Rango One Nutty Village
Story and photos by Tom Weber
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 photo shoot.
So, I hopped in my 21st century mode of
transport, set the Doc Brown gizmo to 500 B.C., and blasted off for
Rango, a tiny dot on the map up in the Bleggio Plateau of the
Giudicarie Valley 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 descendant of the Raetians
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
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 locally
nurtured delectables and handmade crafts.
If you really want too get away from it
all, then there's no better place to seek refuge than the Giudicarie
Valley of the Trentino. Just make sure you take the lens cap off and
meander back in time through Rango, where walnuts rule and Raetians
For complete information on picturesque
Trentino, just click
To learn more about the Borghi piu belli
d'Italia, just click HERE.
In between tomorrow's two-a-day thermal
baths, I'll dry off long enough and go under an umbrella to show you
around the banks of the river that runs alongside my temporary digs:
the Fiume Sarca.
Ciao for now!
the Dolomites; Traveling
in Northern Italy; The
Little Village Atop the Hill; Piovene
Sutri: A Canterbury Trail