We began our journey to Italy, taking a morning train from Friedrichshafen to Munich where we changed trains to travel through Austria, stopping in Innsbruck. Our journey took us through the historic Brenner Pass in the Alps known as the Dolomites. We crossed the border into Italy at Bolzano where the narrow valley widened into a landscape of lush pastures with grazing dairy cattle, small villages, farms, and vineyards. The pastoral settings were enhanced by sheer granite walls of Alpine mountains.
Early Romans began traveling along crude mule trails though the Alps to reach central Europe in the second Century AD. The route became known as the Brenner Pass named after a local farm.
The first carriage road through the Alps was built during the reign of Austrian Empress Maria Theresa in 1777. In 1867, the Brenner railway was laid. Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini met here in 1940 to sign the Pact of Steel uniting the two fascist dictatorships.
Trento’s old city
We were fortunate to have booked a room at a hotel that was a short walk from the train station. The hotel was also a central location to explore the old city and walk along the Adige River. The old city was a network of winding cobblestone streets, many of which end at the central piazza with a fountain, the Duomo, and the Diocesan museum.
We visited the Diocesan Museum attached to the Duomo where the Council of Trent convened. The Council was a series of meetings called by Pope Paul III from 1545-1563 to deal with religious issues arising from the Protestant Reformation. More than 700 bishops, mostly from Italy met in Trent for eighteen years. The museum was formerly known as Palazzo Pretorio where the bishops of Trent lived during the Middle Ages.
The museum has an impressive collection of religious paintings — many of the various Councils of Trent — altarpieces, religious manuscripts, relics, vestments, and art gathered from medieval Catholic churches in the region which have closed.
Council of Trent
More than 25 sessions were called in the Council of Trent from 1545-1563. Political and religious disruptions interrupted the sessions as controversies plagued the ecumenical gatherings.
In the Diocesan museum basement were ruins of a first century BC Roman town, Tridentum. The ruins were discovered in 1920s when workers were repairing sewers. The ancient Roman stonework was impressive and durable, especially a burnished red flagstone that was likely a fragment of a centuries old street.
We thoroughly enjoyed our introduction to Trento and wandering the narrow streets throughout the old city. But we were here to explore more of this region, especially villages and towns that look down on Trento from the Dolomite mountains.
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