what's called a "bilingual bonus".

You might have thought that with a general election just days away, South Tyrol would be awash with calls for greater autonomy - but no sign here of a population gripped by election fever.

The political cacophony of Rome seems to have failed to find a way through the dense pine forests of Terlan.

You can listen to Julian Keane's reports from Italy every day on the BBC World Service's news and current affairs programme, The World Today - the European edition runs from 0400 to 0600 GMT.

Click here for The World Today webpage.

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02 Feb 01 | Europe
Timeline: Italy
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