Discovering Trento: Italy's Most Beautiful Secret City
A TRAVEL GUIDE
Have you ever heard of Trento? Before making my way to this breathtaking little city in Italy, I hadn’t either.
While I have marveled at the beauty of other Italian cities like Citta Alta and Cascia, visiting Trento was an experience on a whole new level. The city is packed with activities for the likes of every traveler, whether you’re an adventure seeker or simply want to relax and take in the beauty all around.
As a travel writer and curious explorer, I am often eager to share my experiences of places I have been to in the hopes of helping others with their adventures. However, anytime I come across a place I’ve never even heard of, let alone been to – visiting it is equally as exciting as it is humbling.
On this particular trip, visiting Trento generated all of these feelings in addition to some sad ones as well.
It is often said that life’s toughest lessons happen when you least expect them. If you’re like me and spend the majority of your time traveling, this means these lessons will inevitably occur while you’re on the road – far from home and the support of loved ones.
Two weeks before visiting the beautiful city of Trento for the Traverse 19 Conference, I received the horrific news from home that my baby Maltese, Sophia, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. She had been by my side for 14 years and was the closest thing to perfect love I have ever felt.
To say it was one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever gone through so far from home is an understatement. In the end, I decided to carry on with my plans and gave myself time to grieve before making my way to Trento for a week that promised to be filled with amazing activities and interesting seminars.
TRENTO: HISTORY AND HOSPITALITY
Hidden in the Trentino/Alto Adige region of northern Italy – bordering Austria and Switzerland, the city of Trento is famous for its rich history, close proximity to the Dolomites and for being one of the country’s wealthiest regions.
Unlike so many other cities in Italy, Trento has managed to remain a secret gem accessible only to those in the know – making it the perfect place to explore at your own pace. No matter where you go, the feeling that you are welcome and even part of the community is present in every interaction with the locals.
As you make your way through the various side streets and piazzas, you are transported to a different time and place where every single building tells a story. The beauty of Trento is that if you listen closely – you will be able to hear each and every one of them.
GETTING TO TRENTO
There are no direct flights to the city itself, however there are a few nearby options to reach Trento easily:
VILAFRANCA AIRPORT, VERONA (VRN)
The closest airport to fly into when heading to Trento. It is located 60m/97km from Trento’s city center and an easy one hour car ride or 1.5 hour bus/train ride. (Buses and trains are also available from the Verona Porta Nuova train station.)
ORIO AL SERIO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, BERGAMO (BGY)
Bergamo Airport is known as a budget airlines hub in the northern Italian area and is a great place to fly into from other neighboring countries. The distance from Bergamo to Trento is about 74m/120km and is a little over an hour if you’re driving. If taking a bus or train, it is about 1.5 hours and up, depending on any stops.
MARCO POLO AIRPORT, VENICE (VCE)
Venice Airport is the farthest option of the 3. However, it is better connected than the others internationally, which means you may have a greater chance of finding better rates if flying from outside of the EU. The distance from Venice to Trento is about 136m/220km and is a little over 2 hours if you’re driving. If taking a bus or train, it is longer as there are no direct trips. Travel time starts at about 3 hours and goes up depending on the number of stops.
Search for the best deals with Omio below:
On this particular trip, I was visiting my aunt in Bergamo and was able to find a ridiculously cheap ticket from Bergamo to Trento via Verona on Flixbus. (It was only $9!) The overall trip was 3 hours because we stopped in Verona for an hour, but the coach bus itself was super comfortable and the wait wasn’t long at all.
Need some helping finding the best prices? No problem!
These are all of the budget sites for train and bus transportation I recommend when searching for tickets. Many of them are available throughout Europe and offer fantastic rates and last minute deals.
When it comes to looking for a place to stay in Trento, the options are endless. On this trip I stayed at the Alberomonaco Hotel, which was about a 10 minute walk into the center of the city and close to absolutely everything.
The best part about staying at this hotel was the magnificent view. Each room came with its own private balcony and each morning, you were greeted with the view of the city and its backdrop of mountains and blue skies.
TRENTO RESTAURANTS: ITALIAN FOOD WITH A TWIST
As is the case with the entire country, it’s worth visiting Trento purely for its cuisine. I can honestly say that every single meal I had during my stay was incredible. At Ristorante al Vo I had a vegetable flan with Casolet cheese followed by pumpkin and rosemary lasagna. At Il Simposio I had the best bruschetta of my life served with the freshest tomatoes I’ve ever tasted.
Isn’t it crazy how different tomatoes taste in Italy versus the states? I don’t really eat them back home, but anytime I visit Italy they are what I seek out first.
What’s a trip to Italy without having some bubbly drinks? Although one of my go-to favorite drinks is the Aperol Spritz, I quickly made the switch to the locally famous “Hugo”, which is made of prosecco, elderflower syrup and mint leaves. YUM.
On the final night of the conference, we were treated to an event at Antica Birreria Pedavena which featured rooms of fresh pizza brought out by waitstaff in traditional clothing and small barrels of unlimited artisanal beer. It was wonderful!
And of course, the GELATO. Do yourself a favor and have all the gelato when you visit Trento!
Before making your way to Trento, I recommend you check out the Visit Trentino website which does an incredible job of breaking down things to do as well as upcoming city events. However, I warn you – there is SO MUCH to see and do it will make your head spin!
I spent a lot of my time walking around the city – taking in all of the incredible architecture, the colors of buildings, the smells from the restaurants and music from the streets.
The city’s most recent initiative included putting pianos on various streets to promote musical education and provide something for us visitors!
More often than not, the people who took to the piano really knew what they were doing and provided excellent entertainment as the rest of us walked around the city.
CASTELLO DEL BUONCONSIGLIO
Even though this magnificent castle stood tall a mere five minutes from my hotel, as I made my way in – it seemed as though I was stepping into a different century.
Castello del Buonconsiglio is made up various buildings which were all built at different times and eventually became the home of Prince Bishops.
The entrance alone leaves you feeling like you’re in a fairytale as you walk through the rose archways towards green gardens that lead into the monumental castle.
It was easy to spend hours here marveling at the various styles of architecture as well as learning all about its historical significance to the city and numerous works of art.
Located in the center of the city, Thun Palace is currently the city’s town hall.
As you get a closer look, you will see that parts of its facade continue to feature frescoes from times passed. Once inside its doors, the building holds a beautiful courtyard which can be accessed at no additional cost.
The palace also holds the original statue of the Fountain of Neptune. The one you see in Piazza Duomo is actually a bronze copy!
Fun fact: the reason this statue was remade in this material versus the original was because bronze won’t wear as quickly over time and could last much longer.
ORRIDO DI PONTE ALTO
The tour through the Orrido di Ponte Alto is spectacular and a must-see when you are visiting Trento. Note: you can only visit this waterfall with a trained guide and it’s well worth it.
Before heading to the actual falls, our guide explained the significance of the dam. It was built in 1850 with the sole purpose of slowing down the millions of tons of water whose power could cause mass destruction to the city center below. It is one of the oldest hydraulic powers in the world.
FUN FACT: the waterfalls reach 131ft/40m in height!
As you make your way down lower and lower, you are witness to its power and automatically mesmerized by its sheer force. The best part of the tour is going behind the waterfall for a front row view of this powerful phenomenon.
VIEWS FROM A CABLE CAR
The Funivia Trento-Sardagna was literally the first thing I saw when stepped off my bus in Trento. Naturally, I made a mental note to come back as soon as possible and see the view of Trento the ride up would provide.
On my second day in the city, I finally made my way up. You all know how much I adore heights, especially in cable cars! This was a no-brainer.
The funicular takes you up over the Adige River into the village of Sardagna where you are presented with the most breathtaking views of Trento and beyond. There is a small restaurant at the top that provides refreshing Spritz drinks and delicious food with all the views.
OTHER MUSEUMS IN TRENTO
While there are over 60 museums all around the city, the ones I was able to visit were pretty impressive.
You may not know this, but I am not the biggest fan of museums, unless of course they are fashion museums. However, the MUSE Science Museum in the center of the city was truly interesting! Perfect for kids of all ages, this museum has tons of interactive activities that will keep them entertained and interested for hours.
The MASE Museum is a little further from the city center – you actually have to drive there, but it’s only about a 20 minute ride.
The entire ride there feels like you are being taken into the countryside, especially once you arrive. As you make your way into the building itself, there are only green fields around and a feeling of complete tranquility all around you.
Once inside, it’s a very contemporary setting. Many of the exhibits were so interesting that their interpretation was left to the imagination of each visitor. A few of us were walking around together and although we were looking at the same things, had completely different meanings for each exhibit!
One of my favorite parts of the museum was a hallway full of different quotes in various odd locations on walls with mismatched fonts. When I asked one of the museum guides, they explained that the artist created these quotes based on things he had heard on the streets of Italy during his travels.
Some of them were strange, others simple and there were a few that were deeply profound.
IL DUOMO: TRENTO'S MAIN ATTRACTION
Dominating the scene in the center of the city, The Cathedral of San Vigilio, otherwise known as the city’s Duomo, was built in 1212 on the site of a 6th century church devoted to St. Vigilio.
It is also the birthplace of the infamous Council of Trent, a council appointed by the Catholic church in response to Protestant doctrines that were growing in popularity among central and northern European countries. Essentially, the purpose of the council was to condemn this Protestant doctrine and make Catholic beliefs stronger amongst the people.
The Council is also who we have to thank for the gorgeous frescoes on the building fronts all around the city. Many of these images told stories much in the way the Bible does, to teach people the ways of God and how to live a good and noble life.
Once inside, you can’t help but to be blown away by such majestic structures and beauty all around. It is evident that the church has been around for a long time, as you can see the wear and discoloration in certain areas of the interior walls.
One of the interesting things our guide pointed out was the staircase on the right side of the church when you first walk in. Technically, there is a staircase on each side of you, however only one of these leads up to the clock tower – the one on your left. The other just stops and is completely closed off to avoid anyone trying to make their way up and getting hurt.
My favorite part? The larger than life image of St. Christopher, Patron Saint of travelers.
The reason for this image and its size was that Trento was the passage for pilgrims on their way to Rome. If you were able to provide shelter to these travelers, you would put an image of St. Christopher in front of your house so that they knew you could help them. The image had to be very large in order to be seen from the mountains.
One of the best ways to discover the beauty of Trento and its rich history is to take a tour with a local. You can find a list of guided tours and activities, including costs and reviews, with my favorite company, Get Your Guide. I absolutely love GYG because they’re so easy to use and offer some of the best prices around, no matter what part of the world you are visiting!
WALKING ALONG THE STREETS OF TRENTO
It’s easy to get lost in the beauty and enthralling history of this city.
If you make your way towards the center, you will find yourself in Piazza Duomo where you can’t miss the grand Fountain of Neptune.
The reason for its large size? During the time of Napoleon, the larger the size and number of fountains within a city, the wealthier that city was. Several of the buildings within Trento have structures on the outside of them that bear gifts from Napoleon himself.
If you walk past the city center, behind the Duomo, you will find yourself at the Mura Vanghiane Walls that surround the city. They are so impressive to see in person because of their sheer size and rock material. The walls lead you to the Piazza Fierra which is a marketplace for people to sell their fresh produce, fish and other foods.
In the few days that I was able to explore this enchanting city, I fell in love with it completely. If you have the chance to visit this part of the country, I truly can’t recommend it enough.
For those of you who are looking for more extreme sports and adventures, Trento offers tons of hiking paths, white water rafting, visits to the Dolomites and so much more. The city also transforms itself into Winter Wonderland during the cold months and is the perfect getaway for a weekend on the slopes.
In the end, I’m thankful to have gone ahead with my plans of attending my first ever Traverse conference, in spite of the sadness around me. I was able to meet some pretty amazing people I now call friends, learn so many new things, but most importantly – I left Trento feeling inspired.
I guess it’s possible to find the support you’re looking for in the most unexpected of places.
And sometimes, it’s exactly what you need. 🖤
Have you ever visited Trento? Would love to hear about your experiences below.
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