Updated: 19th May 2020
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PRODUCED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH VISIT TRENTINO
Now, I know the title of this article is a big claim and while Sicily and Sardinia are still on my ‘must-visit’ list, Trentino as a region truly did blow me away. I fell in love with Venice multiple times many years ago, adored visiting Cinque Terre in the quieter winter months and have blissfully got lost in the likes of Rome, Florence, Tuscany and more recently, Emilia Romagna.
But Trentino was something different entirely. Unlike cities like Milan or Rome where you battle through crowds no matter what time of year, Trentino provided all the magic, passion and charm of Italy but with space to breath, to relax and rejuvenate. I returned from my visit to Trento, the perfectly sized capital of the region and the lakes of Valsugana feeling refreshed and utterly obsessed.
Let me tell you why Trentino is a region you need on your radar!
Trento is the perfect sized city break
The capital city of the region, Trento is a perfectly sized city break. It won’t exhaust you like a weekend in Rome, but it still provides ample opportunity to experience the best of Italy; culture, art, food, more food and that relaxed vibe that makes Italy so unique.
The cobbled streets of the city were spotless, a far cry from some of the filthier areas of the larger Italian cities, while the impressive Buonconsiglio Castle, galleries and outside frescos provide enough culture without being overwhelming. Over a weekend I could walk the streets with no rush to be anywhere, turning down little alleyways, grabbing drinks in the main square under the impressive cathedral and just enjoy being in a city where the locals seemed as excited to be there as I did.
Watersport lovers are spoilt
With intense winds throughout the year thanks to the mountain ranges and the numerous lakes throughout Trentino, it is a haven for water sports lovers. That said, the wind is not everywhere throughout the region and seems to be where you want it to be magically; fear not, it won’t affect lazy days sun lounging.
From stand up paddleboarding on Lake Levico with Oz SUP to water skiing with a world champion, the lazy to the adventurous can get their kick on the waters here. Kayaking, windsurfing, jet-skis; they all are easily accessible at one of the many lakes, especially in the Valusgana region.
Lakes that will blow your mind
Lake Garda might be the most famous of the Trentino regions lakes, and Garda is actually split between three different regions with the northern tip, the best for watersports, being the part that is in Trentino.
Nearly 300 lakes make up Trentino though so you can easily find your perfect place to kick back and relax. From perfectly still reflections of towering mountains to wave-ridden waters for the adventurous, the lakes are the ideal place to escape to for a long weekend.
I was amazed to find out that numerous lakes had been awarded the blue flag award for beach and water quality, something I had assumed was just reserved for beautiful beaches. Once you see the clear cleanliness of the lakes and the families relaxing on the beachside shores though, you’ll quickly see why this region deserves these accolades. I stayed in the Valsugana region for my lake-side escape and it was the perfect getaway.
Mountains full of hidden gems
Trentino is billed as the ‘sunny side of the Alps’ thanks to its great weather and the imposing ranges in the region. While the Dolomites are of course the most famous and majestic, the pre-alp mountains are less challenging to explore and also impressive.
Trentino makes full use of the spectacle of their mountains by hosting incredible concerts in the open-air spaces where classical musicians turn sunrises into breathtaking magic through their performances. With a whole plethora of events in Trentino hosted in these mountains throughout the year, don’t be surprised to stumble upon some hidden gems as you venture to higher grounds.
Monasteries in the mountains
A pretty unique reason to visit Trentino is the St Romedius Shrine. The fantastic hike up here, through overhanging cliffs that get higher and higher, will bring you to a dense forest, as you climb the final stairs the Shrine appears amongst the trees, its imposing design suddenly revealing itself.
The unique design of this Shrine is because it’s various parts come from different stages of history and are combined, with some of the relics dating back to the 12th century! It’s a beautiful area to continue hiking around, and with plenty of trees cover to keep you fresh.
Glacier lakes reflecting like mirrors
While the lakes of Valsugana are spectacular and fantastic for watersports, and the part of Lake Garda that belongs to Trentino the same, Lake Tovel is another reason to visit Trentino.
Located in the mountains, it’s a bit of a drive to get to, but you’ll feel like you have arrived in Canada when you do. If flat, this near mirror-like lake, reflecting the alpine trees and with various shades of green and blue is a peaceful escape. Walk around it, sleep in a lodge, and enjoy nature!
Wine tasting with a special story
At Cantina Romanese, you can enjoy a very special wine tasting, just a short drive from Lake Levico. In fact, some of their wines are actually aged in the lake, stored at the bottom for temperature control, and then scuba divers bring it back up when it is ready for consumption. Pretty amazing eh?
The vineyard and home are lovely, and the tasting will be fantastic, especially with Trento Doc, the local sparkling wine on the menu.
Secondly, it’s a family business continued by Andrea and Giorgio to honour the grapes and work of their father. One of their wines is named Gabriella, in honour of their mother, and the label of the wine is embossed with an image of her. Their grandfather sadly lost his sight before Gabriella was born, and so could never see what his daughter looked like – this bottle allows anyone with sight limitations to trace Gabriella and ‘see’ her through the design of the bottle — highly recommended!
Star gazing in the mountains
The region of Trentino is celebrated for its stargazing, especially in the remote mountains where minimal light pollution exists.
There are also a few dedicated observatories across the region, like the snazzy silver Terrazza Delle Stelle which I visited. Inside, a huge telescope will help you not see just the stars and planets, but learn about them, although you’ll need to make arrangements to visit in advance with an official guide.
There are plenty of castles across the Trentino region, especially in Valsgana and Val di Non. Some of the stand out ones for me include Castle Thun, which sits impressively with mountains in the background, and Castle Valer, surrounded by apple trees and still family-owned. In fact, when you book a visit, you might even have the count of the castle show you around personally.
Other worthy castles to mention are Castel Pergine, with its decadent restaurant, lovely internal gardens and the opportunity to stay the night, and Castel Ivano, where you can enjoy a wine tasting from the cellar of wine produced here.
Outside art with a twist in Salle Artee
An outside art exhibition which is at one with nature, the Salle Artee is another excellent reason to visit Trentino.
This beautiful space and gardens, decorated with carefully crafted artwork, from wood, metals and using trees and nature itself are split into two sections, and you can cycle here if you fancy it, and get between the two locations that way. E-bikes are preferred, given the mountain route!
Food and drink with a local twist
The food in Trentino, as in the whole country, is a good enough reason alone to visit this region. Italian traditional dishes are served up alongside local delicacies, many influenced by nearby Austria. Canederli are a type of bread dumpling, but more similar to gnocchi, which you shouldn’t miss and it goes without saying, GET ALL THE GELATO!
The region also has a vast range of craft beers and wines, with Ferrari being the most famous sparkling of them all but I took quite a fancy to the white wine of Müller which is a must try.
Art and architecture
No trip to Italy would be complete without indulging in your cultural side, and Trentino is no exception.
As well as the great galleries in Trento which have both modern, rotating collections and more traditional pieces, the streets of the city are littered with Frescos that make it feel like an outside museum.
Castles such as Buonconsiglio Castle in Trento which doubles up as an impressive art museum through to the ruins of Castello Arco, perched on a cliff, provide more refined architecture while the colourful facades of buildings, statues and fountains complete the Italian city architecture list.
Museums and attractions that aren’t boring
The MUSE museum in Trento takes you on a journey through the region and with interactive displays and a tropical rainforest this is a museum I could actually get excited about. I’m not a huge museum fan, but I spent hours here learning about DNA tests, extinct species, playing with displays that were likely for kids but helped me understand eco-systems in the mountains and marvel at the rainforest room which must feel like a sauna escape when the snow falls.
Of course, the galleries and castles I mentioned earlier fall into this list, but outside-attractions such as L’Orrido di Ponte Alto, a recently reopened gorge and one of the oldest hydraulica powers in the world will mesmerise you from the ancient bridge before standing behind the sheer power of water as it tumbles down. Amazingly, this is also another of Trentino’s many captivating outside music performance spaces.
Admire the apples of Val di Non
Val di Non literally translates to the Valley of Nothing, but that’s a lie, as it is completely packed with apples! When we first arrived, I thought I was staring at vineyards, but the terraced hills are actually apples.
The Melinda Apple experience near Castle Thun deserves a look in, with the all-encompassing 360 video room showing an incredible overview of the underground caves inside the Dolomites. Now, these caves house apple storage all year round, using natures temperature cooling system. It was quite cool to see inside, although it’s only on exceptional occasions you can actually visit inside the cave storage system.
Boutique hotels with beautiful views
On my three visits to Trentino, I’ve never been disappointed with my accommodation. Clean, well-kept rooms with the environment in mind seem to be the norm here, but it’s the epic views that will have you hooked.
Hotel Viridis is a fantastic place to stay in Val di Non, with most of the rooms and the restaurant overlooking mountains, river and green apple trees.
In Trento itself, the Heart of Trento B&B offers fantastic boutique rooms, with a roof terrace and hot tub, and an all-glass top floor lounge to admire the city from.
Other notable places to stay are Hotel Villa Degli Orti, which is in Borgo Valsugana, a family-run small guesthouse with delightful rooms and a lovely view from the front, and Hotel Margherita Rumo, high in the mountains and with a more Austrian style vibe, complete with a beautiful spa and a fantastic restaurant for Italian/Austrian style dishes.
For something really special, book a night in Castel Pergine, and stay in an actual castle – what an awesome reason to visit Trentino. I hope you love it as much as I did!
Fresh mountain air hiking and cycling
One of the most exceptional things about Trentino for me was even in Trento the fresh mountain air was obvious. If you have lived in large cities, you’ll know the one, where you can smell something but you don’t know what it is, and then you realise it’s just what nature should smell like.
I think this is why the region is such a popular hiking and cycling escape for so many Dutch visitors who, I can only imagine haven’t been sharing it’s charm as they don’t want the secret out! Countless paths criss-cross the region for mountain bikers and extreme hikers through to gentle slopes and leisurely walks for those who want to take their Trentino weekend at a slower pace.
Hiking and Wine Tasting between Lasino and Pergolese
A shady and pleasant hike through a forested area will take you from Lasino, up past a little historic church, and with great views over the valleys, before coming back down to be rewarded with more Trento Doc.
On the other side, you’ll find Azienda Agricola Fratelli Pisoni, where wine tastings can be enjoyed in the leafy garden, and nearby an agritourism if you fancy staying the night.
Trentino Guest Card
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that if you book more than two nights accommodation in Trentino with a partner hotel, the Trentino Guest Card is included in the price. Providing regional transport on the buses and trains, access to many attractions and discounts to a selection of businesses it can help to reduce the cost of your Trentino escape.
Seriously, I’m obsessed with this region and I know I have only just scratched the surface of it but if you want to know more about planning your trip, check out my articles on Trento as a weekend getaway or learn more about the lakes of Valsugana. Trust me, Trentino is well worth a window on your busy travel schedule!