After a day of torrential rains straight out of the Old Testament, there was a crack in the sky above Terme di Comano this morning revealing a small patch of blue. Good enough for me to feel safe about venturing out for another Under Doctor’s Orders photo shoot.

Rango: One Nutty Hamlet | ©Tom Palladio ImagesSo, I hopped in my 21st century mode of transport, set the Doc Brown gizmo to 500 B.C., and blasted off to Rango, a tiny dot on the map up in the Bleggio Plateau within northern Italy’s province of Trento.

One of the borghi piu belli d’Italia (the most beautiful villages of Italy), so honored by the Association of Italian Municipalities Council of Tourism (Consulta del Turismo dell’ Associazione dei Comuni Italiani — ANCI), Rango gets high marks for maintaining its rich culture, traditions, art and history, along with the village’s overall appearance.

Rango: One Nutty Village | ©Tom Palladio ImagesBack in the day, according to Pliny the Elder, a Roman geographer, the inhabitants of Rango, as well as other parts of the Brenta Dolomites, were nothing more than transplanted Etruscans from the Po Valley who re-settled high in the fertile plains of the northern mountain ranges to escape the invading hordes of Gauls and became known from then on as Raetians.

Today, Rango — a bustling metropolis of a couple dozen carved-out-of-the-bedrock homes that lean on each other for support and stability — has a rich folkloric past filled with stories of pilgrims en route, shepherds tending their flocks, and merchants and lonely travelers spending a night or two then moving on.

Rango: One Nutty Village | ©Tom Palladio Images  Rango4_WM

At first glance, it appears as if Father Time didn’t move a muscle as the mountainside village and its rocky architecture remains true to its roots from many moons ago.

Rango: One Nutty Village | ©Tom Palladio ImagesDuring my walk around — always under the color of potted flowers and bright-yellow husks of corn hung out to dry — I made my way through low-ceilinged archways, along narrow undulating alleys, across a few foot bridges and through open courtyards.

It wasn’t until the tail end of the shoot, when all of my camera batteries were spent, did I finally come into contact with a real-life descandant of the Raetians of Rango.

He was a rustic-looking, friendly man sporting a traditional alpine cap who was hard at work down at the large granite fountain in the main square washing his, AHEM, nuts — walnuts, that is.

Rango: One Nutty Village | ©Tom Palladio Images

Rango: One Nutty Village | ©Tom Palladio ImagesTurns out, the fertile highlands around Rango have been the perfect growing spot for walnut trees that have been yielding the “pride of the valley” since the 16th century: the Bleggio walnut. With a thin shell that’s easy to crack, the meaty inside has a pleasant taste and spicy flavor.

Still hand picked with tender loving care, the Bleggio walnut is eaten raw, added to regional cakes, turned into a strong liquor called nocino, and even used in producing a very rare walnut salami that’s the rave of the area and beyond.

Rango: One Nutty Village | ©Tom Palladio ImagesAlthough the village is pretty quiet most of the year — like today — it rolls out the red carpet and invites everyone in for its annual Mercato di Natale (Christmas Market), which runs every weekend during December leading up to Christmas. At the market, visitors can sample and purchase all of the aforementioned specialties linked to the walnut, along with a host of other local specialties and crafts.

If you ever find yourself in the Brenta Dolomites above Trento, Italy, take a stroll back in time and visit the Raetians of Rango. While you’re there, pick up a bag or two of Bleggio walnuts, the ones that’ve already been pre-washed.

©The Palladian Traveler | ©Tom Palladio Images

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Written by The Palladian Traveler

Tom traded his hometown St. Louis Cardinals' baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and he now hangs his "capello" in the Puglia region of southeastern Italy. A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have got him into and out of 50 countries and counting, Tom fell in love with the "Bel Paese" years ago. As he notes, "I'm inspired by the beauty I find in all things that are very, very old, and reliving history, or at least meandering along cobblestone streets that were laid down over a thousand years ago and just looking up and marveling at what occupies the space still today, really gets my 'Vespa' running." Tom has a good eye behind the lens and is a graphic storyteller, but he'll let you decide as he keeps his camera batteries fully charged and the posts flowing from his creative hideaway in the hills overlooking Ostuni. You can also follow his dispatches along the cobblestone via TravelingBoy.com.

21 comments

  1. I love reading your posts and seeing your beautiful photography. I wish my doctor would tell me I have to go to a spa for a few weeks…especially in Italy. I would have loved to see a photo of the old man you came across.

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  2. I can proudly say that there tons of medieval villages in Italy, my home land, they are beautiful, hold so much history and traditions. It goes without saying food is the most natural in those areas. I learned to make a Nocino from one of the villagers.

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  3. Lovely photos and a fascinating commentary as well. The Christmas market sounds lovely, but then I love Christmas and would enjoy going to many markets, although not all on the same day. 🙂 Speaking of red, game 3 tonight. Go, Cards!!

    janet

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  4. Tom…thanks for sharing. Been to Rango several times and still have some distant cousins living there. In fact my Nonna lived there until shes was 11 and then immigrated to the USA. Today, I live in a small village in Pennsylvania where the childen, grand children, and great grand children of many Rango decedants live. Enjoyed seeing the photos and reading about your journey….thanks again!

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    1. Bryan — The elderly guy in the alpine hat down at the fountain in the main square told me about all of the locals who immigrated to the USA, settled in Pennsylvania, worked the mines and never returned to Rango. He had a sad look on his face when he told me, then just shrugged his shoulders. Maybe some of his grade school chums headed across the pond, too. Glad you enjoyed the article. I certainly enjoyed photographing one of Italy’s prettiest villages (i borghi piu belli d’Italia). The entire Bleggio Plateau is just gorgeous.

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