TEN GREAT REASONS TO VISIT TRENTO
Located in the mountainous north of Italy, the city of Trento is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. Capital of the Trentino region and resembling a cultural matrimony of Italy and Austria. Surrounded by the Dolomites, this makes a suitable base to explore a great nature wilderness.
As a base to explore the greater region of the Italian Alps, Trento is ideally situated for a nature and city life balance. This region was indeed part of the Kingdom of Austria-Hungary until 1918. A fact that does go some way to explaining a slightly more Austrian feeling in the place. In addition an influence felt in the neighbouring province of South Tyrol right on the border with Austria.
Certainly there are no shortages of outdoor or indoor things to do in Trento. Here are ten of my favourites. Remember, Trento is the city and Trentino the province in which it is situated. Common bit of confusion there that needs clearing up.
No introduction needed here! At the heart of Trentino, the UNESCO World Heritage region of the Dolomites is an essential destination for the outdoors enthusiasts. A prime location for hiking, cycling, wine tasting, fruit growing, and all kinds of leisure activities.
The idyllic isolated dwellings in the mountains feel like a step into a genteel and slower paced way of life. More so, there is also the possibility of staying in mountain huts for your accommodation if you visit in the summer months. What better way to get close up with the nature and the mountains?
Whilst there are some climbing routes more suited to the advanced level there are plenty of trails suited to those who may not be up for all that adrenaline. The Brenta Dolomites to the West – near the large Adamello glacier – are among the mnost accessible for all hiking abilities. The trail round the Anello del Pelmo has some of the best-marked trails. A meandering circular route around the lake of the Val d’Arcia and Summer is the most ideal time to visit. Or maybe in the Autumn, surrounded by golden pines?
ORRIDO DI PONTE ALTO
A short journey from the centre of Trento is this gorge-ous (ahem!) waterfall. This is most accessible by the no.10 bus from the main station or no.9 bus from the Piazza Venezia. Of course if you’re feeling more adventurous there’s nothing wrong with going by foot to the hamlet of Cognola. At the location of where a dam was constructed in the early 16th Century to protect the city from flooding, this is also one of the largest hydraulic systems of its kind. Two separate waterfalls cascade downwards from the cliffs, one coming down the ravine between the rocks and the other falls over the weir further along.
A tourist site since the early 19th Century but the gorge was closed to the public not long after WW2. It was since re-opened to all visitors in 2015 but you can only explore as part of a tour group. This for safety reasons, as it is not permitted to stray off the designated path but also this way it is more informative to learn from the tourism representatives the geology behind it all. Most memorable is the opportunity to stand behind a waterfall. In more detail, go down some steps (a bit uneven but do hold on to the handrails) and find yourself at a unique vista sheltered by the rocks watching the water cascade down. The liberating and refreshing sound of water crashing down at full speed. I know I have waxed lyrical about my love of waterfalls several times elsewhere!
Obviously don’t look down if you’re of a rather nervous disposition. But hey, this is Mr.Nervous talking here so what do I know?
The Castelo di Buonconsiglio served as a seat of the Prince-Bishops of Trento from the 12th Century up to the enlargement of the Austrian Habsburg Empire in 1803. Later on became a military barracks like the Castelvecchio in nearby Verona before being abandoned. Since the 1920s it became the location of a National Museum and a display of great art treasures. Entry to the inside of the castle is €10 and well worth the opportunity. Indeed the Buonconsiglio Castle Museum often hosts special exhibitions during the summer months.
The Torre Aquila is the tower with the most spectacular views inside and outside. Its frescoed ceilings are some of the most intricately painted depicting Trento life as well as religious symbols. From here you are also blessed with an amazing vista looking over to the mountains as well. I don’t know if this is just my way of interpreting things but when looking up I did see some resemblance to an M.C. Escher sketch. Was this an inspiration?
Its gardens are free of charge and always a first class location for a bit of peace any time of day.
HIKING OPPORTUNITIES AND NATURE EXPLORATION
The Brenta Dolomites region is one of the best in the world for hiking trails. The “Brenta Trek” is one of the region’s most well-known and accessible routes. This spans a distance of up to 5,000km through various quaint mountain huts and passages. Following the trail of the “Dolomiti Panorama Trek” will take you to the heart of its nature. Glaciers, vast woodland and dramatic rock peaks await at every turn.
Also of note is the “Trail of Peace” (Sentiero della Pace) section that takes through remnants of trenches, tunnels and other fortifications that played a part in WW1.
West of Trento is the Adamello Brenta Park, one of the largest protected areas in the Alps. This also is a roaming ground for several types of deer and eagles as well that have made their nest here? If you come at the right time you may see a few brown bears lurking in the distance.
Eastwards is the nature park of Paneveggio-Pale di San Martino. A large forest of spruce trees here known as the “Foresta dei Violini” gets its name from the wood that has been used to carve the illustrious Stradivarius violins. This area stretches more or less from the village of Valsugana and the nearby train station of Borgo-Bocciodromo is well placed for access.
Trento’s location at the confluence of the Adige makes this a perfect destination for all things aquatic and nautical. Lake Garda, the largest freshwater lake in all of Italy is but a short distance away. Covering a vast area that stretches all the way into the Lombardy region near its principal city of Milan, its crystal clear waters are tailor made for sailing, paddle boarding, you name it.
Easiest way to reach would be taking a short train trip to the small town of Sirmione. You can see why, along with Lake Como and the Ligurian Riviera, the north of Italy enchants.
Also not too far away is the Gardaland amusement park, a great day out for families.
Of course Garda is not the only lake district in the vicinity of Trentino province. Lake Caldonazzo is the only lake here where water-skiing is permitted, whilst the smaller and secluded Lakes of Molvero and Tenno are a nice escape from the crowds. And let’s keep it that way!
EXPLORE THE HISTORIC CITY CENTRE
The piazza that resembles the main meeting point so symbolic of many Italian cities has always been a character-defining feature. Of course, the inspiration for countless other piazzas the world over. A prime location this for a summer evening of pizza and aperitifs in full view of the city’s cathedral, the Basilica di San Vigilio. A church has existed at this spot since the 6th Century but it is during the 12th Century that a grand cathedral was built here. The Romanesque towers and exterior are a definite hint at its influences of the time. You can also see some Gothic touches too as construction spanned into the arrival of that architectural period.
A fountain depicting Neptune, a popular choice for statues and monuments across the continent, stands out. He of course the Roman god of water. Equally striking are the frescoed buildings that surround the centre. Depictions of bishops and other sacred imagery hint at the region’s history. Also on the other side of the square a dash of colour on the buildings, a feature no city could ever be complete without.
From here this is like a central spot to navigate your way to the rest of the city, and meander through winding alleys. Who knows what unexpected discoveries you may chance upon?
The trails and views of the Dolomites are made for mountain biking. Cycling along the paths surrounded by pine woodlands and views of freshwater lakes over the hills.
Novice riders looking for a less challenging route would feel very well placed on the Malga Fratte trail.
Going through the woodland and reward yourself at the end with a ride in a cable car up the mountains. Also the excursion of Altopiano della Paganella is one of the more easy going trails. An approximately 1.5km route with exceptional views of the Adige valley. Not too strenuous and ideal for those with little to no experience of cycling.
Of course plenty of more advanced and arduous trails are on offer too for the more seasoned cycling pros. Steep inclines and other such challenges become the norm.
VIEWS FROM ABOVE
If you are not up for hiking or cycling your way up the mountains, the alternative method of a cable car to the top is just as exciting. Trento is equipped with a cable car linking the main city with the mountains. What seems like the longest two minutes slowly rising over the Adige is like a journey to a different side of the city. It may seem intimidating as you elevate. But really, the ascent into the mountain hamlet of Sardagna (NOT Sardinia!) is absolutely worth the ride.
From up here, you can see views of the entire Trento below and its outskirts. The many mountains miles away in the distance. Whilst you are here, why not grab a bit of food and drink at the nearby rooftop bar to accompany the views? Certainly all the more rewarding in the early evening.
There is also a further hiking trail as well if you are feeling a sense of adventure too.
A VERY INTERESTING SELECTION OF MUSEUMS
There are a number of interesting museums in Trento that will cater to all interests. “MUSE”, a very 21st Century interactive science museum designed by Renzo Piano is a fun and informative experience for all ages. The first floor is full of interactive hands-on activities, always my favourite form of museum education!
Another great modern museum in neighbouring Rovereto is the MART. That, a museum of contemporary art. I know modern art attracts more than its share of detractors and is not to everyone’s liking but it goes to show all tastes are catered for.
Right next to the main cathedral in the Piazza del Duomo is the Museo Diocesano. This houses a wealth of artefacts, tapestries and paintings related to the churches of Trento going as far back as the 11th Century.
Definitely one of the most unusual locations for a museum anywhere is Trento’s Piedecastillo Galleries. Over the bridge you will see what looks like a tunnel entrance but is really an art gallery. From time to time it hosts some light displays inside what used to be an underpass. Now that’s innovative! Can seem a bit dark, mind you.
TRENTO – WHY WAIT?
So there you have it. Directly connected by train routes to Verona and Innsbruck that last less than an hour, why have you overlooked Trento for so long? Is all the pizza and gelato and tiramisu enough to tempt you?