In a recent comment, Aidan Kehoe linked to Coby Lubliner’s 2004 essay “Europe East and West: the Seipel Line,” which I found so interesting I thought I’d make a post of it. There’s no point trying to summarize it; what makes it so interesting is the accumulation of details, so I’ll quote a couple of paragraphs to give you the idea:
The Seipel Line does not penetrate very deeply into Italy. In various parts of mainland Italy there are long-established linguistic enclaves of speakers of Albanian, Greek, Occitan, and some German dialects, and in Sardinia the traditional languages are Romance but not Italian (namely, Sardinian and Catalan); and while these people may be attached to their languages, they show no sense of being national minorities: as in Aosta, they regard themselves as fully Italian. Non-Italian Romance languages are also spoken in the aforementioned regions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige: Friulian in the former, Ladin in the latter (as well as in Belluno province in Venetia). Friulian-speakers are unswervingly Italian, but the Ladins, who under Austrian rule were considered a distinct nationality, are a curious special case. They number only a few tens of thousands; they live in five non-adjacent valleys in the Dolomite Alps, each with its own dialect and with no common standard language, divided among three provinces with different norms of language protection in each. In Belluno province they identify, by and large, as Italians speaking a minority language, but in Trentino-Alto Adige they regard themselves as something like a nationality, and in this region’s Bolzano province (South Tyrol) many of them are affiliated with the German community and give most of their votes to the Südtiroler Volkspartei (SVP), the province’s main German party, whose original platform called for reunification with Austria. (Shades of Habsburg nostalgia, perhaps.)
The segment of the line that is wholly in Italy may thus be regarded as extending no further than the southern boundary of pre-1918 Austria, with the Tagliamento, as it empties into the Adriatic, as the final stretch. The line then goes through the Ionian Sea into the Mediterranean.