War of words as government demands removal of German signs

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The Independent Online

The Italian government has launched a new attack in its longstanding war of words with the rebellious German-speaking province of Bolzano (Alto Adige), demanding that locals remove 36,000 German-language road signs.

Regions minister Raffaele Fitto has given the Alpine province 60 days to get rid of all the offending road and place signs, declaring that "signs written only in German have got to go".

From July onwards thousands of tourists from all parts of Italy flock to the province, which is a former part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, for hikes and bike riding amid its spectacularly beautiful scenery, only to be confused by a preponderance of signs in German.

One such visitor is likely to be the minister himself. According to the local Corriere dell'Alto Adige newspaper, Mr Fitto has visited the area every summer since his first child was born.

Some of the province's Italian-speaking inhabitants – who make up 25 per cent of the population – have claimed that the German-only signs could be dangerous because they might confuse lone or vulnerable mountaineers or trekkers.

But Luis Durnwalder, the president of Bolzano for 22 years, told Corriere della Sera that his province would "not accept arrogant diktats from Rome".

Durnwalder added that for the most part it was not possible to translate German place names into Italian.