Walking through Trento

Looking at some of my earliest digital photos, I dredged up memories of a week in a part of the world I’d known very little about. This was the South Tyrol, where Austria shades into Italy. A night train had taken me to Innsbruck, where I changed to a local which crossed from Austria to Italy, and deposited me in the charming town of Trento. A short walk through the town can tell you much about its history. My walks would start at the piazza in front of the cathedral (featured photo) with its fountain of Neptune. The photo includes the statue of Nepture, the 16th century CE frescoes on the facade of Casa Balduini, and the dome on top of the bell tower of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore.

That was the church where the counter-reformation solidified with the Council of Trent in the middle of the 16th century. The importance of the resurgent catholic church is visible through much of the center of the town. Somewhere in one of the lanes around the square I passed this rococo sculpture of the Annunciation outside a second floor window. The deep colour of the painted wood emphasizes the beautiful pastel shades of the sculptural group.

Walking through that maze of streets I stopped to take a photo of this typical South Tyrol wall. The wooden protective casements over windows are typically Alpine, and the colours of the walls are a mix of Alpine and the southern hues which are visible all the way from here to nearby Venice. After the Imperial Recess of 1803, which ended the Holy Roman Empire, and with it, the rule of the Bishops of Trento, the district passed to Austria.

The first door I ever photographed with a digital camera belonged to the house of the local patriot Enrico Conci, who supported Trentino autonomy while a member of the Vienna House of Deputies, and was jailed and put on trial during the First World War. After the war, when Trento became a province of Italy, he was elected to the Imperial Senate. His daughter, Elsa Conci, was a member of the Constituent Assembly of Italy after the war. The plaque above the door memorializes both of them.

The Alps around Trento are beautiful, full of the high sunny meadows of the Tyrol, and wonderful mountain paths to walk along. It drew me out of the town very quickly. But that is another story.

Wind inside a letter box

I think of myself as rooted in one place: but with tap-roots, like a banyan tree’s, spreading out in different continents. When I came back to India, a late spring and early summer in Europe was for a long time an annual affair. Lately, it has been less frequent, as another root samples eastern Asia.

It was still dark as I checked in for my flight to Munich in the chaotic airport in Rome. After passing through the usual barriers to travel that you meet inside an airport, I found a last cup of espresso. This helped to shut out the commotion of early departures, and reach a quietness inside. I find it useful to reach a balance before very long flights. Once you are cocooned inside the zones which envelope a passenger, all you have is yourself. Restlessness will magnify as you cross continents; just as quietness can deepen.

Midsummer snow, alpine meadows and clouds from the air

Leaving Europe, I recall conversations with a grand-aunt in the last years of her life, as her world became smaller and smaller: from continents to a widely spread out family, eventually to a single town, and then just a house with a garden, before shrinking to a hospital bed. The first time The Family met her, she’d laid out a silver tea service for us. Eventually our talk veered to a trip from Oxford up to Sweden where she found the tea service and her life in design. As she spoke of ferries and the cold air of the Baltic on the deck, I was reminded of my own trips across the Baltic: the first view of Helsinki, as I sailed past Suomenlinna on a summer morning, and, another time, pulling slowly out of Stockholm’s harbour and its islands in the long sunset of another summer. When I showed my mother the photos from that voyage, she talked about a Swedish movie made before I was born. Now, as the sun rose over the Tyrolean Alps (featured photo, and the one just above), I remembered the joy in my grand-aunt’s voice.

Sunlight and clouds over a river in the Tyrolean Alps

This spring was wet, and early summer had been less than warm around the Alps. The news had been full of the danger of the Seine flooding the Louvre. The aerial view of the Alps was not as crisp as it can be. The snow had retreated to the highest peaks, leaving meadows green, as always. But a haze hung over everything. A bank of clouds flowed down a river valley at one place. Elsewhere the sun glinted off the braided channels of water. Could it be the river Inn? My mind was like a paper cup; memories tumbled blindly from me. Tiramisu in Pizzeria Due Furiosi in FrascatiThis year while travelling, I decided to be in constant contact with all my nieces. The youngest responded to my postings of odd locations around Portugal and Italy with complaints. Why no photos of the Coliseum? Not graffiti again! Is that collection of cubes really art? The only thing I ate that met with her approval was Tiramisu. I remembered this as I had my bland airlines breakfast.

In two hours I was in Munich. There was enough time to linger over a hefeweizen and a plate of weisswurst, before the long flight home, where the monsoon had set in.