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LOCATION: Tyrol (Tirol); western Austria and northern Italy
POPULATION: 1,708,000
LANGUAGE: German, Italian, Ladin (or Ladinian)
RELIGION: Roman Catholic


Tyrol (or Tirol) is a name for a historical region in Western Central Europe, covering the area in the eastern Alps in western Austria and northern Italy. It includes the Austrian state (Bundesland) of Tyrol, which is divided into North Tyrol and East Tyrol; the Italian region known as Trentino–Alto Adige; and three communes in the Italian region of Veneto (Livinallongo del Col di Lana, Colle Santa Lucia, and Cortina d'Ampezzo). The name of the region derives from a family name linked to a castle near Meran (now Merano in Italy).

In prehistoric times (the late Bronze Age and the Iron Age), the most prominent cultures of the region were the Laugen-Melaun (Luco-Meluno) and the Urnfield, succeeded by the Fritzens-Sanzeno (also known as the Rhaetics). In 15 bc the region was conquered by the Romans and incorporated into the Roman Empire. From the 6th to the 9th century, the region was settled by the invading tribes of Bavarians, whose southernmost territory was the area of today's Bolzano (Bolzen) and the Longobards (who ruled in the area of today's Trentino). After it became part of the Frankish Empire and later the Holy Roman Empire, the region was considered to be of great strategic importance as a bridge between Italy and Bavaria. Tyrol became part of the Duchy of Bavaria in the Early Middle Ages. Its territory consisted predominantly of properties belonging to the bishops of Brixen (Bressanone) and Trento. In 1248 the scions of the Tyrol family, residing in a castle near Merano, acquired extensive lands from the bishop of Brixen. By 1271 the Tyrol family had effectively replaced the ecclesiastical power in the region. In 1342, Margaret Maultasch, heiress to the Tyrol, married the son of the Holy Roman Emperor, Louis IV. When she died childless in 1363, the Tyrol came under the rule of the Habsburgs, which lasted until 1918 (with the exception of the time period between 1805 and 1814, when Austria was forced to cede it to the Kingdom of Bavaria and later Italy). In the 16th century, Tyrol prospered largely because of its mines and the production of weapons. It adopted the Reformation movement, but it then reverted to Catholicism after a large peasant revolt of 1525 had been crushed. In 1867, Tyrol was declared the Crown Land of Cisleithania, the western half of Austria-Hungary. After World War I, and following the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Treaty of Saint-Germain, northern Tyrol became part of the First Austrian Republic. Today, it is one of Austria's nine federal states, with Innsbruck as its capital. The state of Tirol is divided into eight districts (bezirke) and one statutory city (Innsbruck). The southern Tyrol region, in spite of the region's overwhelmingly German-speaking population, became part of Italy and was known, until 1947, under the name of Venetia Tridentina. In 1948 it was granted a special regional autonomy within the Republic of Italy. The provincial capitals in Trentino–Alto Adige alternate biennially as the site of the regional parliament.

In addition to denoting a historical region, the name of Tyrol is sometimes also used simply to refer to the Austrian federal state of Tirol.


The Austrian part of the historic region of Tyrol, known in Austria as Tirol, is bordered by Germany to the north, by the Austrian federal states of Salzburg and Carinthia (Kärnten) to the east, by Vorarlberg to the west, and by Italy to the south. Its area covers 12,647 sq km (4,883 sq mi). The region is entirely Alpine in character. The highest peak, the Wildspitze, is 3,744 m (12,382 ft) high. The largest rivers in North and East Tyrol, respectively, are the Inn River and the Drava (Drau).

The Italian part of the historic Tyrol is known as Trentino– Alto Adige (in Italian), Trentino-Südtirol (in German), or as Trentin–Adesc Aut and Trentin-Sudtirol (in Ladinian). It is bounded by Austria (and its federal state of Tirol) to the north, by Switzerland (the canton of Graubünden) to the northwest, and by the Italian regions of Lombardy (Lombardia) and Veneto to the west and south, respectively. Its area covers 13,619 sq km (5,256 sq mi). The entire region is extremely mountainous, with most regions over 900 m (3,000 ft); the mountain peak called Palla Bianca (Weisskugel) reaches 3,738 m (12,264 ft). The main rivers in this region are the upper Adige (Etsch), the Isarco (Eisack), the Noce, and the Avisio, all of which are tributaries of the Adige River, flowing south through the cities of Bolzano and Trento to the Italian city of Verona in the Veneto region.

Winters in the Austrian part of Tyrol are cold and snowy, but summers are moderately warm, despite much precipitation. Average temperatures for December range from -4ºc to 2ºc (25ºf–36of), and average June temperatures range between 11ºc and 24oc (52ºf–75ºf). The climate in the province of Bolzano is very similar to the climate in Austrian Tyrol and significantly colder than Trentino's climate.


Three languages have traditionally coexisted in Tyrol: German, Italian, and Ladin (or Ladinian), a Rhaeto-Romance language. While German prevails in North, Eastern, and West Tyrol, in South Tyrol the Italian and German languages have been spoken side-by-side since the Early Middle Ages. Ladin is spoken in the Dolomite Mountains of Italy between Trentino–Alto Adige (Südtirol) and Veneto. This regional language is related to the Swiss Romansh, Surselvan, and Friulan. It is officially recognized in Italy and has official rights in the region of Trentino–Alto Adige but not in the region of Veneto.

The agglomerations around the towns of Bolzano and Merano have always attracted speakers of all three language groups, but for a long time they lived side-by-side, with only a limited interest in multilingualism and communication beyond their linguistic community. In the feudal system, the ruling elites were not preoccupied with the languages spoken by their subjects; their own languages of communication were French and Latin. The predominantly rural way of life in the region did not promote contact between the language groups, especially in the case of German- and Ladin-speaking populations living in the alpine valleys. This linguistic situation changed at the beginning of the 19th century, when cultural and national movements equating language with national identity created an interest in the vernaculars. After World War I, when South Tyrol became part of Italy, and following the rise of fascism in the peninsula, the use of the German dialects and of German was banned in South Tyrol. Many German-language speakers left Italy at that time, some returning only after World War II. The conditions for the peaceful coexistence of the Italian and the German language groups in the region were not promising at that time, and their mutual unease culminated in political clashes and even bomb attacks. In 1969 a set of laws was passed between the Italian and the Austrian governments that made possible the intensive program of protecting the German language in the region of Trentino–Alto Adige, where the German language prevails in the cities of Bolzano and Trento. The debate on the future of minorities in Europe, opened in the 1960s, gradually led to the implementation of a set of protective measures for the members of German- and Ladin- speaking minorities in the region. Moreover, interethnic relations improved significantly in the 1980s, during the years of the economic boom in the region. All this has led to an important degree of bilingualism, especially in the area of Bolzano. With the appearance of a new model of open, multilingual European identity, the privilege of bilingualism has been especially attractive to the young South Tyrolese.


Some folklore and traditions among the Tyrolese vary by region, but there are traditions that all parts of the Tyrol share.

According to an old courtship tradition, for example, if a young woman presents a young man with a bottle of spirits, she intends to say that he has found favor with her and may visit her at home. If her parents look upon the young man with disfavor, she might lower the bottle at night from her bedroom window. In parts of Eastern Tyrol, invitations to a wedding are conveyed by a best man or "wedding-inviter," about a fortnight before the event. He goes around the village inviting the people in each house; if he is offered food, it is taken to be an acceptance of the invitation; if he is denied food, the likelihood is that the invited will not attend the wedding. In the Unter Innthal, the bride is often stolen away by a few wedding guests after the ceremony and sometimes taken to the next village or to an inn where the group eats and drinks until the groom appears to pay the bill. In South Tyrol (Ampezzo), weddings usually take place about a fortnight after the betrothal. During this time, the bride is guarded by a chaperon known as "the growling bear" (brontola). In West Tyrol, the parents inspect each other's houses shortly before the betrothal, in order to evaluate the property of the other family. Today, these customs are largely symbolic.

The traditional Christmas market takes place in most German-speaking towns in Tyrol every year, typically from the last Friday of November to December 23. Visitors can buy traditional food and mulled wine and walk along stands selling Christmas wares, inexpensive toys, and souvenirs.

The emblem of Tyrol is edelweiss ("noble white"), a simple flower that grows spontaneously only at high altitudes. Its image is often embroidered or pinned on clothing produced in Tyrol, as a symbol of regional pride.


Tyrol is a region where Roman Catholicism, the dominant religion of the Habsburg Empire, prevails among all three language groups. Although in the early 16th century a large part of Tyrol accepted the teachings of the Reformation, the region reverted to Catholicism following the crushing of the large peasant revolt in 1525. Roman Catholic churches can be found in even the smallest Tyrolese hamlets. Wooden outdoor sanctuaries adorned with images of the Virgin Mary, Jesus, or different saints are a common sight on Tyrolese roads.

The presence of Jews in Tyrol was documented as early as the beginning of the 14th century; in 1520 a decree was issued expelling all Jews from the region. Some returned, numbering by the end of the 18th century only eight families, living in Innsbruck and Bolzano. The center of Jewish life in today's Tyrol is the city of Innsbruck.


Most major holidays in Tyrol are based on the Catholic calendar. The feast day of St. Nicholas on December 6 is the traditional beginning of the Christmas season. Christmas and Easter, mark the high points of the Tyrolean year. In Tyrol, Christmas is celebrated on December 24, with a large family dinner. A midnight mass on December 24 is an age-old custom, followed in all parts of Tyrol. December 26 is celebrated in Tyrol as St. Stephen's Day. New Year's Day is celebrated. Epiphany (January 6), also known as Three King's Day, is the day that closes the Christmas season.

Other holidays include All Saints' Day on November 1, a religious holiday during which Tyrolese typically bring flowers to the graves of deceased family members. The time preceding Lent is marked in Tyrol by Carnival festivities. On Easter Monday, many Italian-speaking Tyrolese traditionally have a picnic in the countryside to celebrate the beginning of spring. Festa della Liberazione (April 25) marks the end of World War II in the Italian part of Tyrol. Another spring holiday is Labor Day on May 1, celebrating the international workers' movement. Whit Monday, the day following Pentecost, is a Catholic holiday celebrated at the end of May or the beginning of June. In the Italian part of Tyrol, June 2 marks the day of the Italian Republic. A holiday marking the height of the summer vacation season is the feast of the Assumption of Mary on August 15, when many Tyrolese take time to relax with family and friends during a long weekend. In the Austrian parts of Tyrol, October 26 is celebrated as the Austrian National Day (marking Austria's Declaration of Neutrality made in 1955).

In addition to these national holidays, towns and villages throughout Tyrol celebrate the feast day of their patron saint.


Rites of passage in the traditionally Roman Catholic region of Tyrol have generally coincided with the rites of passage in the Catholic Church: baptism, first Holy Communion, and confirmation are some of the steps in the life of young Tyrolese that are celebrated by a gathering of a large extended family. In the rural areas of Tyrol, traditional marriages still form the basis of communal living; in the urban areas, marriages have often been replaced by cohabitation, although this is still a more common phenomenon in the Austrian part of Tyrol than it is in the Italian part. Another important rite of passage in the life of young Tyrolese is completing secondary school; passing the secondary-school leaving examination called Matura (or Maturità) is often a reason for a large celebration with family and friends, marking the entry of a young person into the adult world.


From the times of the Habsburgs, the Tyrolese inherited a respect for authority. This has included respect for the traditional family, based on the principles of the Roman Catholic faith. Large rural families were, in the past, an essential source of labor on the family's farmstead. While the trend of large families continues in the most isolated areas of Tyrol, families with more than two children have become rare in urban areas and among the population employed in economic sectors other than farming. In a relatively harsh climate, a sense of community and a feeling of solidarity among members are valued very highly and cherished across the generations. Considering that, in many areas of Tyrol, geographical mobility was traditionally low, it is not surprising that the feelings of neighborly common interest and friendship that have bound families to one another for decades, if not centuries, are still attributed great importance. Increased demographic mobility in more urban areas has weakened such attachments, but lasting friendships are still valued very highly in all of Tyrol.

Honesty and directness are highly valued in all personal relationships among the Tyrolese. In family life, older generations are typically shown great respect and afforded deferential treatment.

There are many interethnic marriages in Tyrol now, a phenomenon that was not always approved of in the past.


In the Italian part of Tyrol, the cities of Trento and Bolzano have enjoyed a reputation as being among the best cities in Italy in which to live. In the entire region of Tyrol, the absence of crime, the general neatness, the efficiency and reliability of public services, the high quality of education, and the pleasant pace of life, have all contributed to making the area very attractive, among both travelers and those looking for a permanent home.

Strict regulations protect the wildlife and vegetation in the region, and they seem to be very effective. Cleanliness of public and private spaces is a tradition and a norm in Tyrol, and recycling is both highly diversified and efficient. Both private gardens and public parks are maintained lovingly and carefully. Public transportation in the region is excellent, with trains and buses connecting cities with the many valleys of the region.


In rural areas of Tyrol, families tend to be more traditional, cultivating a division of labor that runs along gender lines. Fathers are still seen as heads of the family, and traditional marriages prevail, with a very low divorce rate. Childcare and housekeeping are typically women's duties, but the work on the farm is often shared between women and men. In urban areas, a different family model prevails, with single-parent families and cohabitations on the rise.

In keeping with an old tradition, the names that are recorded in the parish registers of births, deaths, and marriages by Tyrolean peasants often differ from the names by which these people are known in the community. The appellation given to the owner of a farmstead is often transferred from one owner to the next, so that whoever acquires the land, also acquires a nickname for the rest of his life.


Although traditional Tyrolese clothing is still displayed at tourist venues and folk festivals, in daily life it is mostly a thing of the past. In urban areas, the Tyrolese are wearing clothing similar to many urban Western Europeans, incorporating traditional pieces of clothing such as loden coats, hats, and jackets for women, men, and children. Lederhosen (leather knickerbockers) are a traditional outfit for men; however, they are no longer seen in everyday life very often but remain a symbol of regional pride. Dirndl, a simplified version of the traditional Alpine dress for women, consisting of a colorful bodice, blouse, full skirt, and apron, can still be seen in Tyrolese cities, worn by young urban settlers as a wink to their local traditions. Showing pride in one's region and one's origins by wearing a dirndl at formal occasions has also been a favorite among the noble women in the Austrian part of Tyrol.


Tyrolese food, similarly to other cuisines of cold mountainous areas in Europe, is high in calories derived from fat. Crafuncins da ula verde, or schlutzkrapfen (also known as "lean Tyrolese ravioli") is a type of pasta filled with spinach, parsley, and onion, and eaten during Lent, when meatless dishes prevail. Another traditional meatless dish is nioch da patac (potato gnocchi), dumplings made with barley flower, potatoes, and eggs. Speckknoedel (bacon dumplings) and spinatknoedel (spinach dumplings) are an important part of local cuisine that started out as a way to use stale bread. They are a mixture of dried bread soaked in milk, chopped onion sauteed with bacon, parsley, and eggs, slowly cooked in boiling water, and served with a stew or in hot broth. Similarly prepared are bales de furmenton (buckwheat dumplings) and bales da fuia (liver dump-lings). Schüttelbrot is a type of Tyrolese crispbread typically eaten with cheese, ham, or cold cuts, and a favorite in local ski resorts. The spices used in the dish vary, but it can consist of fennel seeds, caraway, fenugreek, coriander, dill, or anise, according to local or individual preferences. Grosti are deep-fried pastries that can be prepared savory or sweet and dusted with sugar. They are typically served at Carnival time. Sometimes they are prepared with mashed potatoes and served with sauerkraut in the winter or boiled vegetables in the summer.

Traditional Tyrolese soups include panicia cun cern sfumieda y bales (barley soup with smoked pork and dumplings), panicia da venderdi ("Friday soup" made with dried beans), and tiroler suppe (Tyrolean split-pea soup with onion). Golasc is a Tyrolean-style goulash, a heavy beef stew spiced with marjoram, caraway, cloves, and paprika. The Tyrol gröstl is a traditional food containing potatoes and pieces of cut pork, onion, and butter browned in a pan, and spiced with marjoram, caraway, salt, pepper, and parsley. It is often served with fried eggs or beetroot salad. Another traditional meat dish is herrengröstl, or herrengroschl (sauteed veal ragout with crunchy potatoes, often served with a side dish of green salad). Tiroler Leber (calf liver Tyrolean style) is sliced and fried liver, served with fried chopped onions, capers, lemon, and heavy cream. Polenta is a cornmeal dish traditionally eaten in the rural areas of South Tyrol for breakfast, lunch and dinner; in today's restaurants it has become a side dish served with meat, fish or other dishes, but not as flavorful as the slowly-cooked traditional polenta. Tyrol is also rich in edible mushrooms, and its cuisine reflects that.

Some of the popular sweet dishes are: crafons (poppyseed doughnuts traditionally made in Val Gardena), fanzieutes da leva (another traditional fried doughnut), and fanzieutes da meiles (apple-fritters).

South Tyrol is a region renowned for its production of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Grigio wines. The best known Tyrolean wine is Kalterersee (Lago di Caldaro), which should be drunk no later than a couple of years after harvesting.


In the Austrian parts of the Tyrol, all public schools are subject to the educational laws and regulations governing education in the Republic of Austria. Austria has a free and public school system, with nine years of mandatory education. The Federal Ministry of Education funds all primary, secondary, and tertiary (higher) education. Primary and secondary educations are administered on the state level. Private primary and secondary schools (approximately 10% of all primary and secondary educational institutions) are mostly run by the Roman Catholic Church. Gymnasium is a secondary school that focuses on general education, as opposed to the specialized education students receive in vocational or professional secondary schools. The series of demanding final written and oral examinations in the last year of Gymnasium is called matura; it gives students who successfully pass it access to university. Austria has no tradition of private universities, but this has been changing since 2001, with the law on accreditation of private universities (11 existed in Austria in 2008). Until recently, the only degree in the Austrian university system was a magister (a four- to five-year degree with a substantial thesis), but recently, in keeping with the Bologna process of educational reform, some universities have introduced a bachelor's degree. The University of Innsbruck was founded in 1669 and remains one of the best universities in Austria and in Europe. Inns-bruck is also home to an important and prestigious Medical University, one of the three medical schools in Austria, and a world center for treatment of ski-injuries.

Educational institutions in South Tyrol are governed by general rules and regulations pertaining to the Italian educational system, with a significant bilingual component (German-Italian, especially in the area of Bolzano), and they are granted a considerably greater degree of regional autonomy than their counterparts in other regions of Italy. The Italian school system starts with primary (five years) and continues with secondary school (divided into two stages: middle school, lasting three years, and secondary school, lasting between three and five years). Any secondary school that lasts five years grants access to the final exam called maturità, which grants students who pass it access to university education. Most Italian universities, and the best, are public; they grant university degrees called laurea (after three years of study), or laurea specialistica (also known as laurea magistrale) after 5 years of study and a thesis. The University of Trento (founded in 1962) is considered to be among the very best in Italy (and consistently top ranked in science) and among the most open to international exchange of students and researchers and scientific collaboration. The Free University of Bolzano (founded in 1997) is a private university, and offers free, practice-oriented, multilingual education, oriented towards the local labor market.


The region of Tyrol has traditionally been a mediator between two great European literary traditions: the German-language and the Italian-language literature. An abundance of literature in Latin (clerical texts, inscriptions, letters, scientific writings, and a variety of texts used in daily life) has been found in Tyrol dating from the beginning of its existence as a political unit in the 13th century, until the late 17th century. The birth of literature in Italian and German has generally followed the gradual decline of writing in Latin and started to flourish in the 18th century.

Goswin von Marienburg (14th century), a Benedictine monk and a historian, is particularly known for his chronicles in Latin. Another important representative of the German-speaking group in Tyrol was 15th century theologian and philosopher Nicolaus de Cusa (1401–1464), the bishop of Brixen and one of the most renowned personalities of early Renaissance, a lover of literature from antiquity, and a promoter of religious tolerance. While de Cusa's writings were in Latin, his native German was in his time in Tyrol mostly a vehicle for the oral tradition, folktales, and legends. Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (1405–1464), later Pope Pius II, was of central-Italian origin, but he spent a significant part of his life in Trento and northeastern Italy and is widely seen as one of the most important representatives of Humanism in Europe. Astronomer Christoph Scheiner (1573 or 1575- 1650) was a Jesuit, physicist and astronomer famous for discovering sunspots. Jakob Balde (1604–1668), also a Jesuit, was a poet and author of many epic, satiric, dramatic, and lyric verses in Latin and, less famously, German. His contemporary Diego Tafuri de Lequile (1604– 1673), Italian court chaplain at Innsbruck, wrote treatises in Italian and Latin, ranging from a noted study on the happy disposition of Austrians to the chronicle of Queen Christina of Sweden's visit to Innsbruck.

With the decline of writing in Latin in the 17th century, Tyrolese intellectuals began to show a more pronounced interest in the vernacular. Simon Pietro de Bartolomei (1709–1763), born near Trento, wrote with particular interest about the many dialects of all language groups of Tyrol and about their history. Karl von Güntherode (1740–1795) dedicated his life to the study of theology and metaphysics and wrote verses and satiric dramas. Yet, only the 18th century saw renewed cultural vitality in the region, for the first time since the advent of Humanism. In the mid-century, poet Bianca Laura Sailente and her husband Giuseppe Valeriano Vannetti found the Accademia degli Agiati, where Italian-speaking Tyrolese secular intellectuals and writers could gather, converse, and read their works. Sailente's and Vannetti's son, Clementino Vannetti (1754–1795), never attended university but spent his relatively short life writing and translating from Latin into Italian, writing essays, poems and satirical works, studying different national literatures of his time, and writing treatises on education and the regionalist sentiment in Trentino. Girolamo Tartarotti (1706–1761) from Rovereto, an important center of Italian-language culture in Tyrol, was another representative of the new Tyrolese literature in Italian, and composed works ranging from verses to essays on history and philosophy. Among German-speaking Tyrolese writers of the time, Ignaz Weitenauer (1709–1783) was a philologist and Orientalist, who also wrote lyric and dramatic works, and is widely considered to be one of the best Jesuit dramatists of the 18th century. He also wrote one of the first scientifically based manuals of German orthography. A poet associated with the Romantic movement and the movement for the unification of Italy is Giovanni Prati (1814– 1884). In the last hundred years, Tyrolese literatures in Italian and Ladin have been marked by both regional and ethnic themes and the strong interest in the revival of the dialectal. Among the best known modern Tyrolese writers in German are: Anita Pichler (the first South Tyrolean postwar author to become known outside her country, and whose writings mark a formal breakthrough in Tyrolese literature), Helene Flöss, Sabine Gruber, Joseph Zoderer, Norbert Conrad Kaser (who was strongly influenced by Italian poetry, and wrote both in German and Italian), and Gerhard Kofler (also a bilingual writer of essays and poetry).


The estimated population in the Austrian part of Tyrol is 700,000, but its distribution is uneven, with the highest concentrations in the Inn and Drava river valleys and around the cities of Innsbruck, Schwaz and Kufstein. Most inhabitants of the rural areas are engaged in pasture farming, dairy farming, forestry, and cattle and livestock raising. Wheat and rye are grown in the Inn valley, while the city of Innsbruck is a traditional center of textile industry. The size of industries is relatively limited; goods include pharmaceutical and chemical production and electrical appliances. The population in the Italian part of Tyrol is estimated to be 1,008,000, with the highest concentration around the city of Trento, and in the area between the cities of Bolzano and Merano. Italian speakers constitute a majority with about 60% of the total population, German around 35%, and 5% speak Ladin.

The economy of the region is based on tourism (especially in winter and summer), excellent wine production, dairy products, timber, and fruit. Its industries are concentrated around the production of metals, chemicals, and paper. The region is also a major producer and exporter of hydroelectric power.

Tourism is a major source of employment and revenue in the region. Medical University in Innsbruck and the University of Trento are internationally renowned for their innovative scientific work and consistently attract a highly educated international workforce to the region.

The Tyrolese are renowned for being honest and loyal business partners and for cultivating high ethical standards in all professions; in international collaboration, they expect to find the same qualities in their counterparts from other countries.


Tyrol is known for some of the best ski slopes in the world. Famous ski resorts in the region are Cortina d'Ampezzo, Kitzbühel, Ischgl, Wilder Kaiser, and St. Anton (where the world's first ski school was founded). Skiing represents not only a popular pastime, but is also a significant source of income in the highly developed Tyrolese tourist industry. The skiing season at the famous five glaciers (Kaunertaler, Pitztaler, Stubaier, Hintertuxer and Sölden-Ötztal) starts as early as mid-October and is open-ended, with excellent powder-snow. More than 30 ski areas feature monoskiing facilities, ski lifts, and expert service, with a wide range of slopes for monoskiers and the disabled. Mountain guides and mountaineering instructors provide instruction in winter sports, such as snowshoe hiking, icefall climbing, glacier crossing, and ski mountaineering. Tyrol is renowned for its excellent and highly skilled ski guides. In the summertime, mountain trekking and climbing are the most popular sports, both among the Tyrolese and the tourists.


Alpinism and winter sports are a favorite pastime of both the Tyrolese and the visitors to the area. Tyrol's many mountain shelters are generally open from May/June to October. Visitors may obtain temporary hunting and fishing licenses. Mushroom-picking is allowed in some parts of Tyrol and not in others because fungi are considered to be an integral part of the Alpine biosphere and essential nourishment for the animals. Merano was a popular 19th century spa town, and today the town of Brixen is known for its weight-loss clinics, hydrotherapy, and fashionable health tourism.


The tradition of woodcarving is old in Tyrol, largely thanks to the abundance of forests in the region, and the need for the Tyrolese to while away the many long winter evenings, while talking and telling legends and tales to one another. The artwork produced includes statues of biblical figures and saints, toy animals, pretty household objects, ornaments for crèches, and picture frames. In some areas of the region, woodcarving has become a real industry, with carvings sold all over Europe.


Many social problems developing in other, highly urbanized areas of Europe and the world are almost absent in Tyrol. Overdevelopment in recent decades, along with the greatly increased traffic and large tourist population year-round are widely seen as the biggest threats to Tyrol today. The heavy traffic on the highway through the mountain pass of Brenner (Brennero) has been at the center of environmentalists' concerns. Many local families now own several cars, and commercial traffic between northern Europe and the Italian peninsula continues to increase. Environmentalists in Tyrol have lately gained strength, denouncing air and water pollution, projects that include more asphalt and concrete roads, as well as golf courses and other large sports installations.

The crime rate is very low in all parts of Tyrol, making it a very attractive residential area for people of all ages.


Laws and regulations pertaining to women's and gay rights differ in the parts of Tyrol belonging to Austria from those in the parts belonging to Italy.

In 1918, women were given the right to vote in the newly founded First Austrian Republic. The University of Vienna first started accepting women in 1900. In 1976 a law established the principle of equal rights and responsibilities for married men and women, and equal rights and responsibilities in caring for children. The Equal Treatment Law of 1979 made various forms of discrimination against women illegal, establishing the principle of equal pay, and making it possible for women to receive compensation if they have been victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. Another goal of this law was to increase the number of women employed in government agencies. In 1925 Italy granted limited, and in 1945, full voting rights to women. Strong Italian feminist movement of the 1970s and 1980s stressed the demand for the complete equality of women in the workplace and other areas of public life, mobilizing both women and men in the issues of equal pay, reproductive rights and violence against women. When it comes to university education, the number of women in Italy who attend university now exceeds the number of men. Women in northern Italy (e.g. Tyrol) have a higher rate of employment than women in southern Italian regions. In spite of these legislative improvements, traditional roles prevail in the homes of many rural Tyrolese, with men still considering the majority of household and childrearing tasks to be "women's work." This situation is different in urban areas, where more progressive attitudes towards sharing household tasks are the norm.

Abortion in the Austrian part of Tyrol is available upon request up to 14–15 weeks of pregnancy. Beyond that time, and up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, the abortion is possible only if the mother can show that there is risk to her mental or physical health, or to the health of the fetus. In the Italian part of Tyrol, Italian abortion laws govern reproductive rights. Th ere, abortion became legal in 1978, and is performed free-of-charge in public hospitals and private clinics authorized by public health authorities. Surrogacy and egg donation are banned in Austria. In 2003, Italy banned use of donor sperm, eggs, or surrogate mothers, and restricted assisted fertilization to heterosexual couples in long-term relationships.

Gay rights are slowly gaining strength in Austria, a country generally seen as moderate when dealing with gay rights. Ho-mosexuality in Austria was legalized in 1971, and homosexuals are not excluded from military service. While the first parliamentary debates on the issue took place in the mid-1990s, at the federal level, anti-discrimination laws pertaining to sexual orientation were introduced in 2004, and there is now discussion in Austria to provide a possibility for gay couples to register their partnership. Austria recognizes the right of the person not to testify against their same-sex partner. In 2006 the first legal same-sex marriage came into being when a transsexual who became a female was allowed to switch gender while remaining married to his wife. 49% of Austrians support gay marriage. The gay scene is particularly strong in Innsbruck, with numerous gay-friendly cafés and clubs, while rural areas remain generally more conservative. In the Italian-speaking part of Tyrol, public support for gay rights remains somewhat more subdued (only 31% of all Italians support same-sex marriages). Since the late 19th century, there have been no laws against homosexual practices in Italy, although homosexuals were often persecuted by the Fascist regime and during World War II. Homosexuals are not excluded from serving in the Italian military forces. Since 2003, discrimination based on sexual orientation has been illegal, but same-sex couples still have no shared rights regarding property, inheritance or social benefits. Although many Italian regions have since 2005 passed resolutions in support of same-sex civil unions, Trentino–Alto Adige is not among them. The gay scene in Trento and Bolzano is relatively strong, while in the countryside more traditional attitudes prevail.


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—by K. von Wittelsbach