From the Episcopal Principality to Great War

The route by which Trentino eventually obtained a Statute of Autonomy of the kind described was a long and sometimes tortuous one, and not without some dramatic moments. The origin can be traced back to the special status of the region – it was already colonised by the Romans, who founded the ancient city of Tridentum, the Trento of today – in the Middle Ages: it took the form of an Episcopal Principality, subject to the authority of the Empire and yet endowed with political and administrative powers of its own, which in turn were subject to continuous re-negotiation on the part of the local church and the Habsburg Empire. In more recent times, after the final abolition of the Principality in 1813 in the wake of the upheavals experienced here as a result of the Napoleonic Wars and the subsequent restoration of the Empire, Trentino became part of the Austrian county of the Tyrol, extending as far as the border with Bavaria to the north, and to the mouth of the Po to the south. The subsequent era of nationalism brought – particularly with the outbreak of the First World War – immense devastation and suffering both among the military and the civilian population, aggravated by the fact that the front line separating Italy from Austria ran through these very mountains, with some people of Trentino finding themselves fighting in the ranks of the Kaiserjäger loyal to Vienna and others on the side of the Irredentists supporting Italy. Furthermore, the second half of the nineteenth century saw the start of a period of outward emigration: thousands of people from Trentino set off for countries near and far (in particular the Americas) in an attempt to escape poverty, creating a second “Trentino outside Trentino”.