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.
So, 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.
Back 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.
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.
During 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.
Turns 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.
Although 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
Enjoyed following along with your discoveries. Seems like your respite is an all-inclusive package of heart and soul along with the medicinal.
Thanks, Sally, It’s been fun hunting down new and interesting places to shoot. Now, all I need is for the magical waters to do their thing and my stay in the Trentino will have been a huge success.
What a wonderful day – and a very interesting and beautiful post. Thanks, Tom.
Pat — The weather cooperated long enough for me to play hide-n-seek around the village. Rain returned later in the day. Just in the nick of time, hey?
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.
Angela — He’s in there, in the photo right after the close up shot of the fountain spigot. Glad you’re enjoying tagging along with me. You’re welcome any time. 🙂
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.
Valentina — Next time I’m in the OC, I’ll have to stop by and test drive your home made Nocino. Salute!
You will be welcomed any time. It’s very good and I added the recipe to one of my books: ©Sins Of A Queen – on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/9agl5v9
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 — GO CARDS and GO ETRUSCANS TURNED RAETIANS!
I was fascinated with the pattern of the brick streets. They were beautiful – and the color – almost like new!
Jill — The brick streets are probably fairly new and not reflective of the rough cut cobble that was originally down way back when. Glad you enjoyed the views.
Wonderful post as always Tom. Love the whitewashed buildings especially.
Now get back into those waters!!!! How’s the therapy working?
Tina, thanks for the “thumbs up” on the post. Regarding the water, I don’t see great results yet. Maybe on my next visit in April/May. Cheers!
A very pretty village, Tom. I love eating walnuts. 🙂
Sylvia — Well, this area is known for its walnuts. Thanks for cracking open a couple. 🙂
Very well captured… 🙂
Thanks, Black Duck.
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!
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.