The Trentino Highlands – August 29th – September 5th
Our magical week walking along peaceful valleys, through attractive alpine villages and challenging mountain climbs in warm sunshine, contrasted heavily with its turbulent past in the latter stages of Austro-Hungarian rule. Fierce fighting during WW1 along the border with Italy, finally led to Italian sovereignty in 1919 as part of the Treaty of Versailles. We were reminded of this war torn past by passing by the remains of several forts built to keep the Italians from invading their neighbours, all positioned for maximum security and visibility at or near the top of some of the highest mountain summits in the region. We visited or passed by no less than five, mostly half-demolished, but one still complete and now a museum piece – Fort Belvedere, which brought to life the most dreadful conditions that young men were forced to live under. Some 60,000 Trentino men fought for Austro-Hungary, with hundreds of thousands of civilians leaving the area, as some of the most fierce battles along this front line took place between 1915 and 1918 with heavy loss of life.
Yet now the Trentino Highlands can be described as a walker’s delight, offering varied, challenging and interesting walks with the villages of San Sebastiano, Folgaria and La Guardia acting as beacons of refreshment with their pretty churches, al fresco paintings on residential houses and as far as away from UK life as one could possibly be.
My highlight of the trip was the ascent to Cima Portule at 2,306m, helped by the practice throughout the week of higher and higher ascents, when our aching limbs finally felt strong enough for the challenge. There was a real sense of achievement and solidarity amongst the group when we finally made it to the top ridge.
Some of us spent our day off at Lake Garda visiting the town of Limone by boat, famous for its export of lemons in the 19th Century, before disease and competition wiped out the industry. Others headed south to visit Verona for the summer festival at The Arena, a 1st century Roman Amphitheatre, still standing and a perfect backdrop for world class opera.
Trentino hospitality was very much appreciated and the Italian ice creams are still reckoned to be the best in the world. Meryl, our ever-helpful leader, offered us an Italian lesson at the beginning of our week and by the third day, we were all confident in ordering coffee, lunch, groceries (and ice cream) in Italian. Her love and knowledge of the area was so contagious that by the end of the week we all felt bonded, not only to one another, but to this area of Italy, promising to return one day. Another great Rambler’s holiday.