The name Lavarone appeared for the first time in 1184, in a papal document, in which the Pope Lucio III declared that he was placing the temporal property owned by the Bishop of Feltre in various locations under his own protection, including localities on our High Plateau.
Prior to this date there is no other known documentary testimony of the name; there are however material findings and testimony, which allow us, in the current phase of research, in any case, to formulate only some conjecture as to the area's most remote chronicles.
In fact, traces of ancient smelting furnaces and waste deposits in some localities, such as Millegrobbe, for example, demonstrate the area's precocious anthropisation.
Nineteenth century historiography also hypothesized the existence of a prehistorical castle on the hilltop of Chiesa. To date, however, systematic excavations similar to those that brought to light significant discoveries concerning the areas of Luserna, Fiorentini, Elbele and the shelter under the rock of Cogola near the village of Carbonare (municipality of Folgaria) have not yet been conducted.
Neither has the hypothesis been confirmed to date, which appears likely, moreover, according to which the area was crossed by a trail in prehistoric times, which connected this part of what is today the Trentino with the Vicentine area.
Little is also known of the presence on the High Plateau of the populations that successively occupied and dominated northern Italy and the Trentino region: The Gaules, Rhaetians, Romans, Francs and Lombards. Roman penetration in the Trentino dates from slightly before 100 BC. In 40 AD, the Romans definitely dominated Trentino up to the confluence of the Isarco and Adige Rivers. Due to the particular position it occupied, following the fall of the Western Roman Empire, our region acted as a stronghold against the first barbarian incursions. In any case, the invasion of the Lombards reached Trentino, which was transformed into a Lombard Duchy in 569 and retained this status until 774, when it became a border region of the Holy Roman Empire of Germany, under the government of Charlemagne.
It is difficult to say whether Lavarone was frequented only as a stopover or whether there were permanent human settlements during this entire period. It is certain, in any case, that the Roman coins, other coins and a pair of earrings dating from the Lombard period, found in the Covelo di Rio Malo, provide evidence that the place was frequented by these peoples.
Lavarone was definitely part of the wide territory between the Astico and Brenta Rivers that the emperor Berengario gave to the Bishop of Padua Sibicone between 917 and 921, however. At that time, the Princedom of Trento, of which Lavarone was to be a part, had not yet been instituted. The act with which emperor Henry II founded the Bishop Princedom to compensate the Bishop Udalrico for the assistance provided against Arduino of Ivrea was dated 9 April 1004 (the imperial document which is presumed to have existed has been lost). The imperial diploma that confirms the donation conferred by Corrado II the Salico on 31 May 1027 included areas, such as the Upper Valsugana and therefore Lavarone, in the temporal dominion of the Trentino Bishop, which did not belong to the Trentino Bishop from the ecclesiastic point of view, but to the Bishop of Feltre, in our case, whose diocese Lavarone belonged to until 1786.
Lavarone probably owes much of its importance and future events to the fact that it was a sort of long, ancient Ancino road; similarly, the fact that it is situated in a strategic bordering area has also been decisive for its history (when it belonged to the jurisdiction of Caldonazzo, when it belonged to the Trentino Princedom and when it belonged to the Hapsburg Empire), in a frontier region that had never been defined and which was therefore subject to continuous disputes, conflicts and incursions.
The importance of the High Plateau for transit was proven as early as the XI century. The ancient Ancinum Way passed through here, climbing up from the Astico Valley and descending towards Caldonazzo, therefore connecting Germany and the Empire with Italy in the south, in addition to and as an alternative of the Valsugana. The need to ensure the practicability and efficiency of this road on occasion of their trips to Italy led the emperors to confirm and extend the powers of the governing family in Caldonazzo, to whose territory Lavarone was added. The road probably belonged to the Princedom of Trento starting from its foundation. It cannot be excluded that the Prince Bishops placed armed guards in the vicinity of Covelo di Rio Malo, a large cave overlooking the road, from where they could control circulation from a distance; a toll was definitely paid at this site, which was conferred first to the Marcato family and then to the Trentino family of the Belenzani in 1276.
The entire territory of the High Plateau had been joined to Caldonazzo since the earliest times.
The Caldonazzo family may have been of Lombard origin, and probably arrived in 1100 with the entourage of the future emperor Henry V, becoming homines de nobili macinata Sancti Vigilii in 1192, following settlement of the litigation with the Prince Bishop of Trento Corrado di Beseno for possession of the mountains situated between Caldonazzo and Vicenza. They were required to renounce to the lands they owned, conferring them into the hands of the Bishop, and then to receive them again in the form of a Fiefdom. We are not sure what the situation effectively was prior to 1192: on one hand the Bishop held that the territory belonged to the Bishopric, since the people had produced carbon and cut wood there as early as the time of the Bishop Adalpreto (1156-1172) and paid rent to the Episcopal revenue; on the other hand, the Caldonazzo family claimed ownership of the territory, citing the payment of rent by those who exploited the woodlands (Sylvania). Little changed for Lavarone, in fact, which was recognised, together with all of the territories held by the Caldonazzo family, as an ancient Fiefdom by the church of Trento and as such was conferred by the Prince Bishop to the Caldonazzo dynasty.
The first colonists of Bavarian origin arrived in the decades between the end of the XII and the beginning of the XIII centuries, from the Vicentine Pre-Alpine region. The slight information available indicates that the population of Lavarone was quite small and was concentrated prevalently in the suburb of Chiesa, the most ancient area, as demonstrated by the existence (attested to since 1276) of the hostel for wayfarers that existed and the foundation of the first church (documented for the first time in 1278).
The immigration of Cimbrian colonists, which also involved the area of Folgaria during the same period and in the same manner, was extremely important for the High Plateau, to the extent of influencing many aspects of the local culture and customs. They had been called by the Trentino Bishops and dynasties, not only to inhabit and cultivate the land in this marginal part of the Trento Princedom, but also to defend and control this portion of the unstable boundary of the Empire that the Princedom of Trento belonged to, which had never been precisely defined in any document, through the settlement of a strong nucleus of faithful immigrants. The colonists were employed in the production of carbon and in woodcutting, in a territory with abundant forests and therefore they settled sparsely in farms, giving life to the particular form of urban development that still characterises the High Plateaus today. The Cimbrian colonists, who were descendants of the Bavarians who had pushed southwards between the X and XI centuries, constituting the ethnic islands of the Thirteen Municipalities of Lessinia and the Seven Vicentine Municipalities, merged with the pre-existent local Latin population, thanks above all to the influence of the clergy and the continuous economic, social and human contacts with the surrounding Italian areas, which were favoured by the two hostels in Lavarone and Brancafora and by the continuous passage of wayfarers and pilgrims along the Ancino Way. The toponyms of numerous localities are the extreme testimony of the German dialect that was spoken in this land, which is still spoken in the nearby city of Luserna, where several men from Lavarone settled in 1454 as freeholders of the Church of Brancafora.
The tumultuous events that involved the Italian dynasties starting from the beginning of the Fifteenth century for dominion of northern Italy, as well as the increasingly difficult relations between the Bishop Princes of Trento and the Dukes of Austria, which were further complicated by the strategic alliances fielded by the Trentino dynasties and the insurrection of the City of Trento in 1407, did not fail to have repercussions in our area, as they marked the end of the families that had governed the area until then.
At the end of this period, after the fall in 1409 of Rodolfo Belenzani, who had commandeered the revolt in Trento, and having conquered the castles of the Caldonazzo family in 1412, the Duke of Austria and Count of Tyrol Frederic IV Tascavuota was formally invested by the newly elected Bishop Prince of Trento Alessandro di Masovia in 1424 with the Fiefdoms that had been owned by the enemies defeated. These territories included the Covelo di Rio Malo (Belenzani) toll and the mountain of Lavarone (Caldonazzo).
A few years later, in 1461, there was another political change: Sigmund of Austria, who succeeded Frederic, sold the jurisdiction of Caldonazzo, situated on the border with the hated Serenissima Republic of Venice, which in the meantime had extended its dominion to Verona, Padua and Vicenza, to Giacomo Trapp, vicar of the jurisdiction of Castel Ivano in the Valsugana and founder of the powerful dynasty, which in 1470 secured the Jurisdiction of Beseno-Folgaria as well, another important defensive emplacement against the Serenissima.
Slightly more than twenty years later an additional political change again modified the local situation. In 1487, while the war between the Republic of Venice and the Count of Tyrol Sigmund was being furiously waged, Lavarone spontaneously capitulated to the Serenissima. It is not easy to say what the reasons were that encouraged the Lavaronese to submit to Venice: their position as an occupied border region probably played an important role, as they had been subject to continuous incursions, sacking and fires in previous years, the poverty of the local economy, the greater ease of communications with the Astico Valley and, perhaps, the myth of the government of the Republic, which had already been experienced by nearby Folgaria since 1440, as opposed to feudal dominion, whether it was by a princely bishop or a Tyrolese count. So on 6 December 1487, Lavarone obtained from Venice the definition of their political relations with the Republic and the promise of compensation for the damages sustained during the war. The Covelo of Rio Malo and control of the road towards Italy was entrusted to salaried guards by the Serenissima. The dedication was immediately contested by the Trapp family, who in following years inspired continuous provocations and skirmishes along the border, in order to retrieve possession of the toll and regain control of the Ancino road.
During the Venetian domination and perhaps supported precisely by the Venetians, the Church of Lavarone was temporarily emancipated from the Parish of Calceranica to which it was subject, which was located in the enemy jurisdiction of Caldonazzo. Lavarone remained a possession of the Republic until 1509, when Venice lost all of the possessions that had previously belonged to the Trentino Bishop Princedom occupied between 1410 and 1487, following the ruinous war against the League of Cambrai. The sixth chapter of the Worms peace treaty, stipulated in 1520, established reciprocal restitution of the territories conquered. Possession of Lavarone was nevertheless disputed for many years. In the treaty of Bologna of 1530, it was assigned to the Jurisdiction of Vicenza. Nevertheless, due to Bernardo Clesio's protests, it was returned to the Trentino Bishopric revenue with the Trento Congress of 1535, as a territory within the jurisdiction of Caldonazzo, to which it has always remained aggregated from this time forward. When Venetian domination ended, the ecclesiastic independence of the Church of Lavarone also terminated, and the Church returned to the jurisdiction of the ancient matrix of Calceranica, perhaps due even to the inhabitants' inability to support an independent parish priest.
At this time, Lavarone had already been organised as a municipality for some time. The municipal government was probably formed in the first half of the XIV century; it was definitely an organism that was capable of representing the community and was already functional in 1344. The most important rule giver was the head of the dynasty or in his stead, the captain of the jurisdiction. The administration was conducted by two mayors and four jurists, who were elected in rotation by the entire community. The dynasty heads administered criminal and civil justice for the administration, for which, at least in recent centuries, the Statute of Pergine of 1516 was followed, even in the jurisdiction of Caldonazzo. The norms concerning election procedures and the attribution of municipal offices, safeguarding civic property, protecting the fields and harvests, were contained in the charter of rules, which was compiled by the community and approved by the dynasty head. Lavarone had two charters of rules: the "old" one, of which no trace has remained, and the "new" one, which is dated 1790.
During the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries the history of Lavarone is characterised by definition of the border disputes with surrounding communities, such as the one with Caldonazzo for the possession of Monterovere, and by the internal disputes with the inhabitants of Luserna, aggregated to Lavarone in 1710, which ended in 1780 with the final separation of the two communities.
The confusing period starting from the arrival of the Napoleonic troops (the French occupied and withdrew from Trentino three times: in 1796, in 1797 and in 1801) and secularisation of the Princedom (1803), until the Trentino joined the Hapsburg Empire (1803-1805), Bavarian domination (1805-1809) and finally the Napoleonic Italic Reign (1810-1813), ended with return to the order imposed by the Restoration. The Congress of Vienna attributed the Trentino to the Hapsburg Empire, as an integral part of the southern province of Tyrol. Lavarone, included in the patrimonial judgement of Caldonazzo, remained in the hands of Count Trapp and was later absorbed, following suppression of the patrimonial judgements and the Austrian administrative and political reforms, by the District Court of Levico, which belonged to the District Captaincy of Borgo Valsugana.
The border position that had jeopardised peace in these territories through the centuries was also the cause of the most traumatic recent event that our community has experienced: World War One.
While the possibility of a war between the powers of the Triple Alliance and the powers of the Understanding was developing with increasing clarity, due to its great strategic importance and position in the vicinity of the Italian border, the Austrian military engineer corps transformed Lavarone into a stronghold, surrounded by a ponderous system of fortresses, between 1908 and 1914 (Fort Belvedere, Fort Luserna, Fort Busa Verle, Fort Cima Vezzena), which were in communication with the nearby fortifications of Folgaria (Fort Dosso del Sommo, Fort Sommo alto, Fort Cherle). The system was completed with a military observatory, situated on Mount Rust, and by a camouflaged command post located in nearby Virti.
On 24 May 1915, following Italy's declaration of war, Lavarone found itself on the front line of battle. The suburbs of Oseli, Sosteri, Birti, Lenza, Cappella and Longhi were evacuated and the population was concentrated in the localities of Gionghi, Bertoldi and Slaghenaufi. On 31 May the village was given the order to evacuate, and the evacuation took place on the following day. Following an extenuating trip and after staying in the village of Altschwendt for several months, the refugees from Lavarone were given lodging in the camp of Braunau, in northern Austria. They were to return to the village only at the end of the conflict, on 17 December 1918.
As we know, the peace treaties assigned the Trentino to Italy after the war.
With its heavy bombing between the fortresses, World War One caused serious damage to the villages and ancient farms of the High Plateau. Lavarone paid a price of 188 victims and the suburbs, fields and woods were reduced to battlefields.
The work of reconstruction of the village, which had been so harshly tried by the conflict, required many years. The war had further depressed the economy, which had already shown its fragility during the Nineteenth century, traditionally based as it was on agriculture, exploitation of the woods (carbon, wood), on the extraction of stone and raising of livestock, and which was compromised by natural calamities and customs policies that penalised exchanges with the bordering Italian regions. Even the timid recovery of tourism and several entrepreneurial attempts, such as the sawmill built in Gionghi in 1921, which went bankrupt in 1926 and had serious repercussions on the village, did not succeed in slowing the forced outflow of emigrants from Lavarone, whose famous stonecutters and bricklayers were highly sought after everywhere for the construction of roads and river embankments. The emigration did not often involve travel overseas, however. The inhabitants generally preferred to move to other regions of Italy or to the nearby German language villages, especially after the Second World War, to France, Belgium and Switzerland. The economic depression of the Thirties and then the difficult post war period after WWII further fed the flow of emigration. Only starting from the Fifties, with the general improvement of the Italian economic situation and the assertion of the tourist industry, in which the vast majority of the current population is employed, did the village achieve a certain degree of stability and widespread economic prosperity.