We live in the mountains – a border, yes, but they are much more than that: ours, after all, is a ‘middle earth’. People who live in South Tyrol or, rather, Südtirol-Alto Adige – for it would behove people living in a middle earth to use both designations – are on the cusp of innovation and tradition, modernity and the near past, cutting-edge hydrogen technologies and Lederhosen, one of my favourite clothing items. Thousands of farming families, tending the meadows as though they were their own private gardens, live peacefully together in these mountains with “turbo” farmers on the plateaus, who rear cows for the sole purpose of mass meat production, and the landscape is peppered with few multinational companies and plenty of guesthouses.
A land where the Schützen exist, uberconservative South Tyrolean patriots, who still consider Andreas Hofer an enlightened hero and constantly carry out a partisan war on in their minds – a war against revolutionary and enlightened modernity. Their tall plumage adorning their hats stood on end when they discovered how, unbeknownst to them, Jürgen Wirth Anderlan, a rebellious South Tyrolean, had posted a rap video praising the concept of Heimat in some colourful language. The follower of the hero killed 210 years ago in Mantua shook the movement’s purists with his self-promotion. A breath of fresh air and railing against whoever sees Greta Thunberg as a beacon of hope and courage, young Ander Hofer, lover of tattoos and Harley Davidsons, with his long beard and stagey smile, could do nothing else but hand in his resignation as head of the Schützen.
The centre-right South Tyrolean government does not have a clear vision of the future.
Slave to farmers plagued by the temptation of mass production and hoteliers whose aim is to consume more land to expand their hotels; the government reverently listens to the extreme right, which does not approve of multilingual schools, a normal setting in a civilised country. The province of Bolzano lacks a plan which values teachers and only aims to sow frustration to yield even more frustration.
And, on top of that, too many valuable vaccines are being turned down by some health operators, what we obtain is a picture of who we South Tyroleans are which goes beyond the glossy pictures that flit across our screens.
It is not about Pfizer, it is about suspicion.
Joseph Zoderer, South Tyrol’s most seminal writer, released an interview a couple of days ago which summarises in a few choice words our world vision, speaking of our suspicion towards science, medicine, and a vaccine which enters our body.
“Farmers here don’t eat what they don’t know. This applies to food and medicine. This stems from a nearly genetic vision of the German populations’ relationship with nature. Nature is seen holistically, or pantheistically rather. Forests, waters, being surrounded by mountains. The farmer’s discomfort of heading into the city. In other words, there is a historical conservatism coupled with a longstanding view held by farmers about certain things” We were separated from the rest of the world and its novelties for a long time. It is not a coincidence that we still speak our primordial language here: with the migration of the German people, Ladin became isolated and entrenched in the smaller valleys, and so this language spoken across all the Alps, born 2,000 years ago, survived, moulded by Roman inserts on pre-existing Rhaetian languages. For a long time, foreigners were treated with suspicion, and the farming community had a self-governing and autonomous management, a conservative view of life. Anthropological aspects which are tied, more here than anywhere else, to a view of nature, of mountains which is not as romantic as we think. Our nurses are mostly women, and locally the woman-mother dichotomy is still deeply rooted, someone who can heal and take care of people. Most nurses, often sceptics when it comes to vaccines, come from the valleys. From families tied to the soil, farming families, who have known oppression by the Italian enemy during the war.
Zoderer continues, “In South Tyrol you eat Speck – you are not vegetarian.”
"In the valleys, you eat cows, you do not pamper then. And dogs are guard dogs, they are not man’s best friend as happens in the city” And the farmers, our neighbours, rear rabbits and turkeys to be eaten with the family during the festivities. And cats do not live in the warm Stube but outside: their task is to keep mice away.
Now more than ever I would like to take a leaf out of the enlightened writer’s book, he who wrote the novel “Die Walsche” (local dialect for the Italian) which tells the story with razor-edged style of a historical and political drama which maybe, one day, will be resolved mutually. Yes, I would like to say, like he did, “healing means first and foremost protecting what we care for from contagion.”
We consider you our guests – not just clients. And that’s why we care about you knowing about our culture, our land, our dilemmas, and our provincial issues.
And now, dear guests, allow me to end with a message to my colleagues: restaurant owners, hoteliers, pizzaioli, mixologists and café owners, hotel directors and everyone working in our sector. These words are for you – or rather, for us. Let us not give up. Let us not give up hope. The period is what it is, but it is only a phase. It may influence our future lives and, therefore, is to be given due consideration, but it is only a limited amount of time. And like everything else, this too shall pass. Sadness can be a cure but it should never give way to indifference, desperation, we cannot stand frozen in our tracks or ignore our duties in being hospitable, even before offering hospitality to our guests.
Soon we will deal with a situation which can be changed- as long as we want it, too.
This is not just about recovery, about the government, about politics, about a ‘C-suite’ we do not deserve. Things will be better and nice if we wish them to be, and if we act accordingly. Let us start using ancient and forgotten wheat for our pizzas, take time to train our eyes to see beauty, to use Italian tomatoes and Italian oranges – the best- The farmer’s mountain milk. Let us self-teach ourselves, let us train teaching the history of the Martini cocktail and enough with bad music in public places! Let us rebel against the power of multinational companies, let us start taking care of the little things.
We need a widespread cure against ugliness, against hypertrophic egotistic concerns to contrast this disease which plagues us, an holistic cure all about beauty. We live in an extraordinary country, luxury is not an optional: it is a duty and a concrete possibility. Incidentally, what is luxury anyway? It is not that which is a luxurious. First and foremost, it resides in uniqueness, in the pursuit of Beauty. It is a walk towards an open life, a principle which will never break its promises. And what are these sumptuous promises? I would like to know your take on it, dear reader.
A smile and hugs from
If you are interested in another South Tyrolean story,
please read this article about the farmer Harald Gasser from the Aspinger Hof.
Someone wants to install a high-voltage cable over his biodynamic vegetables.
I am most definitely not in agreement with that choice.