In The Land Of Australy

Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol is a hinterland of sorts. As the northernmost region of Italy, it’s a between kind of place—not quite Italian, not quite Austrian, either. Even the name, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, is a bit of a pluralistic mouthful (I’ll call it Trentino from now on, as most Italians do, anyway).

You might say Trentino is a region on the cusp.

Geographically speaking, Trentino is located in Italy. It votes in national elections, and any Italian can move to the region. But the roots of Trentino’s culture, heritage, language, cuisine, etc., are technically “Tyrolean”—more Austro-Bavarian than Italian. In fact, Trentino has only been a part of Italy for less than 100 years (which, itself, hasn’t been a country for much longer than that).

Makes sense that the whole place would be a little…culturally confused.

Men in 'Alpini' hats (Romeno, Val di Non)
Men in ‘Alpini’ hats (Romeno, Val di Non)

Like I said, it’s technically “Tyrolean”—but does anyone really know what that means? That’s just a cultural designation, really. In fact, as I’ve mentioned, Trentino’s an autonomous region—its taxes don’t go to Rome, and regional disputes are solved through The International Court of Justice in the Hague (not in Italy).

Once more, it’s German that’s primarily spoken in the northernmost half of the region (Alto-Adige): workers in cities like Bolzano (Bolzen) and Merano (Meran) are required to speak both Italian and German. Which is why it has been so interesting to actually live in this place. The closest I ever came to living somewhere where bilingualism is the law was in growing up in Kentucky, where ‘Can you speak country?’ is an implicit prerequisite.

Traditional Tyrolean watermill (Val di Non)
Traditional Tyrolean watermill (Val di Non)
Traditional flower-covered balcony (Revò, Val di Non)
Traditional flower-covered balcony (Revò, Val di Non)

Trentino, however, is not a part of the Italy most people know about or visit; nowhere near the Rome-Florence-Venice tourist triangle. The cuisine is based around polenta, not pasta. There are no tomatoes grown within hundreds of kilometers, and mozzarella is just some distant idea once read about in a book. Vivid expression is rare in Trentino. People are tall, not short, with light hair and eyes. They rarely tan.

Even I—with my alabaster skin and Irish green occhi—actually blend in (until I speak, that is).

And so it’s come to my attention that the current nomenclature for this region just isn’t cutting it. It’s official name, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, is far too long to roll off anyone’s tongue in normal conversation, leaving people to call it “Trentino”. But then the German-speaking half of the region feels alienated—and nothing gets them more incensed.

Young women performing traditional Tyrolean dance (Levico Terme, Val Sugana)
Young women performing traditional Tyrolean dance (Levico Terme, Val Sugana)

I’ve therefore decided to take the reigns. We need a name that captures how this region is so drastically different from the rest of Italy (and I mean, drastically—the tumultuous, decaying and densely populated Naples is more similar to high-fashion, modern Milan than this Alpine hat-wearing, wurtzel-slicing, mountain butter-making hinterland).

So…as the self-proclaimed cultural ambassador of the region, I’ve taken it upon myself to rename the area. Appropriately, the schizophrenic Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol is out the window, to be replaced with a very clean and straightforward: Australy.

It’s not as if I’m embellishing, either. Cavareno is only about 75 miles (120 kilometers) from the Austrian border.

Pretty good, huh? Australy.

People chuckle when that’s my answer to their inquiry, ‘Where, in Italy, do you live?’ Should I answer ‘Trentino’, confusion only ensues. But with Australy, we all nod, assuredly. Knowing just where that is.

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