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Trento, Italy:

A little-known destination worth knowing about.

By Laura OckendenPublished 4 years ago 8 min read
Gardens of the Castello Buonconsiglio

Where is Trento and why visit?

The only reason I was heading to this Italian city that I had never heard of was because I was attending the Traverse Conference for digital influencers. I am so glad I did as it opened my eyes to this beautiful city of Trento. Trento is the capital of the Trentino-Alto Adige region, just south of Austria and around an hour north of Verona.

Italy is one of my favourite countries with its highly sociable culture centred around gastronomy and the arts, along with its beautiful lakes, mountains and rolling hills. Need I go on? I had never visited Trento before, or so I thought until a friend that I travelled around Italy with many moons ago, reminded me that I had.

“Yes it was only for one day", she said. "We had an orange drink".

It did worry me a little that I did not remember this visit but I wondered whether we had more than one of these orange drinks, which I suspect was Aperol Spritz. It must have been a few more than one as there is no excuse for forgetting this extremely memorable city.

Trento is best known for three main things:

  • The undeniable beauty of its landscape. With the imposing backdrop of the Dolomite mountains, a spectacular panorama is around every corner. Look out for the ‘Alpenglow’ – the pink hue that envelops the mountains at sunset.
  • Trento was home to the ‘Council of Trent’ during the 16th Century, which was the headquarters for the Catholic Counter-Reformation, bringing many parts of Europe back to Catholicism.
  • Trentodoc – this spumante wine is light and, in my opinion, easier to drink than a Crémant, Champagne or Prosecco, making it not only ideal for an aperitivo but also a lunchtime tipple. Trentodoc was the first sparkling wine to achieve the DOC status after Champagne.

Where to stay in Trento

I stayed at the Grand Hotel Trento. It is at the higher end for quality and price but still very affordable and with its central location just across from the train station, it is definitely worth it. It has a classic style with very friendly and helpful staff.

This balcony view was a treat to wake up to each morning.

Where to find the best views in Trento

All around the city you will find glimpses of the spectacular scenery but to really enjoy the bella vista, here are some of my favourite spots:

This fantastic rooftop view from the Grand Hotel Trento

This window framing a charming courtyard with the mountain backdrop. You will find it in the loft room at the top of the Teatro Sociale, where I was attending the Traverse Conference.

The panoramic view from the top of the Funivia Trento Sardagna (cable car). After admiring the view, walk a little way along the road and you will see this inviting sight of a vineyard. A trip on the cable car is free with the Trentino Guestcard, but make sure you activate the transport element in the app before you go.

Fountains, Frescoes & flowers of Trento

Piazza Del Duomo is a vast square filled with cafes and restaurants. It is dominated, unsurprisingly, by a cathedral - Cattedrale di San Vigilio. In Roman times Trento was known as Tridentum. One theory for the city's association with Neptune and his trident, displayed in this fountain, is that Trento is surrounded by three pointed hills reflecting the three tines on a trident.

You could be forgiven for missing this much more discreet fountain – the Fontana dell’aquila (eagle fountain). The eagle is a symbol of Trento and refers to a man from Sardagna ( the village above Trento, reached by cable car) who was wrongly sentenced to death. Upon climbing the scaffold he saw an eagle and declared that it would turn to stone if he was innocent. It promptly did and the man was set free. The eagle then remained where it landed.

You will find renaissance frescoes adorning the exterior of several buildings in Trento, one being the Caffe Italia in Piazza Del Duomo. Exploring this eminently walkable city, you will discover other colourful frescoes, including those along Via Rodolofo Belenzani, and inside the Castello del Buonconsiglio.

The floral display in the centre of Piazza del Duomo was the perfect centrepiece and I found that I could enter it and be surrounded by a circle of flowers - a very peaceful experience. I also I happened upon Parco San Marco while walking around the city, which was filled with flowers and these bursts of colour.

Trento is very walkable with beautiful architecture

Trento is a small but perfectly formed city with attractive and colourful architecture lining the meandering streets, just waiting to be explored.

A personal highlight of Trento for me was the Castello del Buonconsiglio. This is the oldest and largest building in Trento and its presence is enhanced by the vibrant and detailed frescoes on the exterior, which depict the months of the year and are the most notable examples of international gothic art in Europe. The castle was the seat of the Prince Bishops of Trent from the thirteenth century and symbolic of Trento's struggle for independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the nineteenth century the city became part of this empire but returned to Italy in 1919. Intriguingly there was a secret tunnel connecting the castle to the Cattedrale San Vigilio to allow the Prince Bishop to move unseen between the two.

I found the castle to be a special place for me. It was like stepping back in time, with its rich and long history, enhanced by the tranquil grounds. I spent a wonderful morning taking part in a yoga class within the gardens, as part of the Traverse Conference midweek experiences. Afterwards, I took a while to sit in the gardens and enjoy their peace. It was hard work to tear myself away.

The castle is deceptively large and when you finally reach the top there is an unmissable view of Trento with a dramatic backdrop of the Dolomite mountains. Allow at least two hours at Castello del Buonconsiglio, including time to enjoy the grounds.

Hours: Tuesday – Sunday (except holidays), Early – May to Early Nov, 10 am – 6 pm; Winter 9:30 am – 5 pm. Admission: €10 or €20 for entrance to Buonconsiglio Castle with its extended collections of museums and monuments in the surrounding valleys and towns of Trentino Beseno Castle, Stenico Castle, Thun Castle and Caldes Castle. Check the website for more information.

Unexpected adventures in Trento

Another of the mid-week experiences organised by Traverse was 'Mind Gym' at the MUSE Science Museum. An 8.30am start for something where you might be required to use your mind and exercise at a science museum seemed like a tall order but I was curious, so I signed up.

The geometric, angular museum was designed by world-renowned architect - Renzo Piano, and offers six floors of interactive and multimedia exhibits. It also has its own research labs, tropical greenhouse and a kitchen garden.

Trentino is green by nature in more than one way. Its hydroelectric power plants have provided much of the region’s energy for over a century, while being at the forefront for investing in renewable energy and for Europe’s ‘decarbonisation’ targets by 2050. I have also learned that there are forty ‘100% renewable’ municipalities in Italy.

Getting back to this unexpected adventure, our 'Mind Gym' experience was a collaborative effort led by a science communicator (a job that was new to me) with a personal trainer. Our exercises were linked to science and evolution, hence why one of our first activities involved walking on all fours up to the next floor.

Our efforts were certainly rewarded with breakfast on the roof terrace and this view of Trento.

Hours: Saturday and Sunday, 10 am – 7 pm; Tuesday- Friday, 10 am – 6 pm, Closed Mondays. Admission: €10, Family Rate – 2 parents with underage children €20 and one parent with underage children €10. Free for children six and under.

The trip to L'orrido di Ponte Alto was the most unexpected.

This is a deep canyon with waterfalls just outside of Trento. In the 1500s the earliest hydraulics works were built to protect the city from floods. Two weirs generate forty-metre-high waterfalls that run between the red rocks.

On arrival a guide told us that we would only have twenty minutes at the canyons instead of the usual forty-five because we were going on another trip. I hadn't signed up to anything else and as it turned out neither had anyone else. Our mild concern was put to one side as we stood in awe at the majesty of the canyon. Even more dramatic was the experience of standing behind a waterfall and watching the torrents of water plunge beneath.

Hours: Saturday and Sunday, Tours from 10 am to 6 pm. From 28th June to 1st August tours are given on Fridays from 10 am – 6 pm. Admission: Adults €5, Children 6-12 €3 and Trentino Guest Card. ( You can only visit the canyon on a tour).

Clipping ourselves on and off a cord with a carabiner, we descended, in a diagonal fashion, down the side of a rock face. The next part was another level up from standing behind a waterfall, as this time we leaned backwards over one. I'm glad to say that this trip proved to be exhilarating and enjoyable after my initial trepidation.


Delectable food and drink of Trento

I wouldn't be having the true Italian experience if I didn't eat at least one gelato. I was drawn to Grom in Piazza Del Duomo, which has gluten-free gelato that is also free from any artificial flavouring. It is not, however, free from flavour as I thoroughly enjoyed my nocciola (hazelnut) and crema come una volta (cream like it used to be).

Afterwards I decided to try a glass of Trentodoc, while sitting and people-watching in the piazza. I should have known that no drink in Italy comes without aperitivo snacks. A little unnecessary after the gelato but I found a way to finish them off.

Aperol Spritz is another drink I usually enjoy in Italy but this time I got a taste for the Hugo Spritz, made from the locally famous “Hugo” spirit, which is made of prosecco, elderflower syrup and mint leaves.

With a sweet tooth like mine there is no shortage of treats to tempt me in Italy but with Trento being so close to Austria, it is perhaps unsurprising to come across Sachertorte (chocolate cake with apricot jam filling) and strudel.

I can also recommend dinner in my hotel, Grand Hotel Trento, particularly this black bread impressed with roasted olives and sundried tomatoes.

Despite Trento being one of the most affluent cities in Italy I found it to be very affordable, offering yet another reason to add Trento to your destination list and enjoy La Dolce Vita. I recommend two to three days here. Although I had no time to explore other parts of the Trentino region, I suggest making time for this, as from what I have read and heard from others, it looks beautiful and with plenty to explore.

I visited Trento in mid-June when the weather was warm and dry except for the odd short shower.

Useful Tips

Fly into Verona airport, followed by a short bus ride to the train station and then a picturesque journey between mountains and lakes, taking just over an hour to reach Trento. For the Aerobus you can buy a ticket on board for 6 Euros and the driver validates it for you in the machine. Turn right out of the airport and you will see the blue ‘Fermata’ sign where you wait for the bus, which are every twenty minutes and it takes you to Porto Nuovo from where you can catch a train to Trento.

If you book your ticket online at the Trainline or suchlike, you are not usually required to validate the ticket in one of the machines on the platform. For some of the train companies you may need to book separately from the Trainline via a kiosk or online e.g. Italo Treno. It is worth knowing that often the more expensive train journeys are shorter and offer Wi-Fi and plug sockets.

While I was waiting for my train to arrive I was asked by police to show my passport. This was alarming at first until I discovered that random checks like this, particularly at train stations, are commonplace in Italy.

When you book accommodation in Trento you are issued with a complimentary Trentino Guestcard . They are really valuable with discounts on many attractions, guided tours and tasting tours, along with free public transport.

Have you visited Trento or are inspired to? Let me know in the comments below.



About the Creator

Laura Ockenden

Business Development & Research Manager at Official Tourist Board for Liverpool City Region, UK. Previous experience in Destination Marketing including content and copy.

Host Travel blog : cravedifferent.com which I am looking to develop.

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    Laura OckendenWritten by Laura Ockenden

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