In the world of the Ladins of Fassa

Solitary, majestic in their geometry, coral-hued at dawn and sunset: the Dolomites have enchanted visitors throughout the centuries. But Val di Fassa is not only the magic of the mountains. This corner in Trentino, which seduces, fascinates and above all fulfils expectations, hides a high-value artistic and historical heritage. Welcome to the land of the Ladins, a minority people, who keeps on defending with pride their own cultural, linguistic and gatronomic roots. It’s the Ladin traditions rooted in the Retic and Celtic culture which particularly arouse curiosity among visitors of the Val di Fassa. Great importance is given to the preservation of the territory, the sense of belonging to the local community and the love for the mountains. These aspects can be found in the legends and tales about the valley, in handicraft and, last but not least, in warm hospitality.

Museums, fortresses, "tobiè" (barns in the Ladin language) and churches are examples of the local art, culture, architecture and history. Themed and guided tours to the villages of the Val di Fassa are organised by the our guides.


One people, one language and a thousand-year-old culture

The Ladins are an ethnic minority population of about 35,000 people who live in the five valleys around the Sella massif (Fassa, Gardena, Badia, Livinallongo, Ampezzo). Most of the population speaks Ladin as a first language. Each Ladin valley has its own variety of Ladin, which has been influenced either by German or Italian, according to its geographic position. Fassan is spoken in Val di Fassa, Gardeneer in Val Gardena, Badiot or Maréo in Val Badia/Marebbe, Fodom in Livinallongo/Colle Santa Lucia and Ampezzan in Ampezzo (Cortina). Val di Fassa is the only Ladin valley in Trentino.

History of Val di Fassa

Val di Fassa, on the trail of the past

The ancient emblem of the Community of Fassa, of which there is evidence on a fresco dating back to 1607 in the Episcopal Palace of Bressanone, depicts "l Pàster de Fascia", the Ladin shepherd. In fact, breeding (especially sheep farming) had been the main local economy since remotest antiquity. The "monumento al capraio" (monument to the shepherd), created in 1983 by local artist from Canazei Rinaldo Cigolla and exhibited in the main square in Fontanazzo (Mazzin), between the Church of Carmelo and the town hall, is a homage to this ancient practice. Are you interested in finding out about the Ladin history and culture? Nothing could be simpler: go to the "Majon di Fascegn" library to consult books of all kinds. The Ladin Cultural Institute in Vigo has a specialist library, film library, sound archive and ethnographical catalogue.

Ladin customs and traditions

Events and Ladin traditions

The people of Val di Fassa, moulded in the past by a hard life and magnificent nature that often put them to the test, have always been proud of their language and culture. The knowledge and pride in their origins have helped them to keep traditions alive for centuries, still today, they are felt with great intensity by the people of Val di Fassa. There are many customs that either involve the community, or are held in the home. The feasts and fairs are often to do with religion or the changing of seasons that, once, shaped the farming life of people in Fassa. "Carnascèr" stands tall above the rest, carnival, apotropaic in flavour and passed down through the centuries that makes it unique in the Alpine arc.

Travel notes: Ladin Carnival

Ladin achitecture

Tobiè: the "avant-garde" of Alpine architecture

The history of a valley can be traced also in its architecture. In Val di Fassa, "Tobiè", the characteristic dark, sunburnt barns, witness a simple life of farming and handicraft and represent a very important heritage of the past, as they testify the balanced relationship between man and nature in the past. For more information you can consult the book: "Fassa montagna che scompare" - Damiano Magugliani, published by Ladin Cultural Institute in San Giovanni di Fassa (Vigo).

The valley of artists

Artistic handicraft

Wooden handicraft is highly characteristic of Val di Fassa. Local artisans display their works (statues, bas-reliefs, pieces of furniture, crucifixes or home furnishings) in small shops, where one can breathe the smell of wood in an atmosphere which reminds of old crafts and traditions. The most genuinely traditional products are "faceres", wooden masks of the Ladin carnival, to be worn or to be hung as decorations. Handicraft shops/craftman’s studios in Val di Fassa

Ladin tales and legends

Re Laurino, Conturina, Barbolina, Ondina, Gordo and Vinella, Ciambolfin are just a few of the protagonists of legends set in Val di Fassa

The majestic aspect of the mountains, the splendid hues given by the sun’s rays at sunrise and sunset on Dolomite rock, the historical events and natural and weather phenomenon that have not been attributed a scientific explanation over the centuries were transformed, in the past, into legends by local people. Therefore woods, crests, ridges and valleys in Fassa have been brought to life by; vivenes, beautiful and kind female creatures who lived on mountains and by courses of water, bregostènes, ugly and spiteful female beings, stries, evil and wicked women, salvans, two-faced wild men, morchies, dwarves and many more. Stories sent down through the generations and told on long winter nights spent in the warmth of the stua (the room where the family assembled during the day), told to children by women above all, who had a fundamental role in keeping the Ladin language (only oral for centuries) and the local culture alive. In past centuries also in Fassa women were under the guardianship first of their father then either their husband or brother and they did not have any rights in public life. In private, however, they were the mainstay of the family. It is not by chance that Ladin legends are often centred around female protagonists.

Not just stories about single characters, but also authentic epics such as the one about Fanes (semi-legendary Dolomite population), that sees part of a trilogy set in Val di Fassa, celebrated for a few years at Festa ta Mont at the beginning of August in Val San Nicolò, near Pozza. Mountains and villages are always at the forefront. Since the legends are born and developed in precise places. Marmolada, Sass Pordoi, Sassolungo and Catinaccio are magic places. "Rosengarten", in particular, has given life to numerous tales so much so that in the last few years a summer path has been created for children and families "Do l troi de la contìes" (On the path of legends): pleasant walk in six stages, and six stories, where, the adventures of kings, princesses, witches and shepherds can be experienced exactly where, in the past, they took shape.

Today there is a vast array of literature on the Ladin legends of Val di Fassa, even though Hugo de Rossi and Karl Felix Wolf, the first to have gathered and told these stories in books, remain the best loved authors. De Rossi (1875-1940) in 1912, after having carried out research on local stories told by the elderly, then published them in "Fairy tales and legends of Val di Fassa". The famous Wolf (1879-1966) author of "The Pale Mountains" drew from his work.

The Ladins: one people, one language and a thousand-year-old culture



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