Canale di Tenno, one of Italy’s most beautiful villages, shows its medieval origins not only in its architecture, but also in traditions
When we were alive and well we used to make great speeches. The topic was always the same, we tried to find the best way to make our families get by. Ah, you’re doing fine nowadays, but you should try to imagine Tenno several centuries ago. We won’t tell you any lie: the mountains were a really bad place to stay: short seasons, dangerous animals, sloping fields that were difficult to reach. The resources were few and without any mutual help people would starve. And when you were sure that you had been acting like a good Christian, working hard during the day and praying God at night, the plague came and killed entire communities. People died so easily that several families completely disappeared and everything they owned – houses, farms, livestock – was left to the community for their will. This occurred so many times that an association to manage all those assets was needed: this is how Vicinìe were founded. The more people died, the bigger the community’s vicinie grew. There wasn’t just one vicinia, indeed. Only in Ville del Monte, which is made up of four villages – Canale, Sant’Antonio, Pastoedo and Calvola, – there were Vicinìa Granda, which still exists, Vicinìa Piccola , Vicina del Rosto (Rosto is an abbreviation of arrosto – roast) and many others. They were made up of all the heads of families (the “Consiglio degli Omeni” – the Men’s Council, – but later women were admitted, too) each one having its own rules. The representatives were called Capi dei fuochi fumanti (Chiefs of Smoking Fires): people could take part in the meetings only if smoke came out of their chimney pot. Those who left, due to poverty or other reasons, leaving the fireplaces off, also lost their right to participate in the Vicinìe. Every year or two, the council elected the Vicinia’s chief, who had the task of managing the bequest and making sure that the deceased’s will was respected. In Vicinìa Granda, the chief, who was usually one of the oldest and wisest men of the whole community, was also called Mayor of the Dead.
In Canale di Tenno, a village perched on the slopes of a mountain overlooking Lake Garda, the Medium and the Top Loop of the Garda Trek cross. Here hikers can enjoy a break in the shady square, admiring the mighty stone houses that have remained unchanged over at least 5 centuries. As in many small towns in Italy, Canale’s ancient customs and traditions have been kept alive by its inhabitants and those of the small surrounding towns. Vicinie’s inhabitants play their role, too. Not far from Canale you can see the monument recalling the original scope of these associations.