This guide on Trento will give you an overview of things to do and see in stunning, yet under-the-radar town in northern Italy, rich in history and beautiful sights.
One of the things I love about traveling in Italy is discovering gorgeous places that make me wonder why it took me so long to appreciate my country and the incredible places I have at my doorstep. Earlier this month I went to Trento to attend Traverse 19, an international conference for digital content creators that this year was hosted by the team at Visit Trentino. It was my first time in Trento and it quickly became another fantastic gem to add to my Italian diaries!
Trento is located in the Trentino Alto Adige region and is the capital city of the autonomous province of Trento. It has its share of Austrian influence, due to the region’s long history under the Austria-Hungarian empire.
Trento has that authentic feel that can be hard to find in places like Venice or Rome nowadays. Forget pushy selfie-stick vendors, claustrophobic queues, and outrageous prices. In Trento, it’s all about exploring pretty sights in a very relaxed atmosphere, with numerous gelato breaks, friendly talks with the locals and sweet mountain views.
Still wondering if Trento is worth visiting? Oh yes, let me show you why…
Trentino Guest Card
Surprise, surprise! When traveling to Trentino, you will receive a Trentino Guest Card, a special tourist pass that gives you free entrance to a wide range of attractions and castles around the region. It also allows you to circulate freely on public transport (trains included) and provides discounts and other exclusive services. Pretty cool, right? I hardly spent any money on this trip with it!
I got the card as part of the conference package, but regular travelers have to spend at least two nights in one of the hotels adhering to the initiative in order to receive it. Alternatively, you can stay one night only and request the card at a special price ( I think you ave to ask the hotel directly about this).
Buonconsiglio Castle, one of the top things to see in Trento
Buonconsiglio Castle is Trento’s most famous landmark and is also considered one of the most important monumental complexes in the region. This beautiful castle has an ancient history that dates back to the 13th century and played a key role in the political and cultural history of Trento. It was one of the locations that hosted the famous Council of Trento in the XVI century, and the place where Italian patriot Cesare Battisti was imprisoned and executed during WWI.
I spent a good couple of hours staring at the stunning frescoes and extensive collection of paintings and sculptures. There is also a fantastic Venetian loggia on the third floor that offers some pretty amazing views over Trento.
Entry to the Buonconsiglio Castle is free with the Trentino Guest Card (regular price is €10), but I recommend paying the extra €2 to visit the Eagle Tower and its beautiful “Cycle of The Months” frescoes detailing court life throughout the year at the end of the Middle Ages. Visits take place every 45 minutes and you’ll be given an audio guide that explains every fresco.
The castle is surrounded by a beautiful garden filled with trees and colorful flowers and there is also a pretty cafeteria to grab a drink after the visit.
Right in the buzzing heart of Trento lies a beautiful cathedral with stunning interiors. It was built on the burial ground of Saint Vigilius, the patron saint of Trento, and the ruins of the old religious building can still be seen by descending underneath the cathedral. This is also the place the Decrees of the Council of Trento were issued.
I really liked the interiors, with an imposing baroque canopy dominating the altar and many works of art. There are two beautiful staircases that lead up to the two bell towers, but they were closed when I visited.
Trento’s historic center
Trento has a small, colorful and elegant historic center that makes for a delightful walk among art and culture. I loved strolling around with my nose up, marveling at the colorful buildings, the charming architecture, the cozy cafés, and the pretty shops housed in historic buildings!
Trento’s central square is Piazza Duomo, dominated by the Fountain of Neptune, one of the town’s most recognizable landmarks, and the gorgeous Medieval house called Casa Cazuffi-Rella. Here you’ll find also the imposing Civic Tower and the Palazzo Pretorio that today houses the prestigious Diocesan Museum.
Not to miss is Via Belenzani, which is lined with fantastic Renaissance buildings featuring stunning frescoed facades, like Palazzo Geremia and Palazzo Thun, currently home to the local town hall.
MUSE, Trento’s Science Museum
It took me a bit of a walk to find the MUSE, but it was totally worth it – and it’s said from someone who’s not a huge science fan! It’s located slightly outside the town center, in the new Le Albere district where buildings have striking glass facades and green is king – quite a contrast from the ancient and colorful buildings of piazza Dante!
The building that houses the museum was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, like the rest of the district, and its shape resembles that of a mountain. Its huge glass walls are truly impressive!
Inside you’ll find 6 floors filled with plants, stuffed animals and dinosaurs’ skeletons. Each floor offers super interesting hands-on activities for kids, spanning from climate change to the secrets of DNA (the genetic exhibition was my favorite part). Oh, and there is also a panoramic terrace with great views over the Adige valley.
After the visit, I grabbed a coffee and pastry from the museum café and relaxed for a bit in the beautiful gardens.
Palazzo delle Albere
Right next to the MUSE you’ll find Palazzo delle Albere, a pretty Renaissance-style villa. During the Council of Trent, this beautiful villa was the place of feasts and tournaments to welcome princes and ambassadors, while today it hosts art and photography exhibitions.
There’s not much to see inside, just some traces of the beautiful frescoes that once decorated the walls. If you are visiting the MUSE then I suggest paying a quick visit to the villa (entry is free), otherwise I wouldn’t consider it a destination in its own right.
Trento cable car
If you like a good view, then you should hop on the cable car by the Adige river that quickly takes you to a panoramic terrace with gorgeous views of the city and the valley around it. You’ll find it near the San Lorenzo Bridge.
Tip: don’t limit your visit to the terrace (or drinks at Bistrot Trento Alta just outside the cable car station…). Keep walking for about 10 minutes until you reach Sardagna, a tiny village decorated with beautiful murals depicting scenes from rural life.
The cable car is open every day from 7 am to 10:30 pm, you can check the timetable here. Tickets are free with the Trentino Guest Card (regular return tickets cost €5) and you can bring your own bike for an extra €2. I usually don’t mind the heights but felt a little dizzy on the way up to the mountain, so you might want to consider this before making the trip.
Delicious local food
Eating in Trento is an amazing culinary experience. No, I’m not talking about some local variety of pasta or pizza. I’m talking about truly unique dishes rooted in this fantastic territory and characterized by a blend of Mediterranean flavors, mountain cooking traditions, and Austrian influences. These include canederli, dumplings made with bread, cured meat and cheese and served with a variety of sauces or broth, tortel di patate, kind of a potato pancake served with cured meat and cheeses, and some steaming hot polenta made with corn flour. Strudel, a layered pastry filled with apples, raisins, and cinnamon, is the most popular dessert.
The region of Trentino has an important winemaking tradition and produces some great wines. The most famous ones are the white sparkling Trentodoc and the red Teroldego. Oh and end your meal like a local with a glass of grappa! Be prepared though, it’s pretty strong…
Tip: check out Palazzo Roccabruna for a quick introduction to Trentino’s 600 wine labels. The building is home to the Provincial Wine Promotion Board of Trentino that organizes wine tastings on Thursday and Saturday evenings.
Doss is a small hill that stands on the right bank of the Adige river. It is a striking element of Trento’s landscape and a popular excursion from the town center (it’s a 40-minute walk).
At the top of it stand the Mausoleum of the Cesare Battisti, the man who fought for the annexation of Trentino to Italy, and the Museum of the Alpini Troops.
Day trips from Trento
Trento is a great base to explore the incredible beauties of the Trentino region, plus remember that you can use public transports for free with the Trentino Guest Card!
A quick bus journey will take you to the Orrido di Ponte Alto, a fantastic canyon with a magnificent 40m high waterfalls. It’s open only on Saturdays and Sundays, though, so plan your visit accordingly.
Mountain lovers should head to Monte Bondone, which is often referred to as the local mountain of Trento. It’s only a half-hour bus drive from Trento’s city center and it’s both a popular winter destination for skiers and a summer gateway for some great hiking in nature.
Trentino is home to some spectacular lakes that can be easily reached from Trento. One of these is Lake Toblino, which is considered one of the most romantic lakes in the region due to the fairytale atmosphere created by an ancient castle reflecting on the water and the surrounding woods. It’s only about 15 km from Trento with bus lines B201 or B201. Another beautiful lake to visit while in town is Lake Molveno Bus line B611will take you there in about 1h 15 min. It has some serious crystal-blue waters and the gorgeous backdrop of the Brent’s Dolomites.
Other popular lakes in the vicinity of Trento are Caldonazzo and Levico, which can be reached with the regional train line from Trento to Bassano del Grappa in about 45 minutes. You’ll find great beaches and super transparent waters.
If you are short of time, you could also visit Lake Garda in a day from Trento. In about an hour by bus, you can reach Riva del Garda a lovely town located at the northernmost point of Lake Garda. It surely offers a great introduction to the beauties of the lake.
And finally, if you have a car and are looking for a one-of-kind experience, then you should consider visiting Maso Eden, just about 28km south of Trento. It’s a farm specialized in the rearing of lamas and alpacas and organizes hikes in their company.
Trento is small enough to be easily explored on foot. I spent a day and a half exploring it and I feel it’s a good amount of time to see all the main sights and get a good feel of the town.
- Getting to Trento is pretty easy. The closest airport is Verona and from there it’s a quick bus ride to the station to catch a train that brings you to Trento in about an hour. The train journey itself is pretty scenic, passing through vineyards and mountains.
- You can check the timetables of public transport on the Trentino Trasporti website.
- There are some pretty hotels bed and breakfasts scattered around town. Many bloggers that attended the Traverse conference stayed at the Grand Hotel Trento and told me it’s very nice. Also, the Heart of Trento Luxury BnB seemed to be a popular choice. I personally opted for this very nice Airbnb in Trento city center with the most welcoming host. If it’s your first time using Airbnb you can click here for a discount!
- Great places to eat in Trento are Ristorante al Vò, the town’s oldest restaurant (it dates back to 1345!), Green Tower (they do excellent pizzas, among other things) and Antica Trattoria Due Mori. I had the best gelato at Fior di Gusto and I recommend a coffee break at the cute La Vie En Rose and aperitivo at Scrigno del Duomo. Oh, and don’t forget to check out Antica Birreria Pedavena for excellent artisanal beer and some tasty bites.
- Stock up on foodie souvenirs from Salumeria Belli in Piazza Vittoria, in particular matured speck, salted meat, and luganega, the typical Trentino salami… yum! If you love coffee, then you should also drop by at Casa del Caffè for some excellent coffee blends!
- I think Trento is one of those places that can be visited all year round because it offers great things to do in any season. In December the towns light up for the traditional Christmas markets in the old town.
Until next time,