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Meet the Cimbrians of Cansiglio

Italian ethnical minority with a strong identity

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by Patrizio Roversi.

During my stay in the Alpago area I met Franco. He likes to underline that his surname – Azzalini – is one of those still defining the Cimbrian Community. Just a few tens of Cimbri have remained here, and they are very proud of their identity. They compare themselves to the Ladini community because they both are preserving their own history and language.

The Cimbri’s origins are very remote: coming from the east, they moved first to Northern Europe and then arrived in Italy. Marius (the Roman Marius, the one that fought against Sulla) defeated them in the Pianura Padana (Po’ Plain), so they moved to the north-east. It was the Repubblica Serenissima of Venice who wanted them to settle right here, on the Cansiglio plateau. The Pagotti (the native inhabitants of the Alpago area) hated them, because the Cimbri were allowed to live in the Cansiglio Forest, whereas they weren’t. The reason is simple: the Cimbri were -and still are- extraordinary artisans, they carved the wood, took care of the forest and produced coal (this happened until 50 years ago). And Venetians needed wood, energy and artifacts indeed.

Veneto, Cansiglio Forest

Veneto, Cansiglio Forest

It is very interesting to visit the Ethnography Museum of Pian Osteria, in the Village of Vallorch. It houses many galley oars: they are so long and similar to those used in the battle of Lepanto. Three men only rowed – isn’t it incredible? Most of all, in the Museum you can learn about a very stimulating work about the language of the Cimbri, which is a mix of two languages, Anglo-Saxon and Latin.

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Patrizio Roversi

Accidental tourist. His main passions while traveling: anthropology, economy, lifestyle, food and taste