Ladins, people of Dolomites, were born, as their language, from the “romanization” of the Dolomites which took place in 15 BC. The people who lived in the Alps before the Roman conquest, commonly defined as “Reti” had developed a considerable civilization since the fifth century. B.C. This Alpine population took over the Latin language, that with the passage of generations turned into “Ladino” (RetoRomansch).
Even though the Ladin language has very ancient origins as spoken language, the written form is relatively young with the first expressions dating back only to 1700. Up until this time, myths and legends were passed on orally. Nonetheless, even today the number of authors and publications continues to grow, with the goal of spreading their unique cultural patrimony.
Ladin is today still spoken as mothertongue language, in Val Badia, as well as in the other valleys surrounding Sella (Gardena, Livinallongo, Fassa, Cortina), in Friuli and in the Canton of the Grisons in Switzerland.
The Dolomites Ladins are a community living in five valleys leading off the Sella massif. Despite their diversity, the idioms spoken in Gardena, Badia, Fassa, Livinallongo and Ampezzo are local varieties of the same language, the Dolomitic Ladin language (or central Ladin; approx. 30,000 speakers).
These valleys, with the Swiss canton and the Friuli area represent what remains of a wider Romance territory that once extended from the sources of the Rhine as far as the Adriatic sea, and that was subsequently reduced and fragmented due to migrations and to the linguistic influences from the southern plain.
Despite the administrative division of the Dolomitic Ladin area, linguistic awareness and the sense of identity are well-rooted and supported by a dense network of associations, whose work has been assisted in recent decades by that of major institutions and research centres.
The Ladin culture is a tessera in the wider framework of Alpine culture: besides archaic aspects, it also presents features and elements deriving from the contacts with the different peoples and cultures of the area, thus being characterised by conservation and dynamism.
Not only the language, but also Ladin customs and traditions are still in use in the Dolomites. Festive days, processions and other celebrations are still performed in the original way and the fascination and spell of ancient times is still in the air.
As the population of the Ladin valleys is rather Catholic, most traditions are connected with Christian feast days. However, several customs are not practiced any more and simply fell into obscurity.
The Ladin people from Bolzano Province (Val Gardena and Val Badia inhabitants) are officially recognized as a third ethnic group and are therefore granted special protection in terms of preserving culture and language.