Trentino-Alto Adige is a region in Northeast Italy.
The region is divided in two provinces:
During the Middle Ages, this region was divided between the Prince-Bishop of Trento and the Prince-Bishop of Brixen. Both principalities were under the sphere of influence of the Counts of Tyrol (and later, the Austrian Empire). To the south, they bordered with the Venetian Republic, which had influence on the southernmost valleys.
After the collapse of the Venetian Republic, and the Napoleonic wars, most of northern Italy fell under Austrian Empire rule. This region became part of Tirol. Italian independence wars in the last half of the XIX century claimed back from Austria the former Venetian Republic. Among the Italian-speaking people dwelling in the southernmost valleys of Tirol grew a movement to throw off Austrian rule, and join the new Italian state. The need to "liberate" these Italian lands was used by Italy to enter the World War I against Austria.
After the war was lost by Austria, the portion of Tirol south of the Brenner Pass was annexed by Italy and renamed Trentino - Alto Adige, Trentino being the part with Italian-speaking population. The German-speaking population of Alto-Adige were not recognized minority status. Indeed, as Italy fell under nationalistic fascist rule, the government started an effort to "italianize" Alto-Adige. Use of German in schools and in official documents was forbidden, the official names of places was changed to be Italian-sounding, Italians were moved from other parts of Italy to "colonize" the region.
As a result of the pact between Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, the Germans in the regions were given the option to relocate to Germany. Only few accepted, and most of them returned to their homeland after the war. During the end of the war, the region was briefly annexed to the Third Reich.
After WWII, the region remained part of Italy, as two provinces ("Trentino" and "Alto Adige/Südtirol") were granted large administrative and legislative autonomy.
In Alto Adige/Südtirol, German is official language as well as Italian. All official acts, place names and signs are in both languages. There are both Italian- and German-language schools. A third language, Ladin, spoken in the eastern valleys, is also a recognized linguistic minority, and is taught in schools where it is native. Jobs in the public sector are awarded proportionally to people with the three mother tongues, and applicants must prove fluency in both Italian and German.
Despite some fringe groups that persist in asking for reunification with Austria, the current system has proved very popular, and is often proposed as an example of peaceful coexistence of populations of different ethnicity.
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