Our Valleys…Val di Giudicarie Esteriori
The Giudicarie are not one but a network of several valleys: Exterior, Interior, Valley of Churches, and the Val Rendena. Let’s explore the Val de Giudicarie Exterior.
There are several portals to this valley. Coming from the south, up from the Lake of Garda, one passes through the Passo Ballino, passing through the village of Ballino where the great patron of the Tyrol, Andreas Hofer, lived 7 years as a shepherd and conceived of his peasant army, the Schutzen. Coming from Trento, one comes through Limaro, a deep gorge referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Trentino. One arrives at Ponte Arche and Terme di Comano. Ponte Arche derives its history to Roman times and the Terme are a well known Wellness Center famous for its thermal waters, hot springs of health and wellness. Coming up from the Val D`Adige, just north of the city of Trento, one approaches the valley from Fai della Paganella, Andalo, and Molveno and its magnificent lake, Lago di Molveno. Coming from the North, one descends from the Passo Carlo Magno, named after Charlemagne who came through this pass and the Passo Durone, through which armies of 50,000 soldiers passed through led by the Condottiere, Gattamalata.
The Valley straddles the Parco Brenta Adamello, the park or a reserve that boasts of the Brenta Dolomites and the Adamello, the highest mountain in the Trentino. The Brenta Dolomites have the extraordinary designation of the UNESCO World Heritage. There are several immediate accesses to the park and the Dolomites: Val D`Algone, Molveno, and Val D`Ambiez. Each of these accesses led by designated trails to refugi, hostels that are situated inthe magnificent Dolomites. Hovering over the valley is the Care Alto, with its towering glacier, part of the Adamello — Presanella group of glaciers. Towering over the Bleggio, is a ring of mountain peaks referred to as Val Marcia. Those peaks provide a beautiful set back for the valley but were also the encampments of the Austrian army. The entrenchments are still in evidence on the ridge of these mountains.
The valley has several castles: Castel Stenico, Restor, Spina and Campo. They served as fortresses that protected the entrances of the valleys and as seats of governance for the Castellani and the Bishop of Trento whose jurisdiction included the entire valley. Proximate to Fiavè, one finds the prehistory remains of paleofitti, wood posts that supported lake houses dating back to the Bronze Age of 4300 BC. Just above it, one finds the ancient and picturesque village of Rango, designated as one of the most beautiful villages in all of Italy. There are many very notable art treasures throughout the valley in their castles and churches.
The church of Santa Croce in Bleggio Superiore (right), is one of the most important sanctuaries in the Trentino. It has a crypt dating back to 1303 and its interior is an example of early Renaissance art. Several famous people originate or spent time in the valley from Charlemagne, Cardinal Charles Boromeo, Gattamalata, Andreas Hofer who organized a peasant army to defeat the Napoleonic forces, to Giovanni Prati, a poet , to Fr Guetti who organized farm and food cooperatives.
Our Valleys…the Val dei Laghi..
The Valley of the Lakes is the creation and foot print of the ancient glaciers that formed a fascinating and breathtaking valley of lakes and high mountains, grottoes and geological marvels. Its climate fosters both sub-mediteranean to subalpine fauna from olives and lemons to alpine conifers. It is the bridge or passageway between the city of Trento and Arco and Riva del Garda and, therefore, the very gateway to Italy. From the city of Trento, one enters the Valley through a narrow passage way…now a vehicular tunnel . . . il Bus de Vela. Velais a torrent that historically created this “bus”. . . dialect for hole and the opening to Trento and the Val d`Adige. The valley proceeds forward nestled between the towering mountain giants: Monte Bondone and the Paganella…passing one lake after another, eventually reaching Arco. The lakes of the valley include the Lago di Lamar, Lago Santo, Lago di Terlago, Lagolo, Santa Massenza, Toblino and Cavedine. There is a distinctive “vento” or wind in the morning followed by the gentle breezes of the “Ora del Garda” the mouth of the Lake of Garda.
This distinctive climate prompted the nobility to escape the torrid heat of the city of Trento to find relief in the valley creating a variety of Castelli and mansions: palazzi. The prince bishop families of theMadruzzo and Cles, dynastic rulers of the Principato of Trento, hadresidences here in the Valley. The castle include Castel Drena,Madruzzo, Calavino. Toblino and Terlago. Visitors included the poets Vergil and Dante Alighieri. Virgil referred to the steep vertical mountainside of the Monte Casale that hovers over the Lago di Toblino as the“gates of hell”….and there is truly a gateway element since at its basethe River Sarca created Limarò, the deep gorge referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Trentino. Yet another“visitor” or invader was Attila the Hun, who rhapsodized and admired the lovely waters of the Lake Toblino while his hordes brutally sacked and pillaged the adjoining valleys. In the 1500’s, there passed the bishops and experts gathering for the Council of Trent. In the 1700’s, the French soldiers of the Vendome reeked their havocup and down the valley.
Throughout the valley one sees large tracts of landscaped grape vines that produce its distinctive three products. It is known as the Land of Grappa. There are many distinctive grappas, the most famous being the ones produced in Santa Massenza. Those grappas reach the US under the labels of Poli. There are the Nosiola vines that produce il Vino Nosiola. The remnants of these withering grapes dried on reed mats produce the historic Vino Santo, called Santo since it had been used in the Eucharistic service. It is a sweet dessert wine that one can buy throughout Italy or simply enjoyed in one of its cantinas of the villages of the valley. Each year there are celebrations of Vin Nosiola and Vino Santo around Holy Week that attracts tourists from everywhere.
Alta Valsugana: An Introduction
The Valsugana Valley was and remains one of the most important valleys of the Trentino. It contains distinctive parts that includes the different lower part of the valley, Bassa Valsugana and the Val dei Mocheni. We will focus on the Alta Valsugana and return in future to its other areas. The valley was a bridge and a passage way from the Po River to Bavaria. It was the ancient home and dwelling of the most fierce of the Alpine tribes, the Celts conquered by the Roman legions. The Valley leads into the Alps foothills. It was the main north-south Roman road, Via Claudia Augusta. Historically it was one of the most important north-south European transit lanes because the route from the Veneto region to points near and beyond the famed Brenner pass is significantly shorter than proceeding Venice to Verona to Brenner. Winding along the valley, it connected the Adriatic with the Frankish kingdom’s centre of Augsburg and the Holy Roman Empire to which the Trentino belonged for 800 years as the Principato of Trento.
The Valle dei Mocheni is also of historic interest as it has remained a German-speaking enclave in modern Italy to this day. This came about during the High Middle Ages while the region was ruled by the Holy Roman Empire. Many German-speaking farmers and miners settled into the region.
The western part of the valley nearest Trento has two notable lakes, Caldonazzo e Levico. Lake Caldonazzo is the largest lake totally in the Trentino. The Lake of Levico resembles a Norwegian fjord. It is an extensive tourist area which began as a health spa during the late 19th century when the Levico Terme baths were established and became popular with the upper classes. The scenery is marked by vineyards and orchards and groves of edible horse-chest-nuts. Nearby Lake Caldonazzo and the village of Caldonazzo, is a further international tourist center located just south of the Dolomites. Together, Caldonazzo Lake and the Dolomites create one of the most beautiful regions of northern Italy and harbor a host of outdoor sporting activities, such as climbing, hiking, mountain biking, power boating, sailing, and windsurfing to name just a few.
Running down the length of valley is the spectacular mountain range of the Lagorai chain, one of the areas with the greatest naturalness of the whole province, including some of the wildest corners of the South-Eastern Alps. Lagorai is a name that has its roots in the word lake, in fact there are many lakes of varying sizes present at various altitudes. Vibrant tourist and commerce town, Pergine Valsugana is the main town in the upper part of Valsugana. Its town-centre has medieval origins, as you can see from the historic towers with adjoining castle, and experienced a further development during the Renaissance. Hovering over the city is the Castel Pergine. Its prime position makes Pergine the perfect base station for hiking tours and many sporting activities. Pergine is also the ideal place for those who love nature and culture, with an extensive range of events, including Pergine Spettacolo Aperto. In the town-centre you will be amazed by some characteristic views, like Via Maier, dotted with artworks on both noble houses and religious buildings. The surrounding hills are covered with soft fruit plantations.. There is also the Santa Orsala Cooperative which is the European leader in the cultivation and distribution of small fruit produce: strawberries, cherries, blueberries, raspberries employing over 1000 workers. Its produce is distributed throughout Europe. A noted wine of the Valsugana is La Pavana accompanied by its very own special cheese, Vezzena. There is a special “farina”..flour made with an ancient variety of corn that has been rediscovered at Caldonazzo. This farina is celebrated by two wonderful celebrations: Festa della polenta a Roncegno Terme e il Festival del Mais a Levico Terme.Perhaps, its greatest and proudest product is Alcide De Gasperi, one of the founders of modern Europe.
Introduction to the Val Rendena
The Rendena Valley has a combination of history, art, and a remarkable environment. A narrow valley, its shoulders are the magnificent Dolomites of the Brenta on one side and the Presanella e the Adamello, the highest mountain in the Trentino, on the other. Down the middle of the valley, there runs the Sarca River, the most important river in the Province. Up and down the valley, there came Charlemagne with his warriors and bishops visiting churches and leaving behind legends. There followed the remarkable Baschenis, distinguished artists, who left their footprints with remarkable art. In particular, there are the churches of San Vigilio in Pinzolo, San Antonio in Perlugo, and San Stefano in Carisolo. The magnificent frescoes of the Simon Baschenis are fully on display. One of their famous frescoes is the Danze Macabre, the Dance of Death.
The first villages you meet entering Val Rendena are Villa Rendena, Iavrè, Darè, Vigo Rendena. Pelugo’s history is linked to the cemetery church dedicated to St. Antonio, frescoed by Bergamo painters of 1500. Spiazzo was the centre of all Rendena communities since it was officially the “Pieve di Rendena” to seal the central position of the village and the importance of religious history with St. Vigilio, the patron of the Trentino. Strembo, Bocenago and Caderzone Terme are gathered around their bell towers, overlook Sarca River. They are characterized by an alpine rural culture that is in evidence in the architecture of the houses and in the religious frescos which often decorated the exteriors of their houses. In the high part of Rendena Valley you find the villages of Giustino, Massimeno, and Pinzolo – the main center of the valley,and Carisolo that leads to Val Genova westward and toMadonna di Campiglio northward, passing through Sant’Antonio di Mavignola. Pinzolo is the heart of the valley, with its churches as the cemetery church of Saint Vigilio.
Val Rendena has many beautiful and wild little lateral valleys: Val San Valentino, Val di Borzago, Val Genova and Val Nambrone, Val Brenta e Val d’Agola. The Genova valley is among the most important valleys because of its wild and varied landscapes. It has torrents and many water falls including the spectacular Cascata di Nardis, the Nardis waterfall. This particular valley always fascinated the mountain people. It is linked to many popular mysterious legends. According to one of these legends, the Council of Trento interned here witches and devils. There are many tales and beliefs in Val Rendena linked to the Nordic cycles and medieval stories. Among the main topics there are the monster of Nambino Lake, the”Volpàt” of Ritorto Lake, the bread that doesn’t rise in Mortaso after Saint Vigilio`s death, the treasures guarded by spirits and devils, the witches on Epiphany night and many others.
In the second half of the 1800’s, the Val Rendena suffered from the great “miseria ” and hunger and lack of basic needs of the period. There had been a glass factory in Carisolo, some wood carving, and cattle breeding but they could not sustain its population. These great needs prompted a great revival with the migrating of very many people of valley as seasonal workers throughout Europe as knife grinders (moleti) and then subsequently to the USA. These moleti literally went everywhere, developed their own unique language to communicate with each other, and succeeded in creating quasi labor federations and cooperatives. With the arrival of the new century, the town of Madonna di Campiglio, once a religious sanctuary and hospice for wayfarers and for the devout, transformed itself into a sanctuary and destination point for tourists ushering in a boom of both winter and summer recreation and activities. It is the site of ski competitions. Tourism prompted a great building boom of hotels, condominiums and restaurants to accommodate tourists and it has become the Rendena’s chief industry. UNESCO further endorsed the Rendena Valley by declaring its magnificent Dolomites as part of the World Heritage.
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