An unpublished collection of 47th vintage postcards of Cortina and surroundings, from the 20's to the 50's .
The coat of arms of Cortina d'Ampezzo
Chapter 11 - Ampezzo small republic
The new lifestyle in Ampezzo, almost a small republic by now, was among the happiest and most envied. Maximilian kept his promises and the Ampezzani immediately modelled their lives on the Cadore style. The deliberative body, the "pien et general conseglio" was formed by six "laudatori" (counsellors), elected in the first days of May, the "marigo", two auditors and one official. The nine newly elected members worked together with the previous team which remained in charge for another year, so eighteen members in all. The "maggior conseglio" (major council) was assisted by the "vicar", usually a notary expert in the Statutes of Cadore, which were still in force, and in the law and rights. He wrote reports, giving the acts juridical status. The "vicar" elected by the "maggior conseglio" held his office for an indefinite term, and represented the continuity of power. The captain of Botestagno attended, without voting rights, the "maggior conseglio"; works, however were considered valid even in his absence. In this event, the vicar would note "even though in the absence of the most illustrious lord captain, but by his leave". The Tyrolean diet did not interfere at all with the Ampezzo administration , thereafter called Magnifica Comunità, borrowing the adjective from the one of Cadore to which it no longer belongs.
Justice was administered by the consuls (four to six) under the direction of the vicar and by enforcing the regulations provided for by the Statutes with the few integrations approved by the "maggior conseglio". Even in this field, Innsbruck did not interfere at all, except for appeals. The Cadorini had obtained to discuss them before the Lieutenant of Friuli and not before Venice tribunals. More than once, Innsbruck tried to claim this jurisdiction, particularly for criminal proceedings. There is evidence that in a case of inheritance (around 1670) a rich widow, whose only son was pre-deceased and therefore her relatives wanted to exclude from the inheritance, obtained to appeal in Udine where she won the action.
To maintain these privileges without being compelled to submit to Austrian administrative and juridical systems, Ampezzo had to fight against the central government. Quite obviously, Maximilian's successors tried not to recognize the promises their predecessor had made, in order to align the small community. But the tenacity of the Ampezzo people did win: seven, eight times they were able to bring back home the "confirmation of the privilege". Sometimes the ambassadors had to go not only to Innsbruck, but even to Vienna, carrying all the documents proving their rights, among which was the volume of the Statutes. The text, in Latin, required a lot of time to be examined, so it was often left in some office. In 1640, to avoid the risk of being lost, it was agreed to secretly give a notary the task of translating the statutes into Italian and have some copies printed in Venice. Revenue officer Bartolomeo Alverà, who had acquaintances in Cadore, was charged with the job. The text in Italian is the only one still existing today; the original notes used by the printers, as already mentioned, are today kept in the museum of the Regole d'Ampezzo.
Another battle was undertaken to defend the ancient rights of tax exemption ("colte o steore"). By the patriarchs, first, and later by the doge, the Cadorini had obtained the privilege not to be subject to the payment of revenues but only of customs duties. After 1518, customs duties for the goods from the North were collected at the castle of Botestagno and a customs post was erected at Aquabona on the border on Cadore. Vienna was in great need of money, even more than Venice, mostly for its endless wars against the Turks. Therefore Vienna, unmoved by the complaints of the Ampezzani, levied an annual taxation of "159 florins and 36 carantani". The commune undertook to pay this tax instead of having it paid by the citizens.
Better chance had the exemption from military service, another right the Cadorini could boast. Vienna could easily acknowledge this privilege since its empire had already enough men. Actually, a few Ampezzani did go to fight against the Turks, but only as volunteers. Later we will deal with one in particular. The Ampezzani could also maintain the monopoly of transportation along the royal highway from the so called "port of Ospitale" as far as Borca. It was operated through a system of rotation ("ròdolo") among cart-drivers. It is worth pointing out that also women were enrolled as members of the corporation; if they owned an ox or another draught animal they could earn some money by transporting the goods from one" port" to the other.
For merely technical reasons, timber trade, true and unique source of wealth in Ampezzo, did not change at all. Each year, the community would cut down between twenty and thirty thousand fir trees and larches in its forests, that Venetian traders would float down the Boite and Ansiei torrents (Valbona forests) as far as the timber-mill of the Piave. Curiously enough, only very few Ampezzani devoted themselves to this trade that had already enriched many expert traders of Auronzo and Comelico. The community could face all expenses with the profits from the forests: payment of taxation to Vienna, the relief of the poor, the salaries of the teachers, the purchase of salt and cereals for the population, the maintenance of bridges and roads, the building of churches, as the wonderful baroque parish church. A flow of money that every year moved upstream making the Ampezzo community, just over 2,000 inhabitants, among the richest and most envied in Tyrol. This splendid isolation came to an abrupt end with the reforms by Joseph II.