At the very north of the country, Italy borders both Switzerland and Austria, which bring in a heavy Germanic influence to the northern Italians. The southernmost region of Switzerland is conversely very Italian in regard to both language and culture. The southern ‘Ticinese’ people, as well as the similar southern Tyrol people of Austria, are an interesting blend of both Swiss/Austrian and Italian. This is cause for a very unique cultural occurrence. One example is the “Spatzenfest”, one of the foremost festivals for folk music in the entire world. For a true feeling of life in the very north of the country, take a ride on the highest railway in the world, nestled deep in the Alps.
The Spatzenfest is held in the Austrian/Italian border village of Kastelruther (German), or Castelrotto (Italian). High in the Italian Alps that surround the town, thousands gather to celebrate the quintessential genre of folk music. To explore the foothills of the awe inspiring Alps, opt for this 5-day excursion to the mountainous area of the north.
The festival has been held each year since 1984 in the early fall. This year it will be held from the 6th to the 8th of October. The folk music festival is renowned throughout Europe and an opportunity to really explore the culture of the north. It is commonly referred to as the “Grand Prix of Folk Music.” Last year the attendance at the festival was estimated at around 30,000! For a small, mountain village town this level of attendance certainly speaks to the prominence of and excitement surrounding the festival. If you’re going to be in the region for a few days enjoying the festival, escape the crowds for a bit with a guided trip over to serene Lake Como.
The unique intermingling of cultures in this region makes it an unforgettable experience. As one can imagine, when the romantic, passionate Italian culture collides with the precision and logic of the Swiss and German cultures, the locals are imbued with some very specific traits. In no area of this region is this blending more noticeable (or delicious) than in Piedmont, the wine growing area of the north. Take a day trip through the wineries of Piedmont to truly experience the flavors and unique distinctions between northern Italy and southern Switzerland.
Have you ever attended the Spatzenfest? Have you ever been to the northern border region on either side? What were your impressions of the cultural blending? Do you yourself live near any borders? If so, how does their placement impact cultural mixing and hybridization?