In Italy there are some linguistic minorities that have survived to this day such as the Walser community. They are also handed down traditions and rituals that have remained unchanged over the centuries. This people of Germanic origin emigrated from the Swiss canton of Valais in the Middle Ages and then settled in several colonies in the Alps.
Today the Walser community in Italy is mainly located in the mountain areas on the border between Piedmont and the Aosta Valley around the Monte Rosa massif. Here you can find out who this linguistic minority is and where they live today. You will also know the history of this population. Finally, you will learn how the Walser community is now protected in Italy.
Walser community: who are they?
The Walser community is still present in some areas of the Western Alps. It is a peasant people with a lifestyle that is based exclusively on the rhythms of rural activity that are marked by religious holidays and changing seasons. The culture of this population of Germanic origin is handed down orally between generations.
These are told with legends and stories. Between the twelfth and twelfth centuries founded 6 colonies south of Monte Rosa. These are Alagna, Rima San Giuseppe, Riva Valdobbia, Carcoforo, Rimasco and Rimella. Here the settlers made the land habitable and cultivable coexisting with the nature of the mountain. For a long time these populations were completely isolated thus preserving their traditions.
But that’s not all you need to know that one of the main features of this community is that they live above a thousand meters in wooden houses built with the technique of blockhaus.
Today it is possible to walk in these small villages where the structural characteristics of the first settlements have been maintained. In addition to Alagna and Rimella there are three museums dedicated to the Walser community.
The history of the Walser community
The history of the Walser people has ancient origins and the first written testimonies about their existence date back to 1300. These people colonized the Alps from the north, connecting Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Luxembourg and France with a single mountain culture. From their settlement until the sixteenth century they maintained a total isolation that allowed them to reach the present day. Today the Walser community is now integrated into the contemporary social fabric. Even if decimated they keep their cultural heritage proud.
This was a free people without slaves. In fact, every Walser could decide whether to stay in the community or move to found a new colony. In addition, the Walser law, which allowed settlers to rent the worked land hereditarily, spread between the 12th and 15th centuries. Over the centuries they tried to adapt to the harsh climate of the mountain until in the fifteenth century they had to move further downstream. So they came into contact with other communities very different from them.
Walser community: how is it protected today?
The Walser community still retains its traditional language which is a variant of the Southern German dialect. Although the Walser communities were located in different countries, they managed to preserve their language.This is an expression and symbol of the culture of these people. For this reason today we try to preserve this tradition through targeted projects that involve young people in the community.
In Italy we try to safeguard the particularities of this community, which is less and less numerous today. Thanks to the preservation of the houses and the establishment of dedicated museums allows the protection of this particular mountain culture that has survived to this day.