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Trento and Brescia, December 2013

A week's sightseeing in the Trentino-Alto Adige autonomous region
and Brescia in Lombardy


You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Beautiful downtown Trento

We've been over the Simplon Pass, after an overnight in the Hotel Central Steakhouse ("kitties welcome!") in Brig, Switzerland; braved the horrific truck traffic on the Milan-Venezia autostrada A4 (called "La Serenissima"); and made our way up alongside the river Adige into the autonomous Italian region of Trentino-Alto Adige (also known as the Süd Tirol).

We're checked into the rustic Locanda del Bel Sorriso in the Villa Bertagnolli, in the Trento southern suburb of Mattarello (more on that here).

And now we're here in Trento to see the sights. There's one now.

The Duomo (on Via Giuseppi Verdi, of course, since the Via Garibaldi is around on the far side of it)

The Via Verdi, with university buildings (one of the highest ranked universities in Italy)

The cathedral of San Vigilio, commissioned by Prince-Bishop Wanga in the 12th and 13th centuries on top of a late Roman basilica. It's closed at the moment (in Italy, religion takes a long break for lunch).

Kristin in the Piazza Duomo, alongside the cathedral instead of in front of it

The Piazza Duomo, and the Palazzo Pretorio on the right, with its 13th century Torre Civica belltower

The Duomo, with Christmas festooneries in progress

The Via Belenzani leading away from the main piazza. The city sits on the banks of the river Adige leading northward towards the convenient Brenner Pass over into western Austria, so people have been setting up shop here, exploiting the lucrative Po Valley-to-Innsbruck trade route, since the earliest times.

The Celtic Rhaetian culture extended over both sides of the Alpine passes, from here on the southern side as far north as central Switzerland, southern Bavaria, and the Danube in Austria. The Romans moved in near the end of the 1st century BC and laid out a city plan worthy of a thriving relay on the way to establishing the imperial stations north of the Alps.

The chilly outdoor café society of Trento in December

An amply-frescoed Renaissance-era residence

Christmas markets along the Via Garibaldi out the back of the Duomo and Palazzo Pretorio

Ditto

The cathedral apse, and more market stalls

Apse scene

The Via San Vigilio and Via Garibaldi on market day

Another view of the cathedral from the back

The Kristin-with-hand-in-lion's-mouth series, #38. Anywhere ever subject to Venetian hegemony is target-rich for huge statues of the Lions of St Mark.

How'd they do that?!

Street scene

Remains of the old city wall near the Piazza Fiera, or Market Place

A glance down the Via Dietro le Mura -- 'the street behind the walls'. It's a one-way street.

Outside the city walls

The Piazza Fiera just outside the walls, with the Mercatino di Natale or Christmas Market Stalls

Near the entrance to the Christmas Market

Lots of artisanal goods on sale, and mainly food. Local schoolgirls eat lunch without breaking stride.

The market

Ditto

Ditto again

The Piazza Duomo. We're walking westward now. Trento prospered by its location on the trade route, but once the Roman Empire in the West finally retired gracefully, the city and region paid the price; it soon found itself paying taxes to Theodoric's Ostrogoths based in Ravenna in the early 6th century, then the Byzantines again, then the Longobardi or Lombard occupiers beginning in about 568, and then to Charlemagne's Franks after about 774.

The Piazza Pasi

By the mid-10th century, the region of Trentino and Verona had passed into the ownership of the Holy Roman Emperors, and in 1027 they established Trento as a prince-bishopric to administer the region for religious and adminstrative/taxation purposes. Evidently the Imperial lads trusted their bishops more than the local aristocrats to get things done as wished.

The Palazzo Salvadori, one of the city's first Renaissance-style urban palaces, built in the early 16th century on the site of a disused Jewish synagogue. The medallions over the doors, commemorating the martyrdom of a poor little local lad, were put up in the mid-18th century.

The dead kid in the medallion is Simon of Trent, a poor little Christian lad who disappeared in 1475 and was understood by the Franciscans and the town fathers to have been ritually slaughtered by the local Jewish community to make matzo for Passover. All the Jews were tortured and many were executed, most of those burnt at the stake, and poor little Simonino got sanctified and developed a really impressive cult for all his astonishing miracles.

The allegations were all bollocks, of course, but the Jews were gone and the Franciscans presumably were happy. Poor little Simon of Trent was removed from the Calendar of Saints in 1965, however, so there's that.

Market arcades along the Via Suffragio

For many years, or many centuries, Trento luxuriated under the authority of the Holy Roman Empire's prince-bishops, who were tasked with administering and taxing well and above all with keeping the mountain passes into Italy conveniently open for German imperial armies when required.

The Austrian Counts of Tyrol, however, never lost their intense admiration for Trento and from the 14th century onward the Habsburgs oversaw matters with varying degrees of collaboration with and subjugation of the prince-bishops. In 1526, for example, the famous Cardinal-Bishop Bernardo Clesio backed by an Austrian mercenary army hacked the daylights out of the local rebels and put Trento onto the European political scene, ushering in an era of urban renovation and international importance.

Trento was chosen, for example, to be the venue for the ground-breaking "Council of Trent", which was held here, intermittently, between 1545 and 1563 and basically hammered out the Roman Catholic response to the Protestant Reformation. Possibly the most important church council ever held, it formulated strong Catholic positions against Protestant attacks on doctrine and practice, and it initiated the so-called Counter-Reformation programmes in doctrine and church discipline, and it led to the church's emphasis on education and the intensely emotional Baroque artistic style for communicating religious subjects to the people. Oooof.

A pleasant juggler in the middle of the intersection, during a red light

-- Thanks for your attention.

At this point, we sloped along to see the 13th century Castello del Buonconsiglio, a favorite works project of George of Liechtenstein when he was Prince-Bishop here in the late 1300s. That's described here.

And immediately after that, we're marching back down towards the cathedral in the late afternoon.

A wonder upon wonders, a genuine Dotto Muson River 1894, the classic Euro 5 city road-train -- all got up for the holiday season. (See some more of those.)

The Prince-Bishops and the Habsburg Emperors continued their overlordship of Trento for a long time, until, in fact, Napoleon invaded in 1796 and sorted things out to some extent. It remained a Habsburg possession, however, despite political rebels like Cesare Battisti who fought in the early 20th century to bring the region into the new Italian nation.

Late afternoon, a roasted-chestnut stand on the street corner, specializing, it seems, in hot wine.
It was not until 1919, however, after the regional "White War" in the mountains during World War I, that Italy formally annexed the area for the Italian state. [See Mark Thompson's excellent The White War (2008).]

The duomo at dusk

The duomo in the dark

A very fancy sort of Christianity

Lots of stuff to venerate here, and why not?

Including spiral porphyry

This is all fine, but a bit much for happy hour. Out we go.

The street market at night

Ditto

Double Ditto

A toast to the new year. Or to something.

And just a little snacky-poo for the hotel room (or two, and some wine of the terroir)

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Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 15 January 2014.


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