The Italian Renaissance usually conjures up thoughts of the beautiful and evocative city of Florence: Masaccio, Donatello, Botticelli, Brunelleschi and the great dome over the Duomo. But, of course, there is more to find in cities and towns away from the traditional haunts. We discovered Trento on our trip through the Brenner Pass on our way towards Austria.
Trento, in The Tyrol, was formerly part of the Austrian Hungary empire but annexed by Italy in 1919. More famously it was the location for the final stages of the Council of Trent (1545-63), which gave rise to the Counter-Reformation in Europe. The Tridentine Mass means referring to Trento. While the Counter-Reformation spawned the great explosion of Baroque religious art (Caravaggio et al) the city gives us a wonderful insight into late fifteenth century architecture and art.
The Palazzo Geremia is a typical example of a Renaissance palace of the late fifteenth century, not unlike those of the Medici and Rubellai in Florence, but beautifully adorned with frescoes on the exterior walls. The palace was built for the Veronese merchant, Giovanni Antonio Pona, known as Geremia. The architecture typifies that of the merchant’s palaces of the day and can be found throughout Italy. A secure ground floor with small portal for goods, a state floor for entertaining and smaller accommodation floor, towards the roof.
The Frescoes make the buildings in Trento so interesting. They are difficult to follow as age has deteriorated the quality and several unsuccessful conservations have further threatened them. The fresco cycles on the facade, typical of the humanist, rather than religious emphasis of the Renaissance, depict the successes of the Geremia family. Especially prominent is the meeting with the emporer, Maximilian.
The carpets in the frescoes are especially important and reflect the significance of these carpets as both floor and wall decoration. The inclusion of carpets emphasises Geremia as a significant merchant trader and the designs can be traced to several Middle Eastern locations, especially Turkey and Iran.
The city has many other palaces and villas dating to the late fifteenth century with Renaissance motifs and many frescoed in a similar style. The Cathedral is of Romanesque – Gothic transition and undergoing a huge restoration project. In the crypt can be seen the remains of an earlier Roman basilica, revealing the importance of the city as a route through the Alps from antiquity. The central plaza has that intriguing mix, so Italian, of vitality, chaos and serenity all rolled into one!