A museum of ideas

In Pieve Tesino, in the Casa De Gasperi Museum

Many of us grew up with the idea of a museum as a series of objects in glass cases. Artefacts that are on display but silent. Their stories aren't told, except through dry labels. The Casa Museo Alcide De Gasperi is nothing like that. Quite the opposite. It is a museum where the objects - a select few - are there to serve concepts, ideas.  

Each one tells a story, that of a boy who, starting from a little village on the edge of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, won the heart of Europe, going beyond borders. Because you can become great and go down in history even if you are born in a little village like Pieve Tesino. 

So if you go there, to the heart of Valsugana, in one of the Borghi più Belli d’Italia, one of the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy, you will find this wonderful museum, housed in the childhood home of Alcide De Gasperi, the historic leader of the Christian Democrats and one of the founding fathers of United Europe.  

The person who can best tell us about this is Marco Odorizzi, director of the Fondazione Trentina Alcide De Gasperi. He will take you on an exciting journey that begins in a late-19th-century train carriage, and ends in a child's bedroom. 

But first things first... 

What to do and what to see at the Museo Casa De Gasperi




A museum of ideas 

As we hinted at in the introduction, the Museo casa De Gasperi is different from what you would expect from a museum, and it will initially take you by surprise. Interactive kiosks, reconstructions of spaces, lots of historical photos and a select few objects from the period. Here, no object is chosen at random, but instead conveys a concept and tells a story: the story of Alcide De Gasperi, which then becomes the story of Europe and democracy, from the end of the great empires until today.  

A train carriage, the bustier of a late-19th-century woman, a portrait of Bishop Celestino Endrici or a school desk: each of these is a stop on a journey into the world of Alcide De Gasperi, helping you to understand the context in which this great statesman developed his ideas. 

Valsugana - Pieve Tesino - Museo Casa De Gasperi



A journey into history  

It is not for nothing that the tour route of the museum begins in the carriage of an old Valsugana train. A journey from Pieve Tesino to the borders of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Kingdom of Italy. A short distance between two completely different worlds: Trentino, devoutly Catholic, and the Kingdom of Italy, which was overtly atheist and in open conflict with the Vatican. This was the context in which Alcide De Gasperi was born in 1881.  

The museum retraces the fundamental steps of the Trentino-born statesman's life: his close bond with his brother, who died in his early twenties, his years of education in an empire where several different languages were spoken, up to the first inklings of his passion for politics. 

Telling this story is a portrait: a portrait of the Bishop of Trento, Celestino Endrici, a key figure in the development of the political career of the father of United Europe. When he first went to Trento as a boy, De Gasperi found himself in a city "in uproar" after the introduction of universal suffrage. There were discussions, political meetings and demonstrations everywhere. De Gasperi intended to follow what was happening with cautious detachment - "with my hands in my pockets", as he put it. At a certain point, however, during a conference for Catholic university students, without realising it he found himself with his hands clasped together, applauding loudly and warmly. His passion for politics exploded, along with the desire to work to change things. 

What to do and what to see at the Museo Casa De Gasperi

The museum retraces his years at university and the protests in Innsbruck, when he was arrested along with another illustrious figure from Trentino, Cesare Battisti. The years of the First World War followed, when De Gasperi did his utmost to help Italians imprisoned in concentration camps.  

Then there was the tragic fascist period, when De Gasperi was arrested, until the post-war years, when, with his party, the Christian Democrats, he became Prime Minister from 1945 to 1953. 

A large section is dedicated to the birth of the idea for a United Europe, because as De Gasperi often insisted over the course of his life, the identity of an individual is built through addition and not subtraction; one can therefore be Trentino, Italian and European all at the same time. 

The museum tour finishes in one of the most touching parts of the museum, the child's bedroom, where a cradle reminds us that De Gasperi's ideas didn't disappear with the statesman's death, and that they are reborn every time a young person visits the museum. 

What to do and what to see at the Museo Casa De Gasperi



A museum that spreads outside the museum 

The Museo Casa De Gasperi is a museum of ideas, and ideas cannot be constrained within a roof and walls. This is why the Museo Casa De Gasperi organises lots of activities outside the museum: first and foremost in schools, with complete educational courses starting from the figure of De Gasperi and then exploring themes around the present, with workshops that include the simulation of democratic processes and activities that are linked not only to history, but also to the present and the concept of citizenship. A visit to the museum therefore becomes the conclusion of a learning process that originates, first and foremost, outside the museum. In everyday life. 

Then there are a great many activities in the area, such as Agosto degasperiano, which not only speaks about the statesman from Pieve Tesino, but also translates De Gasperi's ideas into the present, engaging citizens and fuelling passion for public affairs. 

As Marco Odorizzi explains: "Our activities originate from the museum, but develop outside it. The dialogue between inside and outside the museum is fundamental for us, not only to spread De Gasperi's ideas outside, but also to bring the stimuli from present-day society into the museum." 

What to do and what to see at the Museo Casa De Gasperi




App, multimedia kiosks and digitisation 

The Casa De Gasperi Museum makes use of a wide range of tools to engage visitors. One of the most interesting is an interactive kiosk that shows the evolution of the borders of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Kingdom of Italy throughout history. 

Visitors can explore the museum through a guided tour or independently, thanks to an app on tablets (provided by the museum) that explains the contents of the museum in four languages and offers more in-depth information. This is an important aid, as the Casa De Gasperi Museum is not so much a museum to look at as a museum "to listen to". 

In terms of innovation, in 2016 the museum launched the first national publication, recognised by the ministry, of a collection of Alcide De Gasperi's letters in digital form.  This is a project primarily of interest to those working in research, but putting these materials online in a form that is available to all also allows people who are simply enthusiasts to access this legacy. 

What to do and what to see at the Museo Casa De Gasperi




Three objects that tell three stories 

Before leaving the museum, there are at least three objects that you must see, for their intrinsic symbolic value. 

The first is the cradle, which you will find in the last room of the museum. We don't know if it was exactly the room where Alcide De Gasperi was born, but the meaning of this object is clear: the story the museum is telling is not finished, but remains open-ended, continuing on.  

The second object not to miss is the photo of De Gasperi speaking at the Paris Peace Treaties. In this photo, we see the son of a borderland, Trentino, who manages to present Italy - with all its contradictions - to the world better than anyone else, thanks to his particular point of view.  It would be this speech of his that would allow Italy to regain its dignity after the dark years of fascism. 

The third object can be found at the beginning of the museum tour: it is the bustier worn by the woman sitting on the train. This was a typical garment worn by the women of Tesino, which shows the international outlook of this corner of Trentino where the men earned a living by travelling the world selling prints. On their return from every trip, they would give their wives an embroidery to add to the bustier. More embroidery meant more trips, and therefore greater success. But this is a story we tell in another place, the "Museo per Via", also in the village of Pieve Tesino, just a stone's throw from the Museo Casa De Gasperi. 


Valsugana - Pieve Tesino - Museo Casa De Gasperi

Museo Casa De Gasperi

Published on 07/06/2024