The city of Trento, capital of the Trentino province of northern Italy, is not well known to tourists. However, according to a recent article by Forbes, it is one of the five most underrated Italian cities, and they advise you to visit before it is discovered by everyone else! So why should you visit Trento, and what makes it special?
1. A Renaissance City
Like many towns in Italy, Trento is primarily a Renaissance city. The historic centre is full of grand buildings, churches and piazzas. Wandering the streets is a voyage of discovery, assisted by information panels outside the buildings detailing their history and architectural periods.
But what makes Trento special among Italian cities is the quality and quantity of its frescoes. These adorn many of the palazzi, and can be seen in abundance in the magnificent Castel Buonconsiglio. The frescoes have led to Trento being known as “The Painted City”. Read more about Trento the Painted City…
2. The Long History of Trento
Trento was prominent during the Renaissance, and is probably best known for the Council of Trent, convened by the Catholic Church in 1545 in response to the Protestant Reformation. However, its history goes back into antiquity. The Romans established the city of Tridentum here, and today you can explore the remains of the ancient city. Read more about Roman Trento…
You can also see remnants of the medieval city. Most prominent is the 13th century cathedral, but there are other churches from the era, and the Castel Buonconsiglio also traces its origins to the Middle Ages. There is a section of the medieval city wall in Piazza de Fiera, and one of the original city gates at the Porta di Santa Marguerita.
Throughout its history Trento has been subject to both German and Italian occupation. Today this is evident in the mixed cultural heritage, especially in language and food.
3. Food and Wine
The relative lack of tourists means that the restaurants can concentrate on traditional Italian cuisine, often with a German influence. I enjoyed some of the best pasta I’ve had anywhere, with lots of fresh vegetables and excellent olive oil. Then there were the local specialities, like spinach dumplings and polenta with mushrooms.
The desserts can be typically Italian, or more hearty German offerings (I had apple strudel one night). My favourite was an unlikely sounding but delicious asparagus semifreddo. And, of course, there are the local wines – mostly white, but you’ll find red and sparkling as well. Look out for the Trentodoc appellation.
The best meal I had was at La Cantinota on Via San Marco. It looked a bit touristy, but the food and service were excellent. I also enjoyed Ristorante al Vo, apparently the oldest restaurant in Trento.
4. Natural Attractions
Trento is surrounded by mountains and a river, so there is plenty to explore without going far from the city. For many visitors a trip on the cable car to the village of Sardagna is a must. There are great views over Trento and the surrounding countryside, and Sardagna itself has footpaths where you can walk through woodland or beside vineyards.
Another possibility is the dramatic Gorge of Ponte Alto, a few miles from Trento. Here you will find a deep gorge with two artificial waterfalls. Read more about the Gorge of Ponte Alto…
5. Exploring Trentino-Alto Adige
The Trentino-Alto Adige region is popular for winter sports. But the Dolomite mountains are also beautiful in the summer, and Trento is an ideal base for exploring the area.
Local train services give access to historic towns like Rovereto or Bolzano (where you can visit the majestic Castel Roncolo). But you might wish to hire a car to explore the region more fully. This is a major wine-growing area, and many of the vineyards are open to visitors. And there are hundreds of medieval castles – some with impressive frescoes, all with spectacular locations. The Italian Lakes are also within easy reach.
How to get to Trento
The nearest international airport is at Verona (frequent trains between Verona and Trento take around an hour). But there are several other airports within easy reach, including Bologna, Milan and Innsbruck. Long distance European trains also pass through Trento.