South Tyrolean history can perhaps be best summarized as "restless". Nevertheless, South Tyrol ultimately developed into one of the most prosperous regions of contemporary Italy and is today considered a model region of Europe, above all because of its autonomous status and the exemplary coexistence of three language groups and cultures.
In prehistoric times, not only the famous iceman Ötzi but also the Celts and above all the Rheti passed through Naturno/Naturns and Merano and Environs. The Rheti were subjected to the Alpine campaign of the Roman Empire and pushed back into the mountains in the following years. A remnant of the Rhaeto-Romanic language can be found today among the Ladin-speaking valleys of South Tyrol. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, a migration of predominantly Bavarian tribes invaded South Tyrol and the population became Germanized. In the Middle Ages, the Counts of Tyrol, and Meinhard II in particular, successfully governed the area, which was subsequently named after the imposing Tyrol Castle. The area became more and more important, serving as a mint for coinage. In Merano/Meran, the first "Kreuzer" was coined, which later lent its name to an entire currency unit. After the reign of Meinhard II the region’s fame faded and the lands of the Counts of Tyrol were incorporated into the Habsburg Empire, with capital being moved to Innsbruck and the mint to Hall in Austria. Merano and its surrounding villages sank back into insignificance, living on agriculture and crafts, under constant threat from floods and fires and facing an emerging struggle for freedom during the 19th century.
After Napoleon refused to give Tyrol to Austria and instead awarded it to Bavaria, along with a proposal to enforce massive reforms, the local people were stirred to resistance. As a hero of this time, a simple innkeeper from Passeiertal Valley went down in history as the leade of a successful struggle: Andreas Hofer. After the defeat of Napoleon, Tyrol was re-incorporated into Austria.
After this tumultuous period, Merano's second spring began: doctors recognized the city's health-promoting and soothing climate, attracting aristocrats, intellectuals and statesmen from all over Europe to Merano and helping to achieve international fame as a spa town. Religious traditions mixed, splendid villas and parks emerged and a high-profile cultural program kept this illustrious society in high spirits. To this day you can feel the sophisticated charm of Merano.
The First World War, the advent of fascism and the turmoil of postwar national identity characterized the events of the 20th century in Merano and its surrounrdings, as with all of South Tyrol. After a lengthy tug-of-war between governments in Vienna, Bolzano/Bozen and Rome, South Tyrol achieved local autonomy, allowing the local population the opportunity to develop their own economic and cultural self-determination. Quality of life, foresight and prosperity quickly replaced the initial conflicts between the language groups, and contributed to a harmonious coexistence in the region. This is what continues to make South Tyrol so unique today: an imposing natural setting, a lively population and the mixture of Alpine and Mediterranean lifestyle and culture.