FILO' A Journal for Tyrolean Americans

04.12.2017 - Precisely, Luserna is south east of the city of Trento, in a “altopiano:, a highland plateau, only 8 kilometers long and extends 1200 and 1600 meters in altitude. It is juxtaposed to the highlands of Lavarone and Folgaria. The territory, characterized by natural terraces, stretches on the underlying Valle dell'Astico creating deep valleys and ridges, with varying degrees of height of six hundred meters. The appearance of the territories surrounding Luserna is strongly marked by the hand of man. You read about the efforts and efforts made by these people to recover every ground meter.
The strongest architectural element is stone, used to create terraced fields and gardens that resolve the high slope of certain sites, allowing them to exploit and widen their resources.
There was human activity dating back to the Bronze Age. There were found the tools and equipment for the smelting of bronze, whose elements and traces are still evident in the landscape of the area. Then came the Cimbri… not those mentioned in Julius Caesar’s Gallic War accounts but a people from Bavaria. Similar to many peoples who were on the move, they came as settlers probably driven by scarcity or pestilence. They brought the energies of settlers around the millenium along with their language, a variation of “high german” combined with their Bavarian dialects. This language, unique and singular in the Tyrol, is idiosyncratic to Luserna and extends its name to the very people who speak it. The settlements did so well that the Prince Bishop Frederick von Wangen further encouraged yet more settlements in the yet uninhabited highlands so there developed two distinct settlements: one in the Tyrol under the jurisdiction of the Principate of Trento and yet another to the East under the influence of Verona,, Vicenza, Padua and Venice. As boundaries were further defined, Luserna reached its apex in 1920 with 1050 residents.
In the first half of the 1900’s, there occurred a series of events that weighed heavily on the Cimbri. In 1911, there was a fire that destroyed the entire village. The Austro-Hungarian administration came to the rescue restoring the entire village. As World War I began, Italy delayed its entrance in the conflict for a year and attacked the Tyrol with Luserna experiencing the very first hostility. (See article). Such were the sufferings of Luserna, that Austria evacuated everyone to Aussing in Bohemia. After the annexation of the Tyrol to Italy, Mussolini
invades Africa in 1936 and forcibly coopts Cimbri men, excellent stone masons, to assist in his military operations.
Yet more devastating was the Fascist policy of “ethnic cleansing” that sought to exclude the German speaking populations from the Sud Tirol providing the despicable “options” of leaving the Tyrol or stay and renounce their ethnicity. Through threats and deceptions, 480 Cimbri opted to leave further decimating the Cimbri population that now numbers 300 residents although relatively recent census has a total of 1,072 acknowledged Cimbri in the Province.
There are some interesting customs characteristic of the Cimbri. Soon after Christmas and approaching the Epiphany, children assemble in groups of three with home made costumes simulating the three magi. They carry a pole on top of which is box with a candle within whose light shines through the figure of a star.
They go door by door singing carols where they are rewarded with small gifts, confections and coins. The Vorprennen in Martzo is celebrated on last day of February prior to March 1. It properly has ties to pagan spring fertility rites as well the transition from the dark
months to the approaching spring. Children scour the forest to gather wood and create a great bonfire with the participation of all village people who sing along and tell stories.
Seeking to import an industry, Austria instituted a lace making institute teaching the women the art of lace making as a means to establish a revenue creating “industry” for the Cimbri families. Lace making is Khnoppin. (See article) The Institute Cimbro-Kultur Institut Lusern (The Cimbro Cultural Institute of Luserna) was established in 1991 to safeguard and promote the Cimbro language and culture of The mission was to promote the use of the Cimbro language in different social contexts such as the family and the school. It organized Cimbro language courses for adults, producing texts for elementary and middle school students, dual cartoons to facilitate language learning in children from mixed families and produce weekly broadcasts of language newscasts and related programming. The Province of Trento recognizes the Cimbro Institute as a linguistic authority and for this reason it expresses itself on all issues that affect the language and culture of Cimbri.
For more information regarding the Cimbro Institute or the Cimbro community, go to our website: or
e-mail:; phone: 039 0464789645.
Written by Fiorenzo Nicolussi Castellan Cultural Chair of Cimbro Institute and Anna Maria Trenti Kaufman Director of the Cimbro Institute dell’Istituto Cimbro.

Overview: Cimbro, the Language

From the second half of the nineteenth century, there evolved the nationalistic problem of trying to coincide a national language with an individual ethnicity leading to the dramatic outbreak of the First World War was also relevant in Trentino. As the Tyrol evolved into the Trentino, there was indeed the clash of the Irredentist tendencies with the pan-Germanic ones involving the small German-speaking
community of Luserna with the creation of an Italian school and a German school. The Church was entrusted to German-language caretakers until the end of World War I. Luserna suffered the interruption of ancient ties with the area of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, and after the war and with the Trentino-Südtirol passage to Italy, the school became Italian and so did the Church with the assignment of Italian priests. These priest were often intolerant and sought in all ways to persuade children not to use the ancient German language. Teachers punished children if they were heard speaking in Cimbro at school, during school breaks, and street games. But the Fascist period of 22 years further deteriorated the situation. This occurred first with the economic crisis of the `s, and finally with its propaganda that favored the adopting the so-called "options" aimed at expatriating to Germany every "German" element in Italian territory (1939- 1945). The phenomenon of colonization by German "roncadori" on the mountains between Adige and Brenta and to the gates of Verona, Val di Mocheni, Pergine Roncegno, Pinetano in other smaller towns in Trentino and Veneto and also in Luserna, is part of a large movement of deforestation and colonization of the Southern Alps that began in the 12th and 12th centuries. This emigration was aimed at finding an outlet for the demographic growth manifested in those years. Numerous scholars agree to distinguish between German emigration from Germany called "Cimbri" before 1200 and the subsequent Mochens that came after that date, partly from Bavaria and partly from Tyrol. Luserna is the only "cimbro" community that, after more than seven centuries, has preserved as the local German spoken by the "roncadori" from Bavaria. The “roncadori” were foresters skilled in clearing woods to create pastures for grazing.
From a linguistic point of view, the Cimbro is the "oldest peripheral spoken language of the German domain". It was brought in the `s from the Western Tirol and the neighboring Bavarian territories first to the Asiago plateau and later on to Luserna. .Luserna is the only Cimbro" community that, for more than seven centuries, has retained as a local parlance the old German dialect brought by immigrants from Bavaria but perhaps also from other German-speaking countries. t is not easy to accurately to
date of emergence of Luserna / Lusern because the documents related to this community are not few. It does not appear, however, that there existed pre-existing Italian populations. Hence, it can be said that in the peripheral area where Luserna is located, its inhabitants
are descendants of German immigrants defined by external scholars "Cimbri", probably the term derives from "Zimbar", or "Zimmerman", or probably was attributed to historians who erroneously identified this German population descendants from the Cimbri defeated by the Romans in 101 BC. From Bavaria and from the German world, the settlement culture was initially carried out, with scattered masses of prevalent use of wood in buildings. Subsequently, the settlement was developed in "Strassendorf". A significant aspect of Germanic culture is found in the "collective imagination" represented by Cimbro legends, which in many respects refer to the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. Some traditions still in use call for German culture as "Die Kronig" = The Three Kings, "Vorprennen in March" = March, "vaschom" = carnival. The cuisine, while typical of the mountains, contains many of the world's favorite dishes such as "sauercraut = sauerkraut," gerstsuppe "= barley soup, knödel = canederli," strudel = Strudel ". In Luserna as in the rest of the Austria-Hungary Empire, Andreas Hofer was represented as a hero. In the center of the village the main hotel was dedicated to Andreas Hofer. In the years of nationalism, before the First World War, the opposition between the Italians/ Germans (National League and Volksbund) led to the same square to erect another hotel called "Tricolore" just opposite the Andre Hofer Hotel.
Written by Annamaria Trenti Kaufman, Director of the Cimbro Institute.

FILO' - A Journal for Tyrolean Americans