Trentino Ecomuseums: Culture, Arts and Crafts -- the Living Heritage of a Beautiful Mountain Region.

This is an introduction and a guide to the Trentino Ecomuseums, and an invitation to enjoy the natural environment, scenery, countryside, history and art of Trentino this beautiful and green region nestled in the middle of the Italian Alps.

The aim of Ecomuseums is the preservation, renovation and proper use of environments representing traditional ways of life, and that of containing artifacts relating to the historical, cultural, artistic and craft heritage of a given region.

They include itineraries and trails able to show visitor aspects of nature, local traditions and history. They promote and sustain scientific and didactic/educational research by the direct involvement of local populations, associations and cultural institutions.

The Trentino Provincial Authority legislation concerning Ecomuseums was introduced in 2000 as part of a complex statutory framework safeguarding the territory and its heritage, and it has helped to translate these aims into reality by meeting the increasing demand for initiatives of this kind.

Projects for the creation of Ecomuseums are put forward by local authorities or associations, and are approved and recognized by the Provincial Authority after thorough examination of the application.

The first four Ecomuseums approved by the Provincial Authority have a long history of research, investigation and work. They have had the merit of contacting many other Ecomuseums in Europe and of defining the specific characteristics of the territories involved through carrying out studies, and organizing a variety of activities with the direct involvement of local communities and associations.

Since 2000, the number of Trentino Ecomuseums has increased to six, including among them the Lagorai and the Vanoi Ecomuseums.

The work has been carried out at the grass roots level, with special attention given to the natural environment, tradition, man-made objects and plans for the future.

Discovering Ecomuseums

But what is an Ecomuseum? First of all, it is not a museum as such, for a number of reasons: for one thing, an Ecomuseum has no walls; it is in the open air. Therefore, it does not remove cultural artifacts from the locations where they were created, but it allows a local community to repossess its cultural heritage.

Thus, it is not simply a place that safeguards and protects, but it is also where a local community learns about its own past, while projecting it on to the future; in that sense, it is a living entity.

An Ecomuseum does not have a delimited area – it is not, for example, a park – but it has fluid boundaries within a living community. It is not restricted to single cultural objects – whether it be the countryside as a whole, or a castle, a limestone quarry or mountain dairy – but it does provide a broader cultural context within which to value these objects and sites. Ultimately, you could say that the local community itself is the Ecomuseum, and hence the former is generally held responsible for running it.

What appears on this page is generally the result of research or experience on site, rather than with documents: I visited the places mentioned, talked to the local people, kept my eyes open and followed my curiosity. So this page is also meant to grow over time, as I visit more places and get to know more people.

Already, I saw many beautiful things, listened to a host of fascinating stories, and wrote down a number of surprising anecdotes. However, this all depended only to a small degree to myself: Trentino is a region of breathtaking beauty: its scenery – as most people know – is unique, as well as its host of rich, incredible traditions. Less obvious are the numerous, very varied – and often hidden – historical, social and cultural treasures.

Getting to know these territories is a wonderful learning experience, as these treasures are only slowly revealed to one – sometimes explained by many people and casual encounters along the way, or at other times discovered through educated wanderings within the valleys.

The territories involved cover four valleys in the Trentino region. The stories from the Vanoi were moving, and were telling tales of hay, meadow and woodland – and of the yearly rhythm of going up and down the mountainsides (between the village and the pastures) with the animals, as well as of the incredible hardships connected to WW1 events.

The histories of the Chiese valley turned out to be full of interest too, while the treasures and stories guarded by the inhabitants of the Giudicarie valleys were particularly surprising to see and hear. The commitment of local inhabitants to the traditions of the Val di Peio was also fascinating to witness.

The Lagorai Ecomuseum is one of the last down the line, and it provided a fascinating insight into the history, nature and traditions of the valleys between the Valsugana and the Tesino plateau, in eastern Trentino.

All in all, an Ecomuseum is always the reflection of a local community on itself, but that is not all; it is a great many more things. What really impressed me during these wanderings was the enthusiasm and energy of those involved in the projects.

Most people genuinely wanted to learn about their own past – and perhaps this is really the key to understanding the Trentino Ecomuseums: first and foremost, they are living entities which open many doors and windows onto the past, therefore preparing a community for a healthy evolution into the future.

So, the purpose of this page is to entice you to come and discover these beautiful valleys for yourself. But above all, it is an invitation to create warm and lasting relations and friendships with the people who live in the communities where the Trentino Ecomuseums are located.

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