Valle dell'Adige is the spine of the Tridentine Region. Along it runs the
historical road linking Italy to the centre of Europe, and in it lies the town
of Trento, once the capital of the episcopal principality. The area south of
Trento is called Valle Lagarina, and the wide plain north of Trento, where the
river Noce flows into the Adige, is called Piana Rotaliana. The first castle
you meet, coming from Verona, is Sabbionara d'Avio. It clings to a hillside on
the right of the Adige, guarding the lower Valle Lagarina and the renowned town
of Avio. For several centuries it was the fief of the Castelbarco family, whose
most famous member was William II who is supposed to have hosted Dante
Alighieri at his court. Castello di Rovereto is an urban castle, dominating the
formerly walled town from a rocky hilltop, where the Vicentino and Brenner
roads converge. The castle housed, until 1961, the famouse Bell of the Fallen,
which weighs 22600 kilos and now stands on the nearby Miravalle hill. Near
Rovereto a ring of medieval fortifications guards the valley. Many of them are
in ruins, proof of the eventful history of the area. Among these are the ruins
of the Castel Chizzola, overlooked by Castel Sajori of Brentonico, Castel
Albano of Mori, Castel Corno near Lenzima, Castel Barco, Castel Nomi and Castel
Lizzana. Then, among those inhabited are Castel Castellano and Castelnuovo
Lagarino near Noarna. The formrmidable castle structures of Beseno and Pietra
are the subject of famous landscapes. The bastioned and turrited bulk of Castel
Beseno occupies the hilltop closing the road to Vicentino. It covers an area of
16400 sq.m and is one of the largest castles on the southern side if the
central alps. Below lies Castel Beseno's barbican and fortified garrison,
Castel Pietra which necessarily shares its history. The castle symbol par
excellence is Buonconsiglio of Trento. It embodies the history of the region and
whose the scene of the great events that took place here: from the struggle
with the counts of the Tyrol to the Ecumenical Council of Trent, and from the
Napoleonic occupations to the execution of the Trentino irredentist heroes
Cesare Battisti, Damiano Chiesa and Fabio Filzi. Just north of Trento lies the
Piana Rotaliana, the largest alluvial plain in the region, where a ring of
castles used to defend the roads converging there. The front of Castello di
Monreale, with its unusual scaled battlements, stands alone among the vineyards
near Faedo. Lying in the huge natural cave in the rock above Mezzocorona,
Castello di San Gottardo is the most unusual castle construction in Trentino,
used as a residence until 1480 when the occupants moved to Castel Firmian.
The ring is closed by Castello della Torre, high above Mezzolombardo.
Valsugana and Primiero
The historical importance of Valsugana, a noticeably carved Valley linking
Trento across country to Veneto, owes its importance to one of the two imperial
Roman roads - the Claudia Augusta Altinate - that ran through Trentino going to
Rhaetia. Another historical feature is the political and religious division
between the episcopal principatly of Trento and the episcopal county of Feltre.
Between the Fersina and Avisio Valleys lies the very old Castello di Fornace in
Fornace, named after the smelting furnaces of the ore once excavated in the
area. Bridging the Fersina and Brenta basins, the piedmont hill of Tegazzo is
crowned by the turreted complex of Castello di Pergine, dominating the Upper
Valsugana and the road to Trento. The castle tower in the middle is of great
architectural interest for its coherent Gothic plan on the site of a former
Descending Val di Brenta you come to the bleak ruins of Castel Selva rising
just outside Lavico Terme. Then, just before Roncegno, yopu come across the
restored remains of Tor Quadra which barred the medieval roads. Tucked away in
the woods the remains of Castel San Pietro, Castellalto and the aggregate and
bastioned Castel Telvana, highlight of one of the most spectacular landscapes
in Trentino, peer down on Borgo Valsugana where the valley narrows.
Towering on the side opposite the wide open space of Valsugana Inferiore, on
rising ground, preceding the narrow passage at Grigno, is the severe medieval
complex of Castel Ivano, a famous castle packet with legend.
In an isolated and inaccessible position, Castel Pietra stands on a rocky spur
within view of the Dolomite Range, Pale di San Martino, near Fiera di Primiero.
It is one of the most significant examples of a manor built on erratic blocks
to guard valley routes. Legend has it that is was built as a stronghold against
The Valle dell'Avisio, a large area lying east of Trento, has virtually no
castles because, here, the strong village communities have always prevented the
formation of feudal systems. Nevertheless the lower branch of the valley
preserves the grim remains of the thirteenth century Castello di Segonzano.
Valli del Noce
The relatively uneventful history and the continuity of some old noble families
have permitted the Noce Valleys, the region north-east of Trento, to preserve a
considerable number of castles and manors. Most of the castles, nearly all
preserved, are private property and therefore cannot be visited unless
permission is granted by the owners. Their presence is, however, a constant
feature of the landscape among the extensive and celebrated orchards of Valle di
Non. Among these, the most striking one is Castel Thun, above the village of
Vigo di Ton, with its very high turreted count's residence and the
succession of fortifications protecting it. On the opposite bank the Noce
river, between Campodenno and Sporminore, the solid medieval complex of Castel
Belasi rises out of the orchards. Near Spormaggiore one can visit the remains
of Castel Belfort. Defended by deep gorges, Castel Bragher rises compact and
pale among the woods and orchards on the old road climbing from Taio to Coredo.
Castello di Castelfondo also belonging to the Thuns, is, instead, an important
and interesting feudal fortress within which the furnishings of a long standing
family tradition are still preserved. Castello di Cles, belonging to the barons
of the same name, is a linear building garrisoned by two towers and reflected
in the waters of lake Santa Giustina. It was the birthplace of Bernardo Clesio
(1485), the most famous and shrewd Trentino prince bishop. Dominating the
village of Nanno, the grand Castello di Nanno sits on a green hillock. It is
perhaps the most "Italian" castle building in Trentino, in fact according to
legend it was built to designs by Andrea Palladio. Castel Malgolo, in Malgolo
di Romeno, is an elegant example of a fortified manor-house. Near Tassullo the
white walls of Castel Valer, property of Spaur Counts, occupy a green hill.
Many others manors, either inhabited, or in ruins, complete the great castles
scenes of Valle di Non. At Mostizzolo bridge, which geographically marks the
beginning of Valle di Sole, the landscape becomes truly alpine. The upper Valle
del Noce winds among the Brenta and Presanella mountain ranges in the south and
the Ortles-Cevedale in the north. High above the river stands Castel Caldes.
Its architectonic features show traces of the late Gothic cultures of the
fortified manors of alpine areas. Careful reconstruction has restored its
dignity. Just above Caldes can be seen the grim ruins of Castello di
Samoclevo, whilst in Ossana the remains of Castello di Ossana, or San Michele,
a distinguished by the monumental tower. The turrited fortified manor of
Croviana, built in sixteenth century style, completes the panorama.
Piana del Sarca and Giudicarie
Geographically and historically the plain of the lower Sarca river, also
called the Valle dei Laghi, has always been open towards the Po Valley. The
Rocca di Riva, a lakeside castle built in the 12th century has an external
defence to the walled town, epitomises the troubled history of this area.
With its four corner towards it still conveys the strong 14th century
reconstruction of the Della Scala Family. In a beautiful scenic position, on
the Giudicarie Esteriori road, in view of the Lake Garda, Castello di Tenno
stands deprived of its high tower which had decayed and fell down in 1922.
A landscape of evident contrast is offered by Castello di Arco, which, from
a calcareous crag on high, watches the plain of lower Sarca right down to Lake
Garda. Albrecht Durer, who, in 1495, saw it in its heyday when it was a
bishop's stronghold against the threat of Venetian expansionism towards the
Giudicarie, painted it in a famous watercolour in the centre of a harsh rocky
landscape softened by olive trees and vineyards. It looks the same today,
despite the ruins caused in 1703 by the assault of Duke Vendome's troops during
the war of succession for the throne of Spain. The top of crag is dominated by
the Rocca, which is probably the oldest part. A prehistoric and early medieval
community hillfort, the manor-house of the Trento Prince was held in fief, for
several centuries, by the Counts of Arco family. Property of the Comune of
Arco, it is currently closed for restorations. The walk among the olives,
which from the centre of Arco brings you to the foot of it, is very picturesque
and panoramic. Castel Drena was the stronghold guarding the ancient route
through Valle di Cavedine. Below it extents the huge Marocche landslide.
Continuing through Valle di Cavedine one soon comes to Castel Madruzzo on rocky
rising ground clothed in an ilex grove which extents ecologically around Lake
Toblino, the seat of the most romantic castle in Trentino: Castel Toblino.
History and legend blend picturesquely in this fortified abode on the shores of
the lake. The Giudicarie Esteriori, the green valley of middle Sarca, have been
linked with the Garda area for centuries. Though gathered in a small area the
castles are evidence of the strategic importance of the land between Garda and
inner Trentino: Castel Spine and Castel Campo in Lomaso, the ruins of Castel
Restor in Bleggio, Castel Stenico and the remains of Castel Mani in Banale.
Castel Stenico dominates the village in the same name and, for many centuries,
in was the political and military observation point of the prince bishop's
sovereignity in the Giudicarie.
Having passed through the Giudicarie Interiori (Tione) one finds the warlike
remains of Castel Romano, property of the Pieve di Bono Commune and undergoing
restoration, Rocca di Santa Barbara in Lodrone and the solitary Rocca di San
Giovanni near Storo, dominating the villages in the Valle del Chiese.