The German-speaking Italian province of South Tyrol has defied the economic crisis with almost full employment and a healthy economy. Its success is partly due to its paternalistic governor, Luis Durnwalder, who has ruled the province practically as his personal fiefdom since 1989. Resentment of Rome is growing in the region, which once belonged to Austria.
In the difficult summer of 2010, South Tyrol is like a small beacon of prosperity surrounded by doom and gloom. Despite the economic crisis, there is almost no unemployment in the area surrounding the capital Bolzano (known in German as Bozen), and the province is debt-free. By comparison, Italy as a whole has the highest government debt, as a percentage of the country’s gross domestic product, in the entire euro zone. Within the last half-century, 19 prime ministers have been sworn in in Rome. In South Tyrol, on the other hand, there has been only one change in the province’s top job during the same period — from its “über-father” Silvius Magnago to Durnwalder.
For the last 21 years, Durnwalder has made sure that his realm, a place where both lemon trees and edelweiss bloom, takes full advantage of its strengths. Investors exploit the bilingualism of many South Tyrolese to capture southern markets. Vacationers flock to the region, not only to tour the Dolomites and visit “Törggelen” festivals, which showcase local food and wine in the autumn, but also because of its new boutique hotels and museums. In 2009, South Tyrol registered 28 million overnight stays in its hotels and guesthouses.
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