Located in northern Italy bordering Switzerland and Austria, the two provinces that make up the Trentino and Alto Adige region are famous for nature, outdoor adventure, culture, and cuisine. The food and languages of the provinces are a bit different, with Trentino more Italian than Alto Adige, although both were once part of Austria. In Alto Adige, German is used as much as Italian with street signs written in both languages, while the Tirolese way of cooking and dressing are also traditional to the area.
The wine industry is prominent in Trentino and Alto Adige. Both offer magnificent scenery that includes the glaciers in Adamello-Brenta Park, the Dolomites, the Adige River, Lake Braies, and Lake Garda, with coniferous forests and majestic peaks. Tourism is generally focused on recreational activities and relaxation with summer hiking and winter skiing the most popular pursuits. Stunning castles and battlements reveal the region’s past, often perched on high vantage points providing breathtaking views.
Visiting Buonconsiglio Castle is one of the top things to do in Trento. A symbol of the city originally dating to the 13 th century but expanded over the years with Renaissance influences, it sits on a small, rocky hill just outside Trento’s city center. It was built as a fortress to control the road leading to German and eventually became the residence of the bishop-princes, before and after the famous Council of Trent. Today, it’s part of a sprawling complex with gardens and a regional art museum called the Castello del Buonconsiglio Museum.
The art collections range from manuscripts, Carolingian sculptures, drawings, and paintings to archaeological items and numismatic collections. Among its valuable Gothic and Baroque frescoes is Ciclo dei Mesi, known as one of the world’s finest frescoes. The highlight of the castle is the view of the Trento and the mountains in the distance that can be enjoyed from one of the terraces.
The hub of life in nearly every Italian city is the main square and in Trento, that’s Piazza Duomo. You’ll want to spend time here, with many cafes for unwinding with a glass of wine while people- watching. It’s also home to the Trento Duomo, San Vigilio Cathedral, the historic museum of Casa Cazuffi-Rella, and the Tridentine Diocesan Museum. Trento’s cathedral was constructed under Prince-Bishop Uldarico II on a site that once held an ancient temple and dates back to the 11th century.
The main façade faces west and is dominated by the bell tower while the main portal features a lunette frescoed with the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Vigilius. At the top, there’s a small round window and loggia that were added during late 19 th -century restorations. The Museum sits within two medieval houses, Casa Cazuffi and Casa Rella, while the Tridentine Diocesan Museum features art dating between the 11 th and 19 th centuries.
As Trento is in the mountains, you’ll find many beautiful viewpoints but there is none better than what you’ll enjoy by riding the Sardagna cable car. It runs from the station near the Ponte Lorenzo bridge across from the Adige and ascends Mount Bodone to the small village of Sardagna. It isn’t for those who have an extreme fear of heights, but if you can manage it you’ll enjoy the spectacular overlook, Terrazza Panoramica Busa Degli Orsi.
The II Sentiero dei Castagni hiking trail leads to the summit of the mountain if you’re looking for an active challenge and it’s also possible to hike the old Roman road from the village center to Parco delle Poze for more panoramic views. If you can time your trip to ride the cable car around sunset, you’ll get the very best light. Once the sun goes down, there’s a café for enjoying dinner too.
Located in Trento’s Le Albere district, about 20 minutes on foot from the city center, MUSE (the Museum of Natural Science), is a must for families with kids with many activities geared for younger visitors, including live experiments and interactive paths. Spread over six floors, it’s mostly centered around the Alps, fauna, and flora but with a focus on the physics side of things.
An exhibition course is built like a mountain, telling the story of how the Dolomites were formed, revealing the biodiversity of the Alps, the first human settlements, and the emergence of living things with a dinosaur exhibition. You’ll take an imagined descent along a mountain path following 26 different environments which include two aquariums on the third floor, enter a large tunnel for a “glacial experience” on the fourth floor, and you can head out onto a terrace that offers a magnificent 360-degree view overlooking the Adige Valley.
The Ponte Algo Gorge is a narrow canyon with two spectacular waterfalls just a short distance from the city center of Trento and a must-visit if you’re here during the warmer months of the year. There are stairs that descend into the gorge that was carved by the Fersina River, but before you go down you’ll meet with a guide as it can’t be explored independently.
Your guide will provide insight into the historical importance of the gorge along with other pertinent details before leading you safely around. It includes an in-depth look at the dams built to slow the course of the river before heading to a panoramic point overlooking one of the waterfalls flowing beneath a picturesque bridge. Walk along the river to appreciate how the water has carved the rock and then conclude at the oldest dam where you’ll admire another waterfall and the river as it rushes through the gorge.
Adamello Brenta Natural Park is Trentino’s largest protected area and a UNESCO Global Geopark, listed for representing a key area for understanding the geological history of the Alps. It’s known for its geodiversity, due to the presence of two large, mountainous massifs, Brenta and Adamello, which are different geomorphologically and geologically.
Located in the Italian sector of the Rhaetian Alps between the Sole, Non, and Giudicarie valleys that were carved by glaciers, there are waterfalls and abundant wildlife which include the brown bear, the symbol of the park which was once on the brink of extinction. Today, thanks to reintroduction intervention, the brown bear population is growing and there are many other animals too, including ibex, deer, beech martens, badgers, weasels, and foxes. Visitors can hike, climb to Adamello glaciers, one of the largest glaciers in Europe, enjoy gentle strolls alongside fairytale-like lakes, and cross a suspension bridge with spectacular views.
Among the long list of other outdoor adventures is the opportunity to raft the River Noce. National Geographic ranked it on a list of the top ten rivers in the world for rafting and guided tours can be enjoyed by the inexperienced and experienced alike. All you have to do is know how to swim. The professional guides provide all the essential instructions that allow you to enjoy the thrill of riding the rapids while breathing in the fresh mountain air, with the average trip taking about two hours.
If you aren’t into an adrenaline rush, you can choose to ride the calmer stretches instead of the rapids. There are many options that depart from various towns in the Trentino-Alto Adige region, including Dimaro and Val di Sole where you travel down the river while taking in views of picturesque bridges and castles. Photos and videos are often included too.
Trentino-Alto Adige is home to part of Lake Garda, the famous lake you’ve probably heard about that’s spread between the three provinces of Trentino, Veneto, and Lombardy. But what about Lake Braies? Also known as Lake Prags, it’s located in the Prags Dolomites and features brilliant turquoise water that’s often perfectly still, providing a mirror-like reflection of the snowy Alps. It’s become more well-known thanks to serving as a filming site for the Italian TV series, “Un Passo dal Cielo.” One of the most Instagrammable places, it’s worth visiting just to capture a photo, but you can also rent a boat for another breathtaking view from the water.
Only the hardiest dare to jump into the frigid water, but there are many other things to do here throughout the year, including hiking the trail that follows the lake’s shoreline. You’ll want to arrive early in the morning, especially during the summer, to enjoy a more tranquil setting and unspoiled nature without the crowds. The lake is busiest between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The largest massif in the Dolomites, Italy’s most famous mountain range, is Pale di San Martino. Located in the southernmost part of the range in eastern Trentino and Veneto, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site with its jagged rocky peaks often featured in many iconic photos of Italy and has inspired many artists. If you’re up for a big adventure, you can enjoy backpacking with overnight stays available at five mountain huts providing support points for the Palaronda routes.
It’s sure to be an unforgettable alpine experience, overnighting in an enchanting refuge complete with glorious sunsets that feature the famous Dolomite alpenglow and sunrises over the mountains too. The Pale di San Martino also provides evidence of tropical sea with coral reefs that were here some 260 million years ago. Depending on the light, the imposing pinnacles appear in an area of diverse colors from a rose hue in the morning to tangerine sunsets.
Located in Bolzano, the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology is one of Italy’s most famous museums, and the premier museum in this region. It’s located just outside the historic town center, with the star attraction “Frozen Fritz-Otzi”, also known as the “Iceman.” An over 5,100- year-old corpse, he was found frozen in the Alps by hikers in a melted glacier and was naturally mummified. He lived between 3350 and 3105 BC and was discovered in the Otztal Alps along the border of Italy and Austria in September 1991. He’s the oldest known natural mummy in Europe with his remains and personal belongings on exhibit here. He still has his original clothing and equipment. By visiting you’ll gain remarkable insight into what prehistoric life might have been like and how the “Iceman” and others like him would have lived. Every year there are various special exhibitions on different archaeological topics focused on the region supplementing the museum’s permanent display.
Another must-see castle for anyone visiting Trentino-Alta Adige, Castel Roncolo is an imposing structure that’s located near the city of Bolzano, standing the test of time since the 13 th century. Also known as Runkelstein Castle, or Schloss Runkelstein in German, it was built in 1237, but less than 40 years later suffered significant damage during a siege by the Count of Tyrol, Meinhard II.
In 1385, brothers Franz and Niklaus Vintler, members of a wealthy merchant family in Bolzano, purchased and renovated the castle. It changed hands a number of times later and was extended. In 1893, the castle was gifted to the municipality of Bolzano and today, public tours are available allowing visitors to explore the interior which includes the world’s largest cycle of beautifully preserved secular medieval frescoes. Five rooms in the west wing are painted with scenes from medieval life at the court, ranging from horse trails and hunts to everyday life.
Rovereto is considered a hidden gem with its postcard-perfect historic center, rich history, and one of Europe’s best modern art collections. This is where the famous composer Mozart performed his first concert in Italy, on Christmas Day in 1769. It’s also home to the oldest coffee roasting company in Italy, which has been serving delicious cups since 1790.
You’ll see a gorgeous church standing on the sun-soaked square in the historic center too. The Church of San Marco was built in the 15th century when Rovereto was part of the Republic of Venice. Step inside to see the organ that Mozart used for his infamous first concert here. While you’re here, you can also visit MART, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento, which features one of the most impressive collections you’ll see on the continent. The building that it’s housed within is impressive as well and includes a lovely, covered courtyard.
Bolzano makes an ideal base for any wine enthusiast. It’s one of the best places to visit in the region with generations of winemakers who’ve tended the vines, producing some of the top wines in Italy, including Merlot, Cabernet, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio, among others. The South Tyrolean Wine Route spans over 93 miles and is an ideal place to start with many wineries offering intriguing cellars for tasting, touring, and buying. It’s highly walkable, with stretches that include multiple vineyards, wineries, estates, and restaurants that serve mouthwatering fare that can be paired with the regional wines within walking distance.
Or you can rent an e-bike to leisurely explore the lush route while enjoying views of the grapes that are laced over pergolas and crisp apples maturing on the trees in the orchards. You’ll enjoy the jaw-dropping views of sparkling lakes and soaring mountain peaks along with the opportunity to chat with the growers and learn about their techniques.
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