Rovereto – Natural Artistry in Northern Italy
by Jacquelyn E. Lane
Officially known as the City of Peace, festivals and museums, Rovereto nestles at the side of a valley in the Trentino region between Trento and Verona at the edge of the Italian Alps.
As you can see from the poppies, Spring was merging into Summer as we drove off to explore the surrounding landscape, safe in the hands of our friend and local host. Solid rock mountains soar upward with a sense of urgency as if they were thrust skyward just yesterday yet the settled, verdant valley floor between them makes a lie of that impression. So does the bright green where small fields have been carved from every opportunity the steep mountainsides offer.
Those sharp, uplifted mountains wall a multitude of small towns in the valley that winds gently below. The towns are separated by productive fields until traveling west, the valley ends in Italy’s largest interior waterway, Lake Garda. Its presence restricts human activity to the strip beside the lake or up onto the occasional plateau on the mountainsides that confine and contain the lake.
To my surprise, numerous hardy windsurfers were taking advantage of a stiff breeze to scud across the width of the lake, displaying their skills to tourists and inhabitants alike.
In Winter – Snow, In Summer – Green Tranquility
It was June. The growth of gardens and forests expressed the succulence of youth when tissue is plumped with moisture before the higher heat of summer browns and desiccates, eventually giving way to a colourful death in Autumn. That time was far off in the life of the vegetation here in Northern Italy and it was easy to forget that on the other side of the planet, parts of our own garden lay bare and brown or had disappeared altogether in the mid-winter cold.
Our friend generously chauffeured us to the adjoining valleys where three storey holiday homes sit comfortably beside tranquil lakes encircled by leafy summer forests. In winter such scenes are doubtless transformed into a more stark stillness of bare branches, frosted or snowy ground and holiday makers armed with skis.
Cold War Weapons
Our host introduced us to a most unexpected site—Tuono nike anti-missile base—a remnant of the ‘cold war’ when many of these US bases were spread across the countryside. It has been decommissioned, of course. Nevertheless, it is a chilling reminder of humanity’s seemingly constant tightrope walk between aggression and peace.
Fancy a Castle Anyone?
You get a choice of castles here! The oldest stone building in my home country, New Zealand, is a mere 150 years old. When my husband informed his Rotary Club in Alexandria, Egypt of this fact, it was met with incomprehension but that’s a story for another day. Suffice it here to point out that New Zealand has no castles in the traditional sense although a few enthusiastic citizens have built ‘castle houses’ in imitation of their original Northern hemisphere inspirers.
Near Rovereto is Castle Beseno, the genuine article as castles go. It is perched atop a convenient hill, a most suitable and impressive site yet nevertheless dwarfed by the surrounding mountains. I couldn’t help but contemplate the harshness of life in such a dwelling and having helped Rick build 56 tonne of stone walls to hold back the sand of our second property, I always view castles with a good deal of appreciation for the labour that went into their creation.
Such travellers as we can feel a smug relief that we do not endure such difficult and doubtless often uncomfortable dwellings yet a shifting of our thoughts just a little can remind us that there are still many millions of human beings living in less than comfortable or life-enhancing conditions. Even in the so-called prosperous Western nations so many suffer discomforting and deprived living spaces while a tiny few live in excessive luxury so far beyond their actual need, we can merely shake our heads in wonder at humanity’s extremes and collective stupidity. Surely, a well-housed populous is a healthier, happier, more productive one from which we all benefit in multiple ways.
Rovereto – City of Art
You just can’t help noticing there’s a lot of art in Rovereto. The architecture of this part of Italy testifies very clearly to its history. Until the end of World War II, it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with the happy result that many of the houses and municipal buildings display the architectural style of that culture—large, protective roofs hint of winter snow and plastered outer walls are decorated with scrolling swirls in a cross between folk art and upper-class elegance of a bygone era. It set me wondering why we don’t find ways to decorate the exterior walls of our modern homes just as we enliven our cities with murals.
A beautifully embellished building in Rovereto’s Piazza Rosmini (Rosmini Square).
A Visual Feast
For me, equal to the stunning landscape, Rovereto provided us with another very ‘happy place’, recommended by our friend’s lovely Italian wife. It is called simply, MART—museum of modern art. I have discovered on previous visits to Italy, that here the definition of ‘modern’ art differs somewhat from my Southern Hemisphere perceptions of the term. I suspect it’s because NZ and Australia in particular, are so lately inhabited by people of European or ‘Old World’ descent. Personally, I always associate the term ‘modern art’ with Picasso, Van Gough, Cezanne, Pollock and the like, in other words, particular styles of 20th century art but I’ve learned before that Italy renders up a very different selection from my stereotype.
Here’s a detail of this beautiful and tender painting by Luigi Bonazza created with small dabs of paint.
Clearly, my hastily taken phone shots can’t do justice to these beautiful works but you’ll get the idea. They are shown here with permission of MART.
Below: a clever rendition of the head of Mussolini by Renato Bertelli and a painting of the Artist’s Mother by Umberto Boccioni.
Finally, an intriguing piece below by Roberto Crippa.
This tiny sampling was from the painting halls. The MART has extensive rooms of installations as well.
If you’re planning a trip to Italy, put Rovereto on your list. It’s a treat!