The soul of the plateau

In history books Folgaria magically reappeared as the Austro-Hungarian front took shape. Fortifications, mine wars and devastation. Then, the course of life, after countless turns brought me back to Folgaria. This time for work.
And I rediscover with different eyes and different proportions (for in the meantime I have grown up and a lot) this magical environment in which it is not excess that makes it unique but harmony; of forms and colors. There are no inscalable peaks nor inscrutable abysses, no impassable passes nor cathedrals of ice.The mildness of its forms, the chromatic balance of nature, the volumes of the landscape, endless backdrops of what is to come around the next bend, make Alpe Cimbra a place that is difficult to circumscribe, to memorize. Dedals of streets and lanes, dozens of contrade have shaped its demographic structure throughout history. Names inherited a little from German and a little from Italian often form words that are unrepeatable and cannot be traced back to anything other than this niche in which a civilization in many ways unspoiled developed.

The Cimbrian cradle originated in the year 1,000 when some settlers arrived from Bavaria. The result was a language rich in expressions and vocabulary derived from Middle High German with influences of Old German. The territory, orographically not simple, the pride and dignity of the people, preserved until the present day this "feeling" Cimbri. On the Alpe, wherever you turn, you cannot help but see nature and history always at arm's length, not the history of the villages and people but the bloodiest history, the one that tells of a war that 100 years ago changed the geopolitical order of Europe, that history that enshrined man as the most ruthless animal on earth, the one who can withstand all catastrophes with his own "intelligence," all cataclysms with his own intelligence but who will surely hang himself with the same rope he has fabricated. How many victims, how many worlds ruined to conquer 100 meters of the front only to lose it again. And I find it fitting that what was once one of the bloodiest theaters has now become one of the most lighthearted, almost compensating for so many atrocities. The seven Austrian forts that bombed and were bombed are now pilgrimage destinations for anyone who goes there. To feel some shame, to commemorate, not to forget. To understand how important certain values are in a democracy that is supposed to represent us.

Perhaps school should really start here, with respect for others before respect for oneself. The Austrian fortifications had the task of countering the advance de South and from the West of the Italians. They were all in optical contact with each other while the headquarters had been placed in the locality of Virti (near the village of Lavarone) wedged between two deep walls of rock and practically unreachable by Italian canon fire. Today all that remains of the garrison is the concrete skeleton and a few tunnels dug into the mountain. Nature has taken it all back. Silent and inexorable it now tries to spread a "pious veil" over that paragraph of our history.

Arriving now at the Austro-Hungarian Presidio you feel your feet tread on a floor muffled by mosses and pine needles. The trenches with their now green walls look like corridors in a fairy tale world leading now to an elf, now to a fairy. Silence reigns supreme, and in this peace today it is hard to imagine the bombings of yesterday. In my eternal wanderings for work I think I have truly met thousands of people in the most unlikely places. I was in Arizona, on a godforsaken road. The sun had already set but it was not quite dark and the road had undefined edges. I wished I had an extra light to illuminate the right edge of the roadway. Suddenly I catch sight of a stationary bicyclist signaling me. I pull over shortly thereafter and, being the good cyclist I was, walk back to ask him if he needed help. He was a lone cyclist with a cart that probably contained his entire existence. He looked at me serenely, thanking me with his eyes, and replied: -no thanks, I just wanted to have a chat.- He told me in a few moments about his nomadic life from which shone a desire to talk, to understand and to be understood. I am on the plateau near the Malga Valleorsara. The scheduling of my time requires me to take some portraits of the cows. I get out of the car with the air of the citizen pervaded by a thousand commitments who drinks herbal teas of anxiety and eats post-its full of notes and erasures. I climb over the electric wire and enter a realm that does not belong to me. With one eye I look ahead and with the other I watch where I put my feet...not so much for potholes... I approach the cows: some, curious, approach me. Others, more shy, walk away. I try to imitate their cries thinking I'm being funny but I immediately realize I'm like a foreign tourist when he apes with his accent a language that doesn't belong to him.

I change tactics but not having a tail I have to get the flies out of my way in other ways. And I'm reminded of the cyclist in Arizona: I just listen to them, try to figure out their rhythm and make it work for me. It didn't take long to realize that they were right. I began to watch them, to admire their phlegm, their slow cadenced movements, the dance of flies and tails, I listened to the sound of grass being ripped from their teeth and that slow chiming of the cowbell. I understood that it was an ancient symphony that every day repeats itself over and over again since this is simply the life that every self-respecting cow desires. And I believe that when the cow is serene, relaxed and pastured, it can only give good milk every day. And I began to respect their space and rhythm by trying to capture all their dignity with my camera. I could not speak their language but I am sure they asked to be heard and understood, just like that lone cyclist who was asking for a few moments of sharing, one of the highest forms of respect. These cows, their milk and the cheese that every day comes out of the pastures scattered on the Alpe are an ancient heritage of this land. A land that has given so much and has so much to give. And the highest form of respect that man can reserve for it is to honor it daily by exploiting it sustainably. Simple ingredients those that the land gives. Simple cuisine that of the mountain peoples. But today revisited in several restaurants where it is possible to go in search of ancient and exquisite dishes whose true identity has now been lost. Here the passion for the cuisine of the past, whether poor or rich, remains. Foods cooked as they once were, perhaps embellished with herbs endemic to this or that forest. And as if by magic we find lustres of history, culture, dedication and pride in their land on the menus of the Alpe's restaurants. When you enter Alpe Cimbra, do so on tiptoe. Don't look for excess; you won't find any. Seek harmony. And you will be satiated.



Exit the Brenner A22 at Rovereto Nord, and after a few kilometers, just below Castel Beseno, you will find signs for Folgaria. Up a thousand meters in the blink of an eye, faster than the imagination can adapt. When you get to Folgaria, you are just at the beginning: the Alpe stretches for a good hour by car, revealing little secrets at every turn. Have fun and-with the right pace.