Trento is the jewel of the Italian Dolomites, a city I’d never heard of until recently when a travel conference brought me to town for a weekend. It’s only an hour by train out of Verona and as soon as the journey begins the landscape transforms from flat plains to the green foothills of the Italian Alps, becoming higher and more dramatic with every passing minute. It’s quite an introduction to this underappreciated part of one of Europe’s favourite tourist destinations.
So why is Trento one of Italy’s best-kept secrets? It’s not far from the Italian Lakes which welcome thousands of tourists all year round and from the ski resorts of the Dolomites. Trento should be an easy daytrip from either of these places. It’s a laidback kind of place so maybe it doesn’t feel the need to shout about its charms, but it’s definitely worth a visit.
What to see in Trento
Trento is fairly compact with the old city centre mostly pedestrianised – all roads eventually lead to the main piazza, Piazza Duomo. This is the perfect spot to start exploring the town, with its medieval cathedral, baroque fountain of Neptune and plenty of cafes to sit and enjoy an ice cream or a glass of Trentodoc, the local sparkling white wine. Don’t miss the streets that head north from the piazza, where you’ll find some stunning frescoes on Via Rodolfo – look out for Casa Cazuffi. Many of the historic buildings are now home to shops and bars – a good excuse to check out the shops!
Trento has a long history dating back to Roman times, when it was the city of Tridentum. Just off the main square you’ll find the entrance to the Citta Sotterranea, the underground city with remains dating back to the time of Emperor Claudius in 46 BC. This was one place I didn’t have time to visit this time, along with Trento’s most famous landmark, Castello del Buonconsiglio. The Castle has a number of different buildings, with the oldest dating back to the 13th Century when it was the seat of the Bishop of Trent. Rumour has it a secret tunnel links the castle with the cathedral on the main square!
Now it’s time to walk towards the Adige river to take the cable car up to Sardagna for a spectacular view of Trento and the surrounding peaks – it runs until 10pm so it would be a perfect place to watch the sunset in summer. But first stop in at the Torre Vanga, an 11th century defence tower that’s now a free museum which documents the fierce battles fought nearby in the mountains during the First World War.
Where to eat in Trento
One of the real pleasures of Italy is sitting outside on a pretty side street in the evening, eating dinner and enjoying a glass of Italian wine or beer. Trentodoc is the local sparkling wine and many say it’s better than prosecco – wish it was more widely available here in the UK! I have to hold my hands up and say I don’t have many food tips as I only ate out twice with food being provided at the event I was attending.
I had lunch at Ristorante al Vo where the highlight was a delicious kind of mushroom flan with a cheese sauce which is typical of the area – recipe here in Italian. I also ate a delicious vegetarian pizza at one of the many restaurants down one of those side streets, but good pizza and pasta is a given in Italy! For gelato there are a few options scattered around the main square Piazza Duomo and the surrounding streets. I went for an 11pm hazelnut gelato from La Gelateria which was delicious.
How to get to Trento
Trento is an easy one hour train journey from Verona Porta Nuova station. The ticket machines are around the corner from the main hall in Verona, or you can also queue up and buy one from the ticket office – you’ll need to take a number from the machine next to the ticket office door. Some trains (IC or International trains) are more expensive than others – a single on a regional train costs about 8 euros. You can also take the Flixbus from outside the train station which drops you of in the centre of Trento. The nearest airports are Verona and Bolzano.