A few minutes from Lake Garda, come and discover the beauty of Trento. A treasure located in the north of Italy, on the valley of the river Adige, which encloses culture, art, nature, science, Italian and German tradition.
The uniqueness of the city of Trento derives from the diversity of its population and its territory. The mountains that surround the city create an Alpine atmosphere that will enchant you. Its magic derives also from the mixture of roman, medieval and renaissance traces.
In this article, I will guide you through the top five things to see in Trento. I assure you this city will not let you down.
Trento is the capital of the Trentino-Alto Adige region and of the autonomous province of Trento.
Did you know that it can boast a long history? I will tell you about it…
Trento, autonomous city for eight centuries under the Roman dominance, lost its autonomy in the 19th century, once it came under the Austrian domination. The dependence lasted until 1919, when it became part of the Kingdom of Italy. In 1948, the Trentino government acquired a special autonomy, which was extended in 1987. Today it is one of the few Italian cities belonging to an autonomous province.
The name of the city derives from Tridentum, an ancient Roman city whose ruins, streets and tunnels were hidden under the historic centre of Trento. Today they are collected in the Sas, Spazio Archeologico Sotterraneo.
The ancient Roman Tridentum was founded by the Romans in the middle of the 1st century BC, chosen for its strategic location between central Europe and the Mediterranean. Today’s Trento is built on the remains of this ancient Roman city, which has entered the list of the most beautiful underground cities in Northern Italy.
There are many things you must see in Trento, one of the places to visit near Lake Garda. Read the article to discover them all!
In order to help you in your choice, I have selected for you the top five things to see in Trento, ending with an event that you cannot miss.
1. Piazza Duomo e its treasures
Our visit starts in the core of Trento, in Piazza Duomo, political and religious center of the city.
The square is also the meeting place to relax and go for an aperitif immersed in Trento’s atmosphere. The city will conquer you as soon as you will try a glass of wine “Trento D.O.C” and a plate of cold cuts and cheese!
In this square there are many sightseeing, in just a few meters are enclosed the most important historical monuments and buildings of Trento. San Vigilio’s Cathedral, Palazzo Pretorio and Torre Civica, Neptune Fountain, and the frescos at Case Cazzuffi-Rella, “the Painted Houses”.
San Vigilio’s Cathedral, known as the monumental Duomo of Trento, was built in honor of San Vigilio, Trento’s patron saint. It was built as a cemeterial church, located outside the walls of Tridentum, ancient roman city. It guards San Vigilio’s and the martyrs Martirio, Sisinio and Alessandro’s remains.
The cathedral is Trento archdiocese’s main church. The construction in roman style, desired by the bishop Federico Vanga and guided by Adamo D’Arogno, dates back to the year 1212. The works of the construction finished in 1321, thanks to D’Arogno’s successors, who followed the original project. In the following centuries, gothic, baroque and renaissance elements have been added at the majestic building.
San Vigilio’s Cathedral hosted the Council of Trento in the years 1545-1563. It took place in order to oppose the spread of the protestant religion, leading to the Catholic reform, the Counter-Reformation. In the southern part of the church, there is Capella del Crocifisso, whereas the Rosone (also “the Fortune’s Wheel”) stands out in the transept.
Now I am going to reveal you something extraordinary. Basilica Paleocristina’s ruins lay under the cathedral’s floor, which belonged to Tridentum, ancient roman city built for the worship of the martyrs.
The structure of San Vigilio’s Cathedral is built in Palazzo Pretorio and Torre Civica.
Torre Civica, symbol of municipal power, is the emblem of the mediaeval town’s extension over the roman one. It was built in 1150, on the ruins of Porta Veronensis. Besides beating the time, the tower served also as a detention place, hosting the people pending for trial. In occasion of the Council of Trento in 1545, the tower had been embellished with frescoes and a new clock.
Palazzo Pretorio was built in 1220 and used for different variety of purposes. It was the bishops’ residence during the Middle Ages, a prison, a tribunal, town hall and, nowadays, seat of the Tridentine Diocesan Museum.
The Tridentine Diocesan Museum preserves the artistic and cultural heritage of the Trentino churches from the 11th to 19th centuries and the Treasure of the Cathedral. At the museum, you can discover all the history and works relating to the Council of Trento. The museum was created to protect Trentino’s artistic heritage from destruction during the war. Today it contains 17,200 works, of which 286 are on display. These numbers are constantly changing since every year churches deposit there more and more works. In fact, one of the museum’s tasks is to house the ecclesiastical assets from the Trentino diocese on deposit.
At the center of Piazza Duomo stands the Neptune Fountain, built by Francesco Antonio Giongo of Lavarone between 1767 and 1769. The glorious fountain dominating the square, features the God Neptune holding a trident, in honor of the ancient name of the city of Trento, Tridentum. The central statue you see is a copy, finely crafted by Davide Rigatti in 1942. The original one is kept in the courtyard of Palazzo Thun.
Among the historic buildings that populate Piazza Duomo, I suggest you not to miss Case Cazzuffi-Rella, better known as “the Painted Houses”. Raise your head to admire the frescoes. Dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries, they are part of Trentino’s artistic and local heritage.
Let’s go into fairytales thanks one of the places to visit near Lake Garda: Buonconsiglio Castle, the most important castle in Trento.
2. Buonconsiglio Castle
Let’s carry on our visit of Trento by discovering its most important castle, an unmissable stop on the list of the top five things to see in Trento.
Buonconsiglio Castle is the region’s most important historical and artistic monument and one of the best examples of Italian Renaissance Art.
In the origins, it was the site of the bishop’s residence but, following the end of his power, the castle fell into decay. Later it was converted into a barracks. It was not until 1924 that it regained its former glory, when it was turned into a National Museum by Giuseppe Gerola. In 1973, it became the Provincial Art Museum of Trento. Today the Castle is the main site of the Trentino Museum System, a union of five castles in Trentino: Stenico, Beseno, Thun and Caldes.
The various sections and structures of the entire castle, one of the largest fortified complexes in the Alps, are enclosed within the 13th century walls. The castle consists of several buildings constructed in different periods. The oldest building in the fortress is Castelvecchio. It dates back to the first half of the 13th century and was converted into a lordly residence by Bishop George of Liechtenstein. From the Venetian loggia you can enjoy a view of the city and immerse yourself in nature of the courtyard with overlapping loggias.
The first core is connected to Torre dell’Aquila, a defensive area on the eastern side of the city. It is famous for siting the Gothic masterpiece Ciclo dei Mesi. The walls of the tower are decorated with a pictorial cycle containing frescoes of precious historical and artistic testimony. The social and economic life of the nobles and peasants in the 1300s and 1400s is depicted in them.
The other nuclei of Buonconsiglio Castle are the Magno Palazzo, emblem of the Trentino Renaissance period, and the Giunta Albertina, in late 17th century Baroque style.
Did you know that the castle hides an obscure trace?
The splendor of the Buonconsiglio Castle was tainted in 1916 by the execution of Cesare Battisti, a famous patriot and irredentist from Trentino. In his honor, the city of Trento had the Cesare Battisti Mausoleum built on the Doss Trento hill by Ettore Fagioli. The majestic mausoleum containing Battisti’s remains, visible from every corner of the city and inaugurated in 1935 in the presence of King Vittorio Emanuele III.
After the appealing history of Trento, one of the places to visit near Lake Garda, let’s go into the science.
3. Museum MUSE and the “Albere” district
Among the five things to see in Trento, MUSE is the third. It is the museum of science realized by the architect Renzo Piano, opened to the public in 2013.
The fantastic architecture integrates the natural wonders of Trento with a journey to the future and in the past, reminding us the importance of sustainability.
The MUSE was built recreating the outline of the surrounding mountains of Trento relating to Dolomite’s landscape. The interior of the 6 floors museum is characterized by multimedia installations and exhibiting spaces to go into our planet’s scientific and natural wonders.
The structure deserves a particular mention since it has received the gold level certificate of the Leed, becoming a true example of an eco-friendly construction.
At the museum, you will feel as the protagonist thanks to its interactive itineraries and the suggestive modern spaces depicting science, nature, technology and sustainability.
Alpine prehistory and global future, geology, biodiversity and environmental risks, sustainability and innovation are waiting for you for an educational and funny day.
Come discover dinosaurs at MUSE, in the biggest dinosaur’s exhibition of the Alps. Have fun with your children at the “Maxiooh!”, an interactive learning space for children untill 5 years old. Challenge yourself at the “Fablab”, a digital fabrication workshop where you can bring your own ideas to life using a 3D printer. Finally, enter the tropical greenhouse, where you will get catapulted into the wild environment of Tanzania, where a MUSE’s ecological monitoring center is located.
You can find the museum in ‘Le Albere’ residential district, also designed by the architect Renzo Piano. This is an important project for the city, as it has enabled the environmental redevelopment of the district. Previously it was entirely occupied by a factory, now brought back to life. Flats, offices, bars and shops now populate the area, dominated by the Central University Library (BUC).
The spectacular MUSE, an essential stop on the list of the five things to see in Trento, is the center of the city’s network of science museums. I have created for you a list of the science museums you can find in Trento.
- Geological Museum of the Dolomites, Pedrazzo
- Alpine Botanical Garden, Viote del Monte Bondone
- Terrace of the Stars, Viote del Monte Bondone
- Pile-Dwelling Museum, Lake Ledro
- Limnological Station, Lake Tovel
If you are planning to stay in the region for few days and would like to visit the surroundings of Trento, add them to your list!
What if I told you that from Trento you can reach an enchanting village to enjoy a breathtaking view of the city? Discover with me the wonders of this place to visit near Lake Garda.
4. Sardagna and Monte Bondone
The ideal place for a romantic sunset is without any doubt Sardagna, small hamlet of Trento.
The village is located at an altitude of 350m.
A 2-cabin cable car, situated in the east side of the river Adige, connects Sardagna to the city center. In just 4 minutes, you can reach the village, travelling alongside Monte Bondone.
Once arrived, a walk in the uphill road will lead you at the village, from where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city.
You can bring the bicycle in the cable car for Sardagna, the starting point of the Chestnut Trail, immersed in the lush alpine flora.
From Sardagna it is also possible to set off on an adventure towards Monte Bondone.
This place of great natural wealth is home to the Alpine Botanical Garden and Nature Reserve. At the foot of the three peaks of the mountain, situated at an altitude of 2,000 meters, lies the Viote basin.
Monte Bondone, known as the panoramic terrace of the Alps, offers in winter an adrenaline-pumping ski area. 20 km of slopes for winter sports, cross-country center, chairlift and snow park. The ‘Gran Pista’ of Monte Bondone, with its 800 m2, is among the 100 best ski slopes in the world.
Following the Three Peaks Trail, it is possible to trek through the mountain’s vegetation. A stop at an alpine hut, where you can enjoy local food, is the perfect way to take a break in the mountains of Trentino.
Also in the evening, fun is guaranteed thanks to the Night&Day Happy Snow, an après ski with music and entertainment.
Read on for more information about the excursions in the Trentino area on the list of five things to see in Trento.
The wonders of the Trentino region continue… now I will tell you about the Valle dei Laghi, another place to visit near Lake Garda.
5. Valle dei Laghi and Lake Toblino
Trentino territory offers several opportunities for excursions.
In summer you can wander around natural local beauties by bike or by foot, while in winter you can experience the adrenaline fall lines.
In proximity of Trento, Valle dei Laghi is the perfect place to see if you love bicycles and foot excursions. Valle dei Laghi, or Valle sacra, is located among Trento, Riva del Garda, the mountains Bondone and Stivo and the Prealpi Gardesane. Formed by lakes, vineyards, villages and medieval castles, Valle dei Laghi deserves a visit!
At Valle dei Laghi you can visit Lake Lamar, Lake Toblino, Lake Santa Massenza, Lake Cavedina, Roggia di Calvino and Drena Castel.
Among the lakes of Valle dei Laghi, one of the most beautiful is Lake Toblino, known as Trentino’s most romantic lake.
H2 The limitless opportunities of Valle dei Laghi, a must see stop on the list of five things to see in Trento, continue…
Nestled among hills, woods and vineyards, Lake Toblino is safeguarded as Biotope by the autonomous province of Trento since 1992. A boardwalk path runs along the shore of the lake. Following the path, you can reach Toblino Castel and Maso Toresella.
Toblino Castel, a XII-century construction, is nowadays home of a well-known restaurant with a panoramic terrace. This is why you can visit only the exterior part. The interior of the castle is opened to the public only in special situations, such as weddings or events. In any case, you can admire its majesty, which made it one of the most beautiful castles of Trentino region and an important lacustrine fortification.
Maso Toresella is a XIX century villa and a renowned winemaker in Trentino. As Toblino Castel, Maso Toresella can be visited only in special occasions too.
A canal connects Lake Toblino and Lake Santa Massenza, easily reachable on foot following the path that runs along the lakes.
At Valle dei Laghi, you can take the Lasino-Cavedine archeological route. In this 14km path you can discover archeological finds and immerse yourself in the local vineyards and orchards. On the other hand, in Drena, the bravest of you can take Rio Sallagoni via ferrata, to reach the beautiful Drena Castle.
In the next few lines, I will tell you about Trento’s most important event.
To experience the magic of Christmas, what better Italian city than Trento? Let’s discover what this place to visit near Lake Garda has to offer.
Events in Trento: the Christmas market
Is there a better time to visit Trento than during Christmas?
If you are in Trento during the winter period, you definitely have to go to the Christmas Markets. These are held every year in Piazza Fiera and Piazza Cesare Battisti.
About a month before Christmas the first Christmas stalls are settled and the city’s atmosphere fills with cheerfulness, joy and warmth.
You should know that what distinguishes this Christmas market from the others is the origin of the goods on display. In fact, each stand only displays products of certified local origin and manufacture.
Approximately more than seventy stalls are housed in Piazza Fiera. You’ll be spoilt with choice in these Christmas little houses. You won’t find just handicrafts, games and Christmas decorations, but also local food and typical Trentino products. A great opportunity to lose yourself in the scent of cheeses, cold cuts, mulled wine, strudel, dumplings and many other typical Trentino products while searching for the perfect Christmas gift.
The Christmas lights and the holiday atmosphere will make your day magical… Even more if the sky decides to show you bits of its snowflakes.
In addition to the stalls, many other events will take place during the Christmas period to entertain you and make you experience the magic of Trento.
Now that my recommendations have come to an end, I can only wish you an amazing journey to this fantastic and unique destination.