Our trip to Trentino, on the occasion of Traverse 19, has brought good fruits and among these for sure the visit to the Castle of Beseno which is located a few kilometers from Trento.
Certainly, Italy, with its long and complex history, offers an incredible quantity of wonderful ancient buildings, fortresses, and castles to see: a summary calculation is close to 25,000 of them!
Some of these, like the Sforza Castle in Milan, heavily restored over time, even if remaining majestic and imposing lose some of their original charms, others like Castel del Monte in Puglia, the enigmatic castle of Frederick II of Swabia, maintains its medieval character along with the mystery of its construction.
The Castle of Beseno though, despite being a peripheral manor house compared to the two just mentioned, shows itself to visitors shaped like a large ship, 250 meters long and about 50 meters wide, lying on a plateau overlooking the valley below and it immediately exhibits its grandeur.
It is very probable that the Beseno hill was already inhabited in the prehistoric era and subsequently during the Roman and Longobard times, but only in the 12th century documented testimonials exist of a fortified garrison.
Over time, as often happened for this type of constructions, it turned into a strategically important fortress, both from a military and road control point of view and for economic reasons.
It is the largest fortified structure in Trentino-Alto Adige and because of its strategic position on the road that connects Italy and Mitteleuropa crossing the Alps, it was the scene of important battles.
The castle with the weakening of feudal power went through a gradual loss of importance and a consequent decline. Abandoned during the nineteenth century, it was even deprived of the roof to avoid the property taxes payment; finally, in 1973 it was donated to the Province of Trento, which started a long and important restoration.
The site is beautiful, suggestive and panoramic, the castle is well-kept and cared for. As always we advise you to visit these places on weekdays so that you can enjoy them in solitude and why not photograph them deserted, enjoying them as if you were the owners.
Like every place where people and events have passed for centuries, the Castle of Beseno has also produced its legends: the most famous one revolves around an extended siege:
Centuries ago the castle underwent a siege that lasted for seven long years. As was the custom in the Middle Ages, the villagers took refuge inside the castle walls to find protection.
Of course, at a certain point food reserve became scarce and the Lord of the Castle had to proceed with rationing; nevertheless, after seven years there was nothing left but a cow and two sacks of wheat and the population couldn’t take the situation any longer.
The sovereign asked his advisers how the problem could be solved without having to surrender to the enemy but no one was able to give him an answer.
Desperate the feudal lord began to evaluate the idea of surrendering.
While mulling over these dark thoughts in the courtyard of the castle he noticed in a secluded corner an old woman, sitting on a step that seemed to be sleeping.
Approaching her he recognized an old merchant he met years before and who was famous for her cunning advice.
He shook her gently and woke her up: “May God be with you. I have to ask you for advice and if it turns out to be good I will reward you lavishly.”
“ Your servant Lord.” She said, “Tell me what kind of advice you want from me.”
The Lord of Castel Beseno explained the situation and he asked her how he could get honorably out of it. The old woman remained pensive for a few moments and then replied:
“My lord, throw the cow and wheat sacks down from the castle walls”
The Castle owner remained stunned and got very angry.
“What the hell are you talking about? Throw the only food left from the walls? Are you insane?”
The woman replied: “You asked for my advice and I gave you one. Besides, do you really think you could feed an entire village with a cow and two bags of wheat? With that or without, the situation does not change . ” And she walked away angry.
“After all,” thought the Lord, “this little food stock would end up making everyone fight without feeding anyone: I will follow the advice given to me since I have nothing to lose”.
So at one point, the assaulting army saw that the inhabitants of the castle throw something from above.
Being afraid that it was a trap they cautiously approached and remained stunned at what they saw.
Making a cut in the belly of the cow, they immediately realized that it was a meat of excellent quality and also the wheat was outstanding also.
“What madness was that anyway? Throw away all these good things?”
“Inside the castle, they must be in possession of enormous quantities of food if they can afford to throw it like this!”
“Instead,” said someone else, “after seven years of siege, we are exhausted …..”
The discouraged soldiers began to murmur: “We can’t take it anymore, let’s go! We must surrender and leave! ”
“These people will never give up for hunger, they will last another seven years!”
And so they hastily removed their tents and returned to where they had come from.
Happy with the result obtained, the Lord went in search of the old woman to thank her and reward her. He looked for her in every corner of the castle but the woman was nowhere to be found. He asked the other peasants but none had seen her and no one ever saw her again.
This is one of the stories born inside the Beseno Castle, between its walls, among its stones. Each castle has trapped bits and pieces of life that today we perceive as the distant echo of a fairy tale; sometimes we question their credibility but in any case, they represent the soul of all those places that otherwise would only be the naked shell of history.
Let’s run back to childhood then so that the old legends can amuse our never lost genuine side.