Last updated on November 23, 2019
Tucked away in the Italian Alps, the tiny town of Trento charms with castles, palaces and pizza galore.
Whether you’re visiting for a lazy weekend or an adventurous hiking/ski holiday in the nearby Dolomites, here are the best things to see and do in the Alpine oasis of Trento, Italy.
Meet Trento the Misfit
Nothing about Trento made any sense to me until I learned that it used to belong to Austria, and Austria-Hungary.
There was just something too pristine about it to be Italy. Too orderly, too clean, too mountain-y. And the restaurant staff didn’t seem quite right either – far too polite and attentive to resemble what I had experienced elsewhere in Italia.
But then I ate the pizza and guzzled the beer, got locked in at an underground bar until 6am and explored the castle, the Renaissance palazzos, and suddenly everything made sense.
Trento is Italian alright, but with a twist.
Meet Trento the Charmer
Trento is a pristine little town of sweet honeysuckle and bird song, of more pizza parlours and spritz bars than you can shake a triple-scoop gelato cone at.
But more than its sleepy vibes and spire-spiked skyline, Trento is known for its prime geographic location, hemmed in by the colossal Dolomites – aka the ‘Alpi Dolomitiche’ – which tumble out along the northern expanse of Italy’s Alps.
This makes it a playground for flâneurs such as myself, who love to drift from museum and art gallery to cafe and restaurant, but also a popular destination for hikers, bikers and that rare breed who crave the distilled sense of solitude that can only be found between basecamp and summit.
Things to Do in Trento
1. Get Lost in the Historic Heart
Life in Trento revolves around the ornate Piazza del Duomo. Here you will find the city’s iconic Neptune Fountain, which symbolises the area’s abundance of water, and the hulking 13th century Cathedral of San Vigili, which honours the city’s patron saint, Saint Vigilius.
You’ll also see the imposing Torre Civica (Civic Tower), which was built as the city’s main watchtower. It was once located near the city courts and housed a series of jails. It was also used to make death sentence announcements. Think about that while you wander around the square licking your gelato.
My favourite elements of the Piazza del Duomo, however, are the multicoloured houses, which now harbour all sorts of cute little cafes, bars and restaurants. The most impressive are the Case Cazuffi-Rella, which are adorned with intricate paintings that depict life back in the 16th century.
Tip: There’s plenty to explore in Trento’s old town and I’d suggest doing this walking tour to hear all the stories and make sure you don’t miss anything. It’s not the cheapest tour, but it does include entry to all of the main sites and attractions.
2. Eat and Drink Like a Local
Like all great Italian cities, Trento is peppered with little pastry shops, pizzerias and pasta restaurants.
Ristorante Pizzeria Chistè Trento is a nice little place for a casual lunch in the centre – fantastic outdoor terrace if you can get a table.
Pizzeria Al Duomo was where I had one of the best pizzas in my life.
Orso-Grigio Ristorante & Pizza is a more elegant spot with perfect risottos, salads and pasta (also pizza of course). Great local wines too.
H/àkka/ is a subterranean speakeasy that never seems to close. I stumbled out of here at 6am after what, as far as I can remember, was a grand old time.
La Bella Vita is an altogether more salubrious and elegant wine bar specialising in sparkling wines.
3. Day-Trip to Bolzano and Take on the Dolomites
The main draw for many who travel to Trento, the Dolomites occupy a chunk of the Italian Alps and border France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia.
You may also want to head to Bolzano, just under an hour from Trento, which is a tiny city of a similar ilk and considered to be the “Gateway of the Dolomites”.
My good friends Mark and Paul from Anywhere We Roam have a fantastic guide to hiking the Dolomites – stunning photography as well!
Trento to Bolzano: Bolzano is less than an hour away from Trento on the train.
Trento to the Dolomites: Trento is an ideal base from which to enjoy day hikes in the Dolomites, especially if you rent your own car. There’s also a direct bus (line B101), which departs from Trento four times daily and stops at Dolomite stations including Moena, Soraga, Vigo di Fassa, Canazei, Alba di Canazei and Penia.
Tip: If you’re short on time and want to see/experience as much of the Dolomites as possible then you may consider joining a guided tour from Bolzano – especially if you’re travelling as a family/group.
4. Peruse Trento’s Palaces
Jutting off Piazza del Duomo, the boulevard of Via Rodolfo Belenzani is lined with fresco-bedazzled 16th and 17th-century buildings, including the Palazzo Fugger Galasso which is also known as the Devil’s Palace due to the fact that it has been said that it was built by the devil himself.
5. Don’t Miss the Chiesa di Santa Maria Maggiore
This ornate church is understandably outshone by the Duomo, but it’s still worth a visit and is located within stumbling distance from the main square.
Be sure to study the intricate stucco detail and the elegant bell tower, as well as the Baroque altars within.
6. Conquer the Castle
The Castello del Buonconsiglio is one of Trento’s most emblematic icons and was home to the city’s prince-bishops from the 13th century to the end of the 18th century.
Built over many years, it consists of many different architectural styles, although what surprised me most was just how well-preserved it is as a whole.
The gardens are free to peruse, although I’d say the €10 fee to go inside is worth it, especially as it means you can see the 15th century Church of San Pietro.
If you love history then you’ll also want to seek out the remains of the Mura Vanghiane ramparts, which once surround the entire city.
7. Hit the Museums and Galleries
Trento might be small, but it’s home to a mighty selection of cultural centres.
MART – The Museo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto is, as the name hints, quite a spectacular modern art gallery.
Museo Diocesano Tridentino – Dedicated to religious history, this classic museum is located (literally) under the Cathedral of Saint Vigilius and houses relics dating back as far as the 9th century.
Museo dell’Aeronautica Gianni Caproni – Located at the Trento airport, a 15-minute car ride away, this is a must for anyone with a penchant for antique aviation.
MUSE – This word-class science museum is located on the River Adige, just a 20-minute walk from Piazza del Duomo. A great day out for families.
Tridentum. S.A.S.S. – Beneath Trento’s surface lies an ancient Roman settlement called Tridentum, which dates back to the first century BC.
8. Picnic in the Park
I stumbled upon the Giardino Pubblico S. Marco (gardens) by accident and I felt like I was one of few tourists to do so. At lunch time its sunflowers attracted busy bees and locals in search of a peaceful place to picnic.
It’s also home to the seriously idyllic <href=”https://goo.gl/maps/gvT1e7fQnGeGoU4R8″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>Terramia Ristorante Mediteraneo, which stood out as one of the most desirable restaurants in Trento (though sadly I didn’t have time to check it out myself).
9. Hit the Slopes
The region of Trentino is oft lauded for its modern ski resorts and many hundreds of miles of perfect ski slopes. The star attraction is Mount Paganella, located about an hour out of Trento.
Other famous hubs include San Martino di Castrozza, Madonna di Campiglio, Cavalese and Canazei.
10. Visit Lake Garda
One of Italy’s most famous and beautiful lakes, Lake Garda is located around an hour away from Trento and makes for an ideal day-trip destination at any time of year.
Make it Happen
When to Go to Trento
Trento is a bonafide all-year-round destination with sun-drenched summers and snowy winters.
How to Get to Trento
The closest airports for Trento are Verona (the largest and closest) and Venice “Marco Polo” and Bergamo-Oro al Serio. You can then jump on a train or bus and be in Trento within an hour or two. You may also want to rent a car at the airport if you plan on exploring the Dolomites and/or visiting Lake Garda.
How to Get Around Trento and the Region of Trentino
Again, a rental car is probably going to be the most convenient if you’re planning on exploring a bit – I always use Discover Car Hire to find the best local deals.
Trento is also really well connected by rail and is served by an excellent bus network. I used the Omio app to book all of my buses and trains for this trip and found it to be invaluable.
Where to Stay in Trento, Italy
Most of Trento’s accommodation, at least in the city centre, consists of high quality B&Bs and guest houses. There aren’t too many apartments or hotels to choose from. All of the following suggestions are located within easy walking distance of Trento’s city centre.
Best B&Bs in Trento
Torrione Trento is an exceptionally well regarded guest house located just 350m from Piazza Duomo. Ideal for couples. Double rooms from €80 per night.
B&B Tamarelli is located 0.8km from Piazza Duomo and offers excellent value for families with quadruple rooms from around €100. Doubles also available from €70.
B&B Lo Scrigno del Duomo has what is arguably the best location in all of Trento and literally overlooks Piazza Duomo. Double rooms available (surprisingly) from as little as €90-100 a night, while there are also family rooms from around €150. If you can find availability for your dates, book it!
B&B Rachele is a good budget option located right next to the castle. I stayed here for 5 nights and paid less than €250 for a double room with private bathroom and a decent breakfast. The rooms and location are great, although the manager wasn’t exactly the most graceful host. But as I say, excellent value for the money.
Best Apartments in Trento
As I mentioned above, there isn’t an awful lot of choice when it comes to apartments in Trento. Your best bet is probably Airbnb, though there isn’t much to choose from even there.
Best Hotels in Trento
Hotel America is a fantastic 3-star hotel right in the heart of the old town. Doubles available from around €130 a night. Private parking available nearby from €10.
The NH Trento is an impressive 4-star hotel located a 5-minute walk from the old town. Doubles available from around €100 a night. Private parking available from €7.
The Hotel Buonconsiglio is a good value 4-star hotel located within walking distance from the city centre. Doubles available from €100 a night. Public parking is available nearby from €10.
Are you going to Trento? Or have you already been? Tell us about your favourite parts of the city and ask your questions in the comments below!