There’s a pretty good chance that most people who will read this blog will know very little about Trento (aka Trent). This is a shame because it’s a stunning city in a stunning region. Trento shares the same burden of so many other places in Italy: put in any other country and it would stand out as an essential destination. Slotted in there with Venice, Florence, Rome, Verona, Cinque Terra and all of the others, and it ends up getting lost in the shuffle.
If it does ring a bell for you, this may be because of the Council of Trent, where the Roman Catholic church drew a line in the sand to put an end to the European expansion of the Protestant Reformation. Despite ending 450 years ago, the council remains important for the residents of the city, who derive great pride from being the defenders of catholicism, which does nothing to create openness to encounter the gospel in a fresh way.
There is an obvious contrast for me between Trento and Torino. Trento is based in established ‘Christian’ religion, and is resistant to the gospel. Torino is a centre for black and white magic, but relatively open to consider Jesus. Fertile ground is not always where we would expect to find it.
The setting of Trento is at the feet of the northern Italian mountains. We got there, after flying into Verona in a rented-and tiny-Fiat, which was my first experience of driving in Italy, and my first time driving a manual transmission in a solid decade. We had no difficulty finding our way to Trento, although we managed to miss the massive, direct, and fast route that would have got us there in a boring hour. Instead we found ourselves on an old and meandering highway that passed through innumerable towns and passed stunning views of castles and monasteries perched precariously on mountaintops. Although it doubled the driving time, none of us regretted the route.
Inside the city you will find everything that you would expect in an old Italian city: a large piazza with a stunning fountain in the centre, a massive cathedral (duomo), a castle full of armour, cafes that extend into the streets, and, of course, gelato. Trento has its own flavour due to obvious German influence (it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire before the beginning of modern Italy), but essentially it has all of the old Italian favourites done very well.
While remaining unmistakingly Italian, it was the international flavour that was the biggest surprise for us. A lot of this originates in the excellent university, where several postgraduate programs are run in English, attracting a very large number of international students. There is an obvious advantage for us should we end up in Trento-in order to meet the needs of the students, there is a public school where the Italian curriculum is taught in English, thereby providing a potential solution to one of our biggest question marks.