Northern Italy: Como, Vals, & Trento

In the middle portion of the trip, we visited some of the best sites including Como, Vals, and Trento. Como was the overwhelming favorite of the trip due to its proximity to Lake Como as well as the ability to take a cable car to the top of a mountain with breathtaking views of the Alps. Therme Vals by Peter Zumthor is a project we have studied in majority of our classes since freshman year so it was definitely like Christmas morning as we made the four hour trek through the Swiss Alps, not one person on the bus did anything besides look out the windows on the bus. Trento was a quick trip to see a museum by Renzo Piano with more amazing views. 

As we arrived in Como, the length of the trip was definitely getting to the group. We were a little tired of traveling and hitting our limits; Como was just what the doctor ordered. We started off by sketching Casa Del Fascio, designed by Giuseppe Terragni, and were also given the chance to go inside and absorb the fascist architecture from the interior. The proportioning systems proved to be difficult for many of us with Terragni’s use of 7 as a module. We then went down to the waterfront of Lake Como to see a Terragni monument for WWI. After that, we headed to La Vita e Bella for lunch after falling in love with the food at our group dinner the night before.  After stuffing ourselves with delicious food, we were given the chance to take a cable car up the side of the mountain. No picture can do the views of the Alps justice. Many people of the group hiked through ice and snow further to the lighthouse at the peak and some even caught the sunset! Talk about stunning!

The next morning was an early wake up to take the ride to Vals, Switzerland! Excited doesn’t begin to describe the energy at our group breakfast. Since freshman year we had been waiting to visit this site. When we finally arrived in Vals, it was like a movie set, such a quaint little mountain town. After some barley soup it was finally time to go inside! Each of us took our own paths through the baths exploring the sensory experience of the hot, the cold, the scents of jasmine, the sounds, and the outdoors.  We were experiencing living architecture – Peter Zumthor incorporates all five of the senses in his design. “Mountain, stone, water – building in the stone, building with the stone, into the mountain, building out of the mountain, being inside the mountain – how can the implications and the sensuality of the association of these words be interpreted, architecturally?” Peter Zumthor. Soon enough, our time at Vals was up and we all felt fulfilled. We made it back to La Vita e Bella for a third time for some great dinner before leaving the Como area. (So sad!)

We hit large amounts of traffic on the drive from Como to Trento, which put us a little behind schedule, but you adjust. We arrived around lunch, so we had time to catch a quick bite before our tour of MUSE (Museum of Science of Trento) designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop. It is a LEED gold certified building. Our tour guide explained to us how the building works when it comes to materials, energy and form. Its form comes from the surrounding mountains and was created to echo the mountains on either side. Next to the museum there is also a high end-housing complex.  The museum is located in the Quartiere delle Albere district, which was formerly a Michelin factory. The project is one of urban renewal and to connect to its natural context. The museum acts as a magnet at the end of the neighborhood. After a quick walk-through of downtown Trento, we realized that not every Italian city is entirely beautiful. We closed the visit with some selfies next the fountain in the main square, and then back on the bus we went, Vicenza bound!

-Bridget Bittman & Adrianna Matyas