From Castel Beseno we drove north for 45 Kms towards the major city of Trento before turning left and heading towards Lake Toblino. Our destination for the evening was Castel Toblino that was originally built on a small island, connected by bridge to the shoreline. Today it is an impressive castle/manor that houses a very fine restaurant. There appears to be some curious stories about the origin of the buildings on this gorgeous lake side site. One account suggests that the original building on the site was raised as a temple to the ‘fairies’ around two thousand years ago. However it comes into the annals of history a thousand years later, significantly rebuilt to the tastes of the wealthy bishops of the region who were in the best jobs to accrue money needed to build such grand, defensible homes. In the image below, Castel Toblino can be seen at the top of the picture with a neighbouring lake side estate, Maso Toresella, at the bottom of the picture.
My favourite story about Castel Toblino was that it featured as the setting of an historical novel called the The Cardinal’s Mistress, Claudia Particella. The author was none other than Benito Mussolini who as a young man, fancied himself as a writer. His only novel was published in instalments in 1910 and unsurprisingly was very anti-clerical. Once he became fascist dictator of Italy, he withdrew it from circulation as part of his détente with the Vatican.
Our evening in Castel Toblino was free of both cardinals and mistresses so we were able to relax and enjoy both the beautiful food and the amazing décor. After dinner we were able to roam around the public sections of the castle and enjoy the views out over the lake as well as admire the many surviving coats of armour and similar decorations of a medieval castle.
From the Castel on Lake Tomblino, we drove back south to our last stop of the evening in the city of Rovereto. Our destination of Rovereto had a lot in common with our visit to our earlier site of the afternoon, Castel Beseno. This place also had a large fortress castle, heavily involved in the rolling conflicts of the 13-15th centuries. It was ruled over by the Venetians for a long time before the city and castle fell, like Beseno Castle, to the French. There were significant battles in the wider area in 1796 when Napoleon arrived in Trentino as France’s major General in the revolutionary wars of the time. Below is an image by an unknown artist of the time that captures the battle for Rovereto when the castel eventually fell to Napoleon’s troops.
Our visit was not to the Castle of Rovereto but to the Campana dei Caduti, the Bell of the Fallen. This was a project of a local priest from Rovereto, Don Antonio Rossi, who inspired the construction of a memorial to the fallen soldiers, not just from World War 1, but from the many wars fought in the region over the centuries. The project consisted of developing a huge bell that would toll each day to remind both citizens and visitors of the soldiers who had given their lives in war. The metal used in forging the bell was from armaments used by combatant countries in World War 1. This bell was the focus of our evening visit and is credited as being the second largest swinging bell in the world. It has the name, Maria Dolens (the grieving Virgin Mary), and is now regarded as a shrine of peace rather than just a war memorial.
It is situated today on the mountain park that overlooks Rovereto and is rung at the end of each day at 9.30pm. A website devoted to the bell states…
For over eighty years, the Bell of the Fallen has been ringing every evening to celebrate the Fallen from all over the world, without distinction of faith or nationality and to address a severe warning to the living: “No more war”.