The Italian Job: Day 16 – Paintings (well, frescoes) and Parks


After last night’s thunderstorm (that I didn’t mention in the previous blog – you don’t need to go back and re-read it), this morning was cooler and fresher than yesterday.

I started the day with a walk along the riverside greenway to reach my first destination (oooh, an actual plan).

My hotel in Bolzano is a 40 minute walk from the old town on the edge of a residential area. While staying at Garda was fabulous I prefer, when I’m travelling to stay close to more residential areas just to watch daily life go by.

There’s a park in Rome where Saturday is like “Ladies’ Day” at the races. The local women dress up in their nice frocks, bring picnics and leisurely promenade in groups, arm in arm and chatting. It looks like this is how families and friends have spent their Saturdays for generations. It’s fabulous.

The riverside park here in Bolzano seems to have its own Saturday traditions. There were cycling groups belting along the cycletrack like they were already racing in the next Giro. And then there were the groups of older men, (usually around six or seven of them) with their dogs, ambling slowly and putting the world to rights. There were regular pauses for animated debate among the humans while the dogs appeared to be having their own mini-summits.

My destination? Not the castle on the hill you can see there on the middle hill…

Nope

…this one, on the cliff watching over the allotments.

That’d deter thieves.

Castle Roncolo (or Runkelstein) was originally a fortress but during the Renaissance many fortresses were either converted to castles or simply renamed. Why? It seems merely to have been fashionable to have a castle rather than a fortress. #So13thCenturyDarling

Fortresses served an important community function – not only defending roads and villages. They were the local courts and often centres of trade.

Bolzano seems to have a castle on every hill and in every valley – I passed one on the way here and there are another two not far from here. Castles in Bolzano are a little like churches in Rome – one on every corner.

The city was ideally located as a trading post between the Italian states to the South and the German states to the North. A busy centre clearly required a lot of castles.

My reason for visiting Roncolo was to see the frescoes and the MuseuMobil card that I picked up yesterday saved me the €8 entry fee.

In 1237, the original complex was built by the Lords of Wangen, and in 1385, the wealthy merchants Franz and Niklaus Vintler bought it to be the family home. The family had it decorated with frescoes and equipped with the latest mod-cons for medieval living, i.e. a privy and a cistern for water storage. From the 15th century on, ownership of Roncolo regularly and frequently changed hands, the castle was repeatedly modified and frescoes and paintings were added. 

The frescoes represent scenes of courtly life such as tournaments and also myths and legends. There’s no indication that these were changed regularly – no annual repainting to give you a different legend to appreciate.

One of the rooms is decorated with the legend of ‘Garel of the Flowering Valley’  written by a German writer who used the name Der Pleier around 1230-40. Der Pleier’s real identity is unknown.

The story basically goes like this, (but the frescoes also illustrate the kidnapping of Guinevere by a giant called Kaladin at the same time, so it’s not always clear who is being rescued by who in the illustrations):

After a journey, King Arthur receives a declaration of war from King Ekunaver. Garel von Blumenthal leaves Arthur’s court in order to raise troops for the war. On the way various adventures befall him (inevitably), amongst which he lays siege to the castle of Sir Eskilabon, who had taken several knights prisoner; and frees many prisoners from the power of two giants; and by killing the gruesome monster Vulganus he wins the hand of the beautiful Laudamie. It’s remarkable that Garel was on time in order to gain victory over Ekunaver before Arthur even arrives with his army.

What was Arthur doing in all of this time? With everything Garel got up to, Arthur could have been there and back.

Garel’s success is celebrated in a banquet at the Round Table, before which he marries Laudamie.


I mostly spent the afternoon by the river in the Isarco Park that runs almost the length of the city.

It claims to be a bioenergetic park with particular trees planted than benefit specific organs in the human body. There is a very strong body of evidence for the benefits of green space on health (for example, being able to see a tree from your hospital bed has been found to quicken recovery after surgery and green bathing or forest bathing, just spending time in nature is good for mental health) but I’ve not come across much written on specific organ benefits and the reports I’ve found so far, on this park, are in Italian.

It’s a beautiful park and the clans of this morning had gone – it was now filled with family groups, friends and individuals: leisurely cycling, walking and just generally catching up.

Real thought has gone into planning this space, which I think must have been reclaimed from a disused railway line. While a narrow strip between the residential blocks and apartments and the river, with a view of the noisy motorway running parallel on the opposite side above the industrial estate, planting has been maximised and varied.

Parallel Lines

There’s no repetition in the flowerbeds, with the exception of roses and these are different coloured beds, no structured patterns and lots of wildflowers.

The cycle track (and there’s even a free air station for those annoying flat tyres) is mostly seperate from the path though not always. Several dog parks are dotted along the route, seperate from the children’s play parks (with each one seeming to offer a variation in possible activities) and I’ve seen one pretty substantial green gym.

Flat tyre prevention

Several seating areas have been created to enable socialising – there are seats throughout this park: someone with limited mobility would not have to walk far before being able to pause and rest. Some benches stand alone – you don’t have to talk to other people if you don’t want to – but many are in clusters, enabling groups to sit together.

And in the heat of this afternoon, it was a very popular place to be. The temperature began to drop as dark thunder clouds rumbled their way down from the mountains.

I might have to make a dash for it.

Categories: Bolzano, Environment, Italy, Mental Health, Nature/Landscapes, Public Health, The Italian Job, TravelTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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