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Trento: The Loveliest Italian City You’ve Never Heard Of

The View from Sardagna

Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan… Italy is not short of beautiful cities.  These are all cities you will have heard of before, even if you haven’t visited them personally.  But what about Trento?  Does that sound familiar?  Probably not!  I had never heard of Trento before visiting here as part of the Traverse blogger conference, but I am so glad I had the chance to discover Trento and the Trentino Region.  To help you explore as well, here are my favourite things to do in Trento.

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Buonconsiglio Castle in Trento - Staircase leading up to the castle turret
Buonconsiglio Castle in Trento

Where is Trento?

Trento is the capital of the Trentino Region in northern Italy.  With the Dolomites to the north and Verona and Lake Garda to the south, it seems many visitors overlook this part of Italy, favouring neighbouring regions, although part of the Dolomites is within Trentino.  Trentino was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until after the 2nd World War, so it often feels more Austrian than Italian, or a wonderful mix of both. 

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Things to do in Trento

Trento’s proximity to the Dolomites means skiing is popular in winter, but when I visited in June the mountain slopes were covered with wildflowers instead of snow.  Trento is a great base to explore the surrounding areas but there is plenty to do in the city itself.

The River Adige and Sant'Apollinare Church
The River Adige and Sant’Apollinare Church

Explore the Old Town

I love wandering the streets of any new town, but Italian towns somehow have a magical air about them.  The piazzas are lined with cafes and restaurants, flowers bloom in window boxes of houses, and if you look down at the pavement, you’re like to spot ammonite fossils in the stones. 

Pretty Streets in Trento with houses and a cafe
Pretty Streets in Trento

Admire the Frescoes

Trento is also known as the painted city, as many of the buildings in the old town are decorated with Renaissance frescoes.  A fun fact I learned in Trento was the name fresco came from the technique of painting on the walls while the plaster was still fresh or fresco.  Walk down Via Rodolfo Belenzani to the Piazza del Duomo to see some of the best examples.   

Visit the Cathedral

The Duomo di Trento or Cathedral of San Vigilio to give it its proper name, is in the centre of Trento, on the site of an ancient temple.  Work began on the cathedral in the 11th century,  although there were many changes over the years, including the addition of a rose window also known as the Wheel of Fortune, with different characters depicted around the wheel.  You can also find unusual details all around the outside of the cathedral, such as stone pillars with knots in them.

Check out the 3D Sculpture of Trento

An interesting sculpture behind the cathedral shows the whole of the city laid out in 3D.  Accompanying labels written in Italian braille point out the landmarks.  It’s rare you get to see the whole of a city in one place, so do take a look!

3D Model of Trento
3D Model of Trento

Castello del Buonconsiglio

The Buonconsiglio Castle was the residence of the Prince Bishops, who ruled over the city.  They had a beautiful view of Trento from the castle, which is worth visiting for that alone!  However, the castle is also home to the Provincial Museum of Art and the Torre Aquila which has some incredible Gothic frescoes which detail a year in the life of Trento, month by month. 

MUSE Museum of Natural Science

This modern museum was designed by the architect Renzo Piano and opened in 2013.  The exhibits show the relationships between humans and the environment and are great for kids as they can enjoy a full sensory experience in the interactive areas.  It’s a 10-15 minutes’ walk from the Piazza Duomo.

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Take the Cable Car for Panoramic Views

The cable car to Sardagna is one of my favourite things to do in Trento as the views are simply stunning.  It is a quick journey on a somewhat wobbly cable car, then you can take your time to enjoy the views and have an aperitivo at the bar at the top.  Make sure you check the times for coming down again, it is possible to hike down but plan your route carefully.

The View from Sardagna
The View from Sardagna

The Gorge of Ponte Alto

A short bus ride from the centre of Trento, the Gorge of Ponte Alto is an impressive work of engineering in a place of natural beauty, where the power of the water gushing through the gorge has been tempered to protect the city below.  Entry is by guided tour only, which you can arrange in advance through the tourist office in Piazza Dante.

Eat Amazing Food

As well as the ubiquitous pizza and pasta, Trento also serves up some fabulous local specialities like apple risotto, Canederli bread dumplings, cured meats and cheeses.  The portions here are usually quite generous, so don’t worry about being hungry – you will be fine with a starter and a first or second course, there is no need to order all three as long as you can choose between them!

Cured Meats and Cheese
Cured Meats and Cheese

Try Trento Doc Sparkling Wine

Everyone has heard of prosecco I’m sure, but what about Trentodoc?  Trentino produces its own Denomination Controlled sparkling wine and it is delicious!  Using combinations of Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier and Pinot blanc grape varieties, Trento DOC is a delicate, elegant sparkling wine, and I thoroughly enjoyed trying several different types!

Trentodoc Sparkling Wine
Trentodoc Sparkling Wine

How to Get to Trento

Trento is well connected to other Italian cities by train, it’s about an hour from Verona and 2-3 hours from Venice and Milan, depending on whether you take the more expensive high-speed trains or the local slow trains which are cheaper.  Check train prices and times on the Trenitalia website or app, and remember to validate your paper tickets before you get on the train.  If you purchase e-tickets on the app you don’t need to validate them.  Flixbus also has regular buses to Trento.

Flights to Trento

Although Trento does have an airport (and an Aeronautical Museum), most visitors will fly into the cities of Milan (Bergamo), Verona or Venice, then take the train to Trento. 

Scenery on the way to Trento
Scenery on the train to Trento

Getting Around Trento

Trento is a walkable city which is easily visited on foot.  However, to explore around the city there are buses to take you where you need to go.  Consider getting the Trentino Guest Card which includes free public transport in the city, as well as free entry to most of the museums and attractions, including the Cable Car to Sardagna, the Castello del Buonconsiglio and MUSE.

Where to Stay in Trento

Hostels in Trento

I could only find one hostel in Trento, the International Youth Hostel ‘Giovane Europa’ which is close to the train station.  It gets decent reviews and has bikes available to hire but doesn’t have any kitchen facilities.  However, the food is so good in Trento you might not want to make your own!


Hotels in Trento

For convenience I’d recommend staying in the centre of Trento, especially if you don’t have your own transport with you.  B&B Margot, for example, is close to the Cathedral and gets great reviews for the friendly owners and tasty breakfast.  IIf you have your own car, you might consider staying at a nearby Agritur, such as Agritur alla Veduta, which is about 3 miles from the centre, but close to a bus stop and offers a free Trentino Guest Card to all guests.  


Airbnb in Trento

I shared an Airbnb with some friends which was lovely – but up a steep hill behind the castle.  Good old Google Maps doesn’t show the gradient on paths, so although it looked really close to town, hiking up the hill several times a day wasn’t the easiest!  There are plenty of other options for Airbnb in Trento though, like this flat in the Historic Centre of Trento.

You can check out all the options on Airbnb here.   If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $40 credit to use on your first trip!  Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code and my full Airbnb guide or click below for your Airbnb coupon.


Have you been to Trento?  Have I missed anything?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on things to do in Trento and beyond, please leave your comments below.

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Last updated: February 14, 2020

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