Alto Adige

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Map of the First French Empire, divided into 133 départements, with the Kingdom of Italy, by N Bonissel, published by "Jean" in Paris in 1811. Click on the map in order to enlarge it and read Haute Adige -with precise borders- inside the "Royaume d'Italie"

Alto Adige (in French Haute Adige) is the name of an alpine region that was first created by the Napoleonic French in order to distinguish this Italian-speaking area (at the start of the XIX century) from the Austrian empire's Tyrol (located directly north).


The name "Alto Adige" was coined (created) in the late eighteenth century by Napoleon, when he occupied the territory of northern Italy near the Alps. Indeed, this was the name of the French administrative division known as the "Department of Alto Adige" (Dipartimento dell'Alto Adige), created during Napoleon's "Kingdom of Italy" in 1810, which is related to the name of the river Adige born in this province.

In Italian etymology, the name "Alto Adige" currently is related to the full name of the "Provincia autonoma di Bolzano – Alto Adige", while usually the simple name "Alto Adige" is used for this alpine region around Bolzano (since academic Ettore Tolomei made it official in Italy after the Great War).

Napoleon's Alto Adige[edit]

During French control of the region, South Tyrol was officially named Haute Adige to get rid of relation to the historic "County of Tyrol" of Austria.[1]

"Department Haut-Adige" (1810)

The District of Alto Adige was initially created by Napoleon as part of the Dipartimento del Benaco in his Cisalpine Republic, and was near Verona.[2][3] This Benaco department, created in 1797, was gotten rid of in 1798 as a result of administrative changes to the Cisalpine Republic.

Some years later, Napoleon additionally created the "Department Alto Adige further north; this department was a part of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy from 1810 to 1814.[4]

So, it was created this Department of Alto Adige with the division of the Austrian Tyrol between French Bavaria and the Kingdom of Italy, and included the southern part of the German-speaking Tyrol with the city of Bolzano with surroundings (along with the Trentino).

The boundaries were made by Austrian and German commissioners, saying that a territory would belong to the Kingdom of Italy if it is inhabited by Italians, according to the principle: "belonging to the Kingdom of Italy because inhabited by Italians" (da appartenersi al Regno d'Italia perché paese italiano[5]).

Bolzano, the principal town, had a mostly Romance-speaking population for many centuries from 600 AD (Alpine towns were often the last hold-outs of Romance speakers as Germanic language speakers moved south of the Danube to their present situations after Roman rule collapsed from the early decades of the 5th cnetury). Unlike other areas which succumbed to Germanization Bolzano was able to hold on because Italian-speakers moved north at various times during the Middle Ages and Renaissance to take advantage of the strategically-placed trading town situated at the crossroads between the German-speaking population around and to the north of the town and an Italian-speaking Trentino province 19 miles to the south.[6] After the end of the Napoleonic occupation in 1813 the city's population was "Germanized" during the course of the 19th century: in the 1911 Austrian census almost 91% of the population of Bolzano was German-speaking while in 1800 it was 23% and in 1860 77% according to B.D'Ambrosio of Genova Univerisity in a 1981 monograph.[7] Only after WW1 and before WW2 did Bolzano again become a city populated mainly by Italians (according to the same study)[8].

Indeed, between the Renaissance and the 19th century, the whole area, originally populated by Latins from the time of Roman Empire, experienced a lot of Germanization. In the centuries before Napoleon, only the Dolomite's area of the western part of the present province of Bolzano (especially the Val Venosta near Merano) remained neolatin.[9] Furthermore, just after WWII about sixty five percent of the population spoke German as their mother tongue, while about a third spoke Italian and about five percent spoke Ladin (but in the 2011 census the percentages were: 62.3%, 23.4% and 4.1%, with another 10.2%, 51,000, are immigrants from outside Italy, whose mother language is neither German nor Italian Italy). According to the 2011 74% of the population of Bolzano (79,000) is Italian-speaking. Four comuni have the Italian-speaking population in the majority are Laives, Salorno, Bronzolo and Vadena (18,000), eight Ladin, and 103 German. Meran has just under 50% or 20,000. According to the 2011 census, 50.47% of the resident population spoke German as mother language, 49.06% Italian, and 0.47% Ladin.[10]

Viticulture areas[edit]

Viticulture in Alto Adige has a long tradition: the first evidence dates back to early Roman times.

The Alto Adige wine area is strongly influenced by the Mediterranean climate, which reaches the Adige valley (Bassa Atesina, Oltradige, Bolzano, Terlano, Burgraviato) up to Merano.[11] It makes possible in this area a versatile viticulture, which includes almost all varieties of red wines and numerous varieties of white wines.

Val Venosta and Valle Isarco have a slightly harsher climate and for this reason they are areas specialized in white wines. In Alto Adige there are three native vines: Vernatsch (Schiava), (Gewuerz-)Traminer, and Lagrein.

The red grapes cover about 42% of the Alto Adige area of 5300 has, used to produce wine. In 2015 were produced 350,000 hl of wine, nearly all of top quality.

Actually there it is a tourism linked to the famous "Strada del vino" (a Wine Route called in German: "Südtiroler Weinstraße") that stretches for 70 km from north of Bolzano to Salorno.


  1. ^ Rolf Steininger, Department of Contemporary History. University of Innsbruck
  2. ^ Cisalpine Republic (1797). Raccolta delle leggi, proclami, ordini ed avvisi, Vol 4 (in Italian). Milan: Luigi Viladini. p. 201.
  3. ^ Cisalpine Republic (1798). Raccolta delle leggi, proclami, ordini ed avvisi, Vol 5 (in Italian). Milan: Luigi Viladini. p. 184.
  4. ^ Cfr. Reinhard Stauber, Der Zentralstaat an seinen Grenzen. Administrative Integration, Herrschaftswechsel und politische Kultur im südlichen Alpenraum 1750–1820, Göttingen 2001, pp. 317ss.
  5. ^ Nuova antologia di scienze, lettere ed arti, Volume 2, 1866, pag. 431
  6. ^ The percentages fluctuated between 50% and 75% before 1800 oftps:// History of Bolzano].ttps:// History of Bolzano]
  7. ^ History of Bolzano, Myownblog, B. D'Ambrosio, Istituto di Geografia University di Genova, Italia, 1981...graph at the end of the paper 1800 51% Romance, 49% German; 1860 23% Romance, 77% German
  8. ^ History of Bolzano
  9. ^ Ethnic history of Alto Adige (in Italian)
  10. ^ "Volkszählung 2011/Censimento della popolazione 2011". astat info. Provincial Statistics Institute of the Autonomous Province of South Tyrol (38): 6–7. June 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  11. ^ Wine in Alto Adige


  • Connelly, Owen. Napoleon's Satellite Kingdoms (1965)
  • Gregory, Desmond. Napoleon's Italy (2001)
  • Kilchmann, Martin. Weine aus Südtirol-Alto Adige. Müller Rüschlikon, 1995 ISBN 3275011685
  • Pagano, Emanuele. Enti locali e Stato in Italia sotto Napoleone Editoriale Carocci. Roma, 2007 ISBN 978-88-430-4310-1

See also[edit]