Traditions of the Alps of Italy
The Occitan Language in Val Maira

Maira Valley, Alps of Piedmont - Occitan Language

The traditional language of the Dolomites of Piedmont

The Occitan (also known as Lenga d’òc or Provençal) is a Romance language, spoken in Occitania, a vast historic region composed of most of the South of France, the Aran Valley (Spain), the principality of Monaco and the Occitan Valleys in Italy.
In Italy the Occitan heritage can be found in the provinces of Imperia, Cuneo and Torino: in Liguria the town of Olivetta San Michele and the hamlets of Realdo and Verdeggia, in the municipality of Triora; in the Alps of Piedmont in the cuneese region the high Tanaro valley and the Corsaglia, Maudagna and Ellero, Pesio, Vermenagna, Gesso, Stura, Grana, Maira, Varaita, Po, Bronda and Infernotto valleys.
In the province of Turin the Occitan areas are the higher Val di Susa and the Pellice, Chisone and Germanasca valleys. There is also an Occitan-speaking region in Calabria, southern Italy, in the town of Guardia Piemontese, which was inhabited in the 14th century by Waldesian emigrants coming from Val Pellice and Val Varaita.
The Occitan is currently spoken by roughly 3 million people. Occitan language has many variations, as there’s no standardized language: 6 dialects, many literal and graphic rules. The Occitan dialects are the alverniate, the guascone, the linguadociano, the limosino, the provençal and the vivaro-alpino. Occitan is both an oral and a literary language. At the beginning it was used for legal acts and religious sermons only: during the Middle Ages, in France and Italy it was a legal and administrative language, just like Latin.
Since the end of the 10th century the language flourished thanks to the trobadors literary movement, who composed love, politics and satiric themed Occitan lyrics, resulting in a spread of the language through the whole Europe.
While during the last centuries this language became less and less known and linked to the lower social classes or the elderly generations, it was really important in the European linguistic and literary scene.
The name of the Occitan languages comes from Dante Alighieri, who, in the 1303ad De Vulgari Eloquentia recorded the Romance languages: the “lingua del si” (Italian), the “lingua d’oil” (French) and the “lingua d’òc” (the Occitan), which he also called “provincialis”, the language of the main Roman province: Provence.
Dante really admired the Occitan poets, which is evident from the praises in the De Vulgari Eloquentia and the three encounters with 3 different trobadors in the Divine Comedy (Bertram de Born in Hell, Folchetto da Mariglia in Heaven and Arnaut Daniel in the Purgatory).

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