South Tyrol. What images does the name of this destination carry for you? The mighty Dolomites mountains. The sunny ski slopes during winter. The excellent local area wines. People out here in the far north of Italy perceive themselves as a region distinct from the rest of the country: “We are from South Tyrol.” Or, like here in Val Gardena, “Ladinians“. Everybody here speaks at least three, if not four or more languages fluently. “Bon di! Co vala pa? Buon giorno, come stai? Guten Tag, wie geht’s?” Karin Comploj, our “Ladin” language trainer, shows great commitment and enthusiasm in teaching us the most important expressions of this rhaetro-Roman language, which continues to be spoken by the approximately 50,000 inhabitants of the Val Gardena region today. “Ladin is our mother tongue. When I speak German, I am usually calm. When I speak Italian, I am also much louder, just as the Italians themselves! We really are at the confluence of many diverse historical and cultural influences that carry on to this present day!” Karin smiles at us with a wink. Clearly, she enjoys introducing us to the secrets of the Ladin language and its present-day culture here in Val Gardena, South Tyrol. Together with her and our local hostess Christina, we take a short walk in the footsteps of history.
Looking for the (in)famous “Herrgottschnitzer” here in Val Gardena does not necessarily mean you will also find them. People, as much as their language and art, like to evolve.
So where does the passion of the Ladin people for their creative carving techniques come from? Long winters spent at high, isolated mountain altitudes as well as the daily preoccupation with wood gradually transformed simple peasants into talented artists. Since the late Middle Ages, their sculpting & carving skills have become known well beyond the borders of the mountain valley itself. If you ask the local wood sculptors for the coined term of the so-called “Herrgottschnitzer“, a name indicating the sacred meaning and tradition of numerous works of art, it turns out that the vast majority of them would rather not be associated with this part of their heritage any more. Present-day artist dynasties, like the Moroder or Perathoner families, wish to be understood as independent artists and creators of their own art, be it wooden sculpture, painting or carving: “Commissions received through the church are still what keeps many of us going. However, as a response to the development of the market, we have started early enough to organize ourselves and thus raise, for example, the Artists Association UNIKA” explains Filip Moroder-Doss, president of the association and a passionate artist himself. Listening to Filip talking about his art is a real pleasure. He tells his story and that of the people in the valley with the passion and calm of a person who has arrived. Modest and unassuming in nature, as are his sculptor colleagues Herbert Perathoner and Paul Kostner who we also visit in their art workshops, he talks to us about what fuels art & creativity here in Val Gardena.
Back to the beginning: A visit to the “Museum de Gherdëina” explaining the local carving tradition. Then, it is our turn to become creative during a sculpting workshop!
So much “high level art”, not only geographically but also figuratively speaking, truly merits a visit of the local area history museum in Val Gardena. It perfectly portrays the 400 years of tradition of wood carving & sculpting around here. Friendly local museum director Dr. Paulina Moroder makes it her mission to guide us around the premises.
Immediately after, it is our turn to “lend a hand”. Our artist & tutor Florian offers regular creative carving courses for visitors during the summertime. Creating our own artworks from the fascinating raw material of wood is quite a process! At last do we realize what an art wood sculpting really is: It is not easy to “liberate” whatever shapes from the wood that also meet our high artistic and aesthetic expectations … expectations surely fuelled by the ubiquitous art on display here in the valley. The ambition of the Val Gardena wood carving tradition has really put us under a creative spell!
Luxury Travel Tips from Val Gardena: All those adventures truly deserve your visit of the Albion Hotel as well as the gourmet restaurant Tubladel in Sankt Ulrich.
Unique. From the outdoor infinity pool here at Hotel Albion, we are under the impression to swim straight into the Val Gardena; the sauna opening up our view to the nearby Dolomites. The dessert served to us at the restaurant Tubladel is served in one of the most artistic ways that I have ever seen in a restaurant: A long wooden board literally loaded with lots of sweet delicacies for well over 10 people … The people of Val Gardena really like to look after you I believe.
I advise you to bring one thing above all when travelling here: TIME. For the people. For the art. Also for the art of nature to create truly unique landscapes. And above all: The art, and time, to enjoy yourself. 🙂
Check out the following photo gallery for even more inspiring, creative travel moments from Val Gardena, South Tyrol in Italy:
Disclaimer: We have been invited by Val Gardena / Gröden Marketing to travel to Val Gardena in the north of Italy. All opinions are my own.