Trento

 

The city of Trento probably isn’t the first place people think of when talking about Italy, yet it is a very interesting and unique town, with a rich history and many fascinating aspects. Built in the Adige river valley, its name comes from a pre-Roman word indicating the trifurcation of the waterways in the valley. This characteristic made it an important stop on the mercantile routes of northern Italy, making it a very rich and strategically important place since very ancient times. 

Legend has it, in fact, that it was first built as a permanent encampment by the legendary Gaul chief Brennus, whose treasure would be still hidden in the ground below one of the main market squares in town. More realistically, however, the real treasure of Trento was to be the seat of the famous Council from 1545 to 1563. That historical event marked the beginning of the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic answer to the Protestant Reformation – but it also made Trento (or Trent, if you prefer the English name of the town) the instant center of the world, bringing highly influential and very wealthy families on the scene of such a planetary changing event. The Sixteenth century was the highest point in the history of the city, that for about one full century ended up governed by the Madruzzo family and its bishops. It was during this time that most of the beautiful architecture of Trento was built, among which many palaces still visible today. This notwithstanding, visiting the city today is a unique experience because – differently from many other historical Italian towns – in addition to the preserved ancient central quarters and the more modern outskirts, this is still a mountain village at its heart.

From a mere geographical standpoint, only 7% of the Trento township is residential. 70% of the territory is woods or agricultural areas, and over one third of the population actually lives in settlements and sub-villages outside of the main city. Almost all the public events such as exhibitions and shows, in example, are focused on agriculture and animal breeding – although Trento is also where you can find one of the most prestigious Italian universities and where several high tech incubators and companies are headquartered.

Trento is also the heart of one of the two Italian “autonomous provinces”: areas so close to the border with the former Austro-Hungarian empire to have developed a local culture so influenced by the German and Austrian mindset that they cannot be entirely considered Italian. While Bolzano, the other autonomous province, thinks of itself as a German province to all practical effects, Trento has always been strongly pro-integration with Italy. This is also apparent in the town décor: the main square of Bolzano, in example, features a statue of a German poet – while Trento immediately answered by building a statue of Dante, considered the father of the modern Italian language.

 

Talking about city décor, Trento is most famous for its castle from the Third century, but is also home to an unusual quantity of churches and cathedrals, fountains and towers, built by noble families to signal their power. There are 33 of them, leading to one of the most famous Italian tongue-twisters. It goes “Trentatrè trentini entrarono a Trento tutti e trentatrè trotterellando” (literally: “thirty-three men from the Trento region rode in Trento city, all of them trotting”) – try saying it fast, and enjoy just another surprise from this unique place.