South Tyrol - Italy

South Tyrol (or Alto Adige, as it is called in italian language) is a province in the northern region of Italy. It is situated to the south of Austria, directly within the Alps. South Tyrol has a population of around 500,000 in its area of 100 miles long and 50 miles wide.

The very first settlement in South Tyrol is believed to have been over 5000 years ago. Otzi the Iceman, who is now one of the most well preserved mummies from the Copper Age, was found in the South Tyrol area. Between 1336 and 1918 the Habsburgs, which was the ruling house of Austria, had control over the South Tyrol region. After World War I, however, Italy took occupation and has maintained South Tyrol since. The reason for the Italian occupation was that Italy left the German-Austrian alliance in 1915 and became part of the Entente alliance which included France, Great Britain and Russia. After the official annexation of the region, there were ethnic problems that clearly surfaced. The natives from South Tyrol were of German heritage. Faced with a completely new environment and language, they soon began to experience problems in the area. In 1926, when Mussolini took power over Italy, the situation became almost desperate. Mussolini's plan was to completely replace all Austrian and German culture from the area including the German language. All city names and family names were then translated into Italian and Mussolini settled many native Italians in the region as well.

Austria attempted to gain back South Tyrol after World War II; however the effort failed in post war summits. During the 1950s and 1960s, South Tyrol inhabitants fought for autonomy and were granted the status of autonomous province in Italy, with help from the United Nations. About two-thirds of the South Tyrol population is still German speaking today. The region is relatively wealthy due to the tourism from Germany and Austria. Crops are also a major factor in the province's wealth. Apple and grape crops abound in South Tyrol, primarily because the climate is mostly warm with little rain.

Woodcarvers in the area have been prominent since the 17th century. What started in Gardena as a hobby for most has become a mass manufacturing of hand carved wooden products that are well known throughout the world. Nativity Sets and Nativity Scenes have become a world famous product form the South Tyrol Region in Italy. Italian Nativity Sets and Scenes are w worldwide brand.