Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Day 16: Trento

It is another hot and sunny day, but very pleasant having breakfast in the courtyard. Our first destination in Trento is the Castello Buonconsiglio, a massive castle on the other side of town. We decide to drive and park in the pay parking lot just across the street. Unfortunately, when we get there all the spaces are filled and there are many cars jockeying for position to grab an empty space when one appears. This sends us on an unplanned tour of the commercial districts of Trento. The traffic patterns are such (like in Ravenna) that cars are restricted to a wide circular path (seemingly one-way route) around the centro. So after circling the city once, we end back at the same parking area and find a space immediately.

The castle is vast and much of it is in very good condition. The original building dates to the 13th century and much of the decoration was done in the 16th century, when Trento was in its heyday and most famously hosted the deliberations of the Council of Trent between 1545 and 1563. The most well-known (and best preserved) decorations are the Frescoes of the Months, painted around 1400 by a German artist. It depicts a year in the life of a feudal manor with scenes of nobles hunting, dancing and flirting, and peasants working the fields and otherwise keeping the estate going. According to the audioguide, the frescoes represented the last gasp of the "international gothic style" which wanted to romanticize the feudal system then in decline. [I can't vouch for the assessment of that characterization but it sounds reasonable.] There are many other frescoes around the castle including a large one of Charlemagne in the main entrance hall as well as galleries filled with pictures of the various bishops of Trent and a large collection of ceramic stoves. In addition, there are nice views over Trento from the open loggia on the upper level.

Our next stop is the Duomo, a large cathedral whose long side wall faces the main piazza. As one book says, "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." Apart from an impressive rose window and its bell tower, there is nothing particularly striking inside the building but it does present an impressive sight joined to the adjacent palazzo with its turrets and stone facing and dominating the piazza.

For lunch today, we go to a local Trento institution called Pedavena....a combination trattoria and beer hall that occupies many rooms, a large outdoor courtyard and garden. They brew their own beer there and one of the rooms is filled with the vats and tubing for the beer production. I have the combination plate of Trentino specialities....goulash, sauerkraut, polenta, canerderlo (like a matzoh ball) wurstel (hot dog) and a large slab of smoked pork--the highlight of the combo. But all the the food is very heavy and the portion size is gigantic....I barely make a dent. Diana has a caprese...a large ball of good mozzarella and some pretty good tomatoes and another very good prosciutto and melon. Even though the place is obviously popular and is doing a good business, in the end we are not that happy with it.

We go back to the hotel to escape the heat of the day....I get some work done...and in the late afternoon, we get into the car and drive up the side of the mountain that overlooks Trento. We end up at the top of the funavia....the cable car that runs from Trento to a village about 2,000 feet over the city. We spend some time admiring the view; this altitude makes it easy to see the layout of the town and to identify neighborhoods and landmarks; it is also fun to watch the trains as they approach and depart. We stay to watch the cable car make its 5 pm only takes 4 minutes for one car to descend and the other to ascend.

On the way back to the hotel, we explore some of the other neighborhoods of Trento and find the location of the second Slow Food restaurant in town. Dinner tonight is at the first Slow Food restaurant, Al Volt. The place is empty except for one solitary male diner, but the proprietor is very welcoming so we stay to eat. We share a plate of local Trentino ham and salami served with a potato pancake, which is very good. My main course is again mammoth...a meaty, well prepared pork shank (stinco di maiale) served with a mountain of delicious polenta and a pile of flavorful mushrooms. Unfortunately, I leave most of it on my plate, as good as it is.

We are too full to stop for a gelato as we stroll through Trento back to the hotel.

Tomorrow we are going back to the Alto Adige....Bressanone/Brixen and Merano/Meran, where I will visit a hotel and meet a client.


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