Trento might not have been on your radar before, it certainly wasn’t on mine, but it should be. This stunning Alpine influenced city is the perfect escape from the crowded Italian tourist locations, and a great central location to explore north of Lake Garda up to the Dolomites.
Trentino is a province of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol which is an autonomous region of Italy, similar to Sicily or Sardinia. Trento is the capital city of this region. This region was actually under the Austrian Empire from the 9th century until 1919. This is why you will see a lot of Austrian influence in the culture and especially the food.
The name Trento comes from Celtic word Trent for the god of waters because of the Adige River. Romans conquered it in the 1st century BC and renamed it Tridentum about the Roman god Neptune (his statue is seen in Piazza Duomo) in reference to three hills that surround the city. Cue complicated history of your typical European city, and then 6 centuries of Austrian rule.
Today Trentino is a prosperous region that benefits from its agriculture and specialty food products such as wine, grappa, fruit, honey, and even espresso. It is the perfect mix of a city break with breathtaking nature just around the corner. Tourists benefit from the history and landscape engaging in activities such as exploring castles, hiking the Dolomites, skiing in the Alps, and touring local vineyards.
Trento Itinerary | Day One
Wander the painted city.
Trento is known as the painted city because of the painted facades around the city. There is no need to visit an art museum when simply walking down the street will unveil incredible paintings with each building. You can start at Piazza Duomo and wander down Via Belenzani, but feel free to let yourself get lost and be sure to look up!
Ride a cable car for epic views.
Take the Funivia Trento-Sardagna cable car from Trento to Sardegna for incredible views of Trento. Pair it with a glass of wine from the bar at the top. It runs at least once an hour. It costs 5€ for a return ticket. Holders of the Trentino Card can ride it for free. The schedule can be found here.
Trento Itinerary | Day Two
Explore the Buonconsiglio Castle.
The highlight of my trip to Trento was obviously the castle. The Buonconsiglio Castle (Castello del Buonconsiglio) is a collection of structures from different time periods. The oldest of which is called Castelvecchio (old castle in Italian) and is from the 13th century. It is Medieval and was originally built as a fortress to help control the road to Germany.
Magno Palazzo is the second structure and is done in the Renaissance style as it was built in the 16th century. Connecting these two structures is Giunta Albertiana, built at the end of the 17th century. Decorated in a Baroque style, it brings three distinct periods of Italian history together in one castle.
Inside the castle are many collections ranging from prehistory to mid-19th century focusing on Trento and surrounding areas. The collections contain artifacts, Medieval art, wood sculptures, frescos, and much more.
Do not miss Torre Aquila, which requires an additional small fee to enter. Here you can see 15th-century frescoes called Ciclo dei mesi. (cycles of the months) depicting medieval life month by month.
I do want to note that most of the signage throughout the castle is in Italian, but some rooms may contain translated materials. On that note, some exhibitions are not as appreciated without context, but I think that there is still a lot to be enjoyed and it is worth the trip.
For hours of operation and ticket information use the official website. There are discounts available to Trentino Card holders.
People watch at Trento Cathedral + Piazza Duomo.
I am torn between Buonconsiglio Castle or Piazza Duomo as the most beautiful part of Trento. You can easily spend the day at Piazza Duomo enjoying gelato and taking in the beautiful sights. The square is dominated by two large medieval structures, the Trento Cathedral and Palazzo Pretorio. The Fountain of Neptune is found in the center and is very reminiscent of Bologna
You can stop in Trento Cathedral similarly to other churches around Europe. Palazzo Pretorio houses an art museum with pieces from the Middle Ages to Neoclassicism.
Trento Itinerary | Day Three
See the waterfalls and gorge at Orrido di Ponte Alto.
A half-hour bus trip will take you outside of town to Orrido di Ponte Alto. Here you will see an incredible landscape carved by water over thousands of years and waterfalls. The tour includes information about the ancient technology used to control the water to protect nearby towns.
You can only visit by guided tour on Saturday or Sunday from 10:00-18:00. Tickets are 5€ or free with a Trentino Card. More info here.
Learn about science at MUSE.
MUSE is the Science Museum in Trento with 6 floors of exhibits exploring the local Alpine environment and biodiversity. The perfect stop for families with children. The museum is open every day except Mondays and tickets are 11€ per person or free with a Trentino Card. More info can be found here.
Walk the grounds of Albere Palace.
Right next to MUSE is the Albere Palace (Palazzo delle Albere), a 16th-century villa and fortress. Inside are original frescos and nothing more but the entrance is free so it is worth a walkthrough.
What to eat in Trento
Trento is not your typical Italian city. While you see Italian influence in the lifestyle, architecture, and art, there is a strong central European influence here and especially in the cuisine. You are more likely to find pretzels, goulash, strudel, and sauerkraut on a menu and even German-style dining at some restaurants.
Products such as honey and apples are produced locally in Trentino so keep an eye for dishes that include either. I had a very surprising apple risotto from Locanda Le Due Travi that was perfect in the summer heat.
Local beverages to try are grappa, the local favorite, Hugo, a cocktail made with Prosecco, soda water, mint, and elderflower, or Trento DOC, the local sparkling wine. I am not one to reach for sparkling wine but I can attest that it is worth a try.
I recommend that you try the local cheeses, usually from cows that graze in the Alps. A personal favorite is Grana del Trentino. Another local dish is dumplings made of bread, milk, and eggs usually with bits of speck or cheese inside.
Where to eat in Trento
Ristorante Pizzeria Al Duomo (Via Giuseppe Verdi, 77) Perfect situated near Palazzo Duomo and they have amazing pizza with local ingredients. Bonus points because you can watch them make pizza from the restaurant.
Bar La Vie En Rose (Via S. Marco 8) An eclectic mix of vintage and repurposed items decorate this mix-matched cafe/bar but the special moment is on a plate of focaccia with prosciutto and brie.
Locanda Le Due Travi (Via del Suffragio 20) A bed and breakfast, restaurant, and shop where you can experience incredible local dishes and products just a couple minutes from the castle.
Food experiences in Trento
- Add a three-hour food tour of Trento to get a taste of local foods while accompanied by a local guide. More info here.
- Enjoy a 4-course menu in a private home by a local. Watch a cooking demo of your meal being made right in front of you! More info here.
- Take a private pasta and tiramisu cooking class so that you can impress your friends and family with homemade Italian delights! More info here.
How to get to Trento
I love a good road trip and I jumped at the opportunity to drive to Trento from Ljubljana, but driving is not always an option for all travelers.
- If you do choose to drive do not forget your International Drivers License. I repeat, do not forget.
- Free parking is available at Parcheggio Monte Baldo (Via Monte Baldo 38121).
Trenitalia has great connections and you can reach Trento from Venice or Milan with just one change. The tickets range from 11-40€ and the ride takes from 2.5 – 3.5 hours depending on which ticket you purchase. Trains also run regularly from Verona for as low as 8€ (1-1.5 hour duration).
*Do not forget to always validate your tickets BEFORE boarding the train.*
Flixbus offers some direct routes from Venice or Milan to Trento as low as 10€ (3-4 hour duration). From Verona, you can ride for only 5€ (1-2 hour duration) Their buses are equipped with toilets, wifi, and power outlets!
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Where to stay in Trento
Hotels in Trento can be fairly expensive so I have narrowed down three options to help you start planning your trip.
On a tight budget.
Hostels are not just for the young gap year backpackers anymore. They are a great way for travelers to meet like-minded people and some offer cheap food or free tours around the city.
Centrally located and part of the Trentino Guest Card scheme (read below) is the New International Youth Hostel Giovane Europa.
Affordable for the family.
Airbnb offers a wide range of options from renting a room in a home or renting an entire apartment or house. This can be a great option for those who are staying for a longer period of time. Having access to a full kitchen or laundry facilities can be helpful.
NH Trento is a stylish eco-friendly hotel located near the Adige River and a 15-minute walk to Piazza del Duomo. This hotel has it all including an on-premise gym, rooms with a view, local offerings at its restaurant, and most importantly air conditioning.
Trentino Guest Card: Worth it?
Yes. That is the simple answer. The Trentino Guest Card not only gives you unlimited access to the urban and suburban public transport (including some train routes!), but free entry to over 60 museums, 20 castles, and over 40 attractions. There are also guided tours, tastings, and special rates for many other attractions.
Full disclosure, I was gifted the Trentino Guest Card during my visit as I was attending the Traverse Conference, but for the price of the card and the benefits received it can save you a lot of money on entrance fees. Alternatively, if you book one of the associated hotels you will get a Trentino Guest Card for free. Also, the card is available for free for children under the age of 18.
Check out their official site to read in detail about the benefits of the Trentino Guest Card.
If you are staying in the area longer looking for your next destination consider some of these options:
Riva del Garda – A small town at the northern tip of Lake Garda is a personal favorite of mine. I have been twice and never grow tired of the incredible views of the surrounding landscapes and browsing the local shops.
Verona – One of my favorite cities in Italy (along with Bologna) and another excellent choice for spending a few days wandering old streets. Here you can even see a full Roman amphitheater and inspirations for a couple Shakespeare plays.
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