Nestled amongst the mountains of Northern Italy, Trento is one of the country’s most underrated destinations. In fact, for many tourists Trento is a totally unknown destination in comparison to Italy’s more traditional getaways, such as Milan or Venice, but for budget travellers that’s perfect, because, you’ll escape those inflated tourist prices.
Trento is spectacular too, surrounded by glorious scenery and stacked full of history. You can hike into the mountains in summer, ski in winter and delve into the heritage all through the year. To inspire your trip to the Italian mountains, here’s our budget travel guide to Trento.
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How to get around Trento on a Budget
Trento is a small city, and much of the centre is nicely pedestrianised, meaning that the easiest and cheapest way to get around is simply to walk.
You can easily cross from one side of the city centre to the other in as little as a 15 minute walk. The local train and bus station can be reached on foot too, being right next to the centre, where you’ll also find most of Trento’s best sights and attractions too.
There’s no airport in the city itself, and the closest can be found in either Venice or Milan, but budget travellers will be able to score cheap tickets on trains or buses to Trento.
Outside of the city centre, Trento’s best attractions are in the great outdoors, but you’ll find that local transport reaches most destinations, including rural mountain villages and alpine lakes. Public transport is inexpensive, but timings can be irregular in rural Italy so always check when the last bus or train back to Trento is.
If you’re staying in Trento then you’ll be given the fantastic Trentino Guest Card. It’s free of charge and will be provided with confirmation of hotel bookings. It offers free use of all public buses and trains within the Trentino Province, as well as free entry to most museums and tourist attractions in Trento. For budget travellers, you couldn’t really ask for a better incentive to visit Trento, or for a better way to save money!
Budget things to do in Trento
Trento Cable Car
One of the best things to do in Trento Italy is to ride the Trento Cable Car. If you’ve got your Trentino Guest Card, then the ride is totally free too, so there’s no reason not to enjoy it.
The cable car starts in Trento, and you’ll cross over the River Adige as you’re taken ever upwards into the mountains. It’s a beautiful ride and you’ll have sweeping views over the city below and the scenery all around. The end point of the Trento Cable Car is the mountain town of Sardagna, on Mount Bodone.
The Piazza Duomo is the main central square in Trento, and it’s the best place to visit when you first arrive in the city to gain a sense of the local history and architecture.
Surrounded by elegant medieval buildings, the Piazza’s main sight is the grand Trento Cathedral. Equally impressive is the ornate fountain that’s located in the centre of the square, and that’s dedicated to the Roman God Neptune.
The Trento Duomo, or Trento Cathedral, is easily the most impressive sight in the city, the surrounding mountain scenery aside.
The medieval era church dates back hundreds of years, and was built on a site of religious worship that could have been used by Christians as far back as the 6th century AD.
While the outside is a great example of Northern Italian medieval architecture, the inside is resplendent too with ornate medieval frescoes and paintings.
Santa Maria Maggiore
Equally as impressive as the Trento Cathedral, is the historic Santa Maria Maggiore Church. Located just a short walk away from the cathedral, the church dates back to the early 1500s.
The Santa Maria Maggiore Church helped place the city in the history books, because it’s here that the Third Council of Trent was held in the 16th century. The infamous meeting of the Catholic Church was in response to the Protestant movements sweeping across Europe and led to important changes in the Catholic religion.
Museo Diocesano Tridentino
One of the best ways to learn more about Trento, is to call into the excellent Museo Diocesano Tridentino. The museum sits in the shadow of the Trento Cathedral, because for centuries the building was actually used as the home of the Trento Bishop. It’s a fitting location, because the museum is dedicated to ecclesiastical history in Trento.
You can find well preserved religious artwork and manuscripts, you can learn all about the Council of Trent, and you can see the remnants of the 6th century Christian Church that has been excavated from beneath the cathedral foundations.
Palazzo delle Albere
If you’ve delved far enough into the religious history of Trento for one day, then enjoy a stroll through the Palazzo delle Albere, where you can see a different side of the city’s history.
The Palazzo delle Albere is a beautiful example of Renaissance era Italian architecture, and for many years this was the home and palace of the most powerful family in Trento. The gardens are the perfect place for a stroll, while inside the palace you can find great exhibitions on history and art.
As well as the history though, inside you’ll also find a branch of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Roverto.
Like many of the city’s best attractions, entrance to the Palazzo delle Albere is totally free if you’ve signed up for the Trentino Guest Card, making it a perfect stop for budget travellers.
History lovers also won’t want to miss out on a trip around the imposing stone bastions of the Buonconsiglio Castle, which has stood over the city for centuries.
The castle dates back to the 13th century, when it was constructed to protect the important Bishops of Trento at a volatile time in Italian history. It was one of the largest and strongest fortifications in the entire Alto Adige region, acting as an important stronghold in the Italian Alps..
Mausoleum of Cesare Battisti
One of Trento’s most celebrated historical figures is a man named Cesare Battisti, who is seen as an important local patriot. He was executed by the Austro Hungarian Empire during World War I, for desertion, as at that point Trento was actually not part of Italy, despite its large Italian population. After the war though, Trento would be turned over to Italy, and in 1935 a large memorial and mausoleum was built for Cesare Battisti, which today forms an impressive sight on the city’s skyline.
Museo delle Scienze
The Museo delle Scienze, or the MUSE, is one of Trento’s newest and most interesting museums to visit. The Science Museum opened in 2013 and over several floors you can find great exhibitions delving into everything from Space Exploration to Alpine glaciers. While the ticket price on its own is quite expensive for budget travellers, with the Trentino Guest Card you get a great discount that makes it well worth a visit.
One of Trento’s busiest and most bustling streets is the Via Belenzani, which extends through the heart of the old city from the grand Piazza Duomo.
Taking a walk along the Via Belenzani costs nothing at all, and you can admire the medieval buildings as you take in the atmosphere. There are a great array of shops and restaurants too, but if you’re on a budget it’s probably a good idea to keep on the street instead!
The Dolomites are one of Trento’s biggest tourist attractions, because few other mountain ranges in Italy can compete with them in terms of sheer natural beauty.
The Dolomites are dramatic, and they are a great place to explore in winter or summer. In the colder months, the slopes of the mountains are turned into Italy’s best ski resorts, although for budget travellers skiing isn’t necessarily the cheapest activity.
In summer though, hiking in the Dolomites is absolutely free, although for long distance walking routes you’ll need to spend the night in Refuges, which you generally need to book and pay for in advance, especially in high season.
Cycling and Mountain Biking
Cycling is a popular Italian pastime, and while the mountains of Northern Italy are tough cycling territory, it is a spectacular place to ride on the roads or the trails.
You can hire road bikes or mountain bikes in Trento, and it’s a cost effective way to explore the region. Cycle to the northern edge of Lake Garda and back again in a day, or just cruise around the charming mountain villages.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, then there are a huge number of mountain bike trails in the Dolomites too. You can join organised excursions with local mountain bike guides to take you to the best spots, although if you’re on a tight budget then you can just easily navigate many of the trails on your own, just bring along a map of the area.
Summer is the best time for cycling and mountain biking of course, because the roads and trails can be treacherous in the colder, icier months of the year.
Where to stay in Trento on a Budget
Trento is a small city and doesn’t have the largest range of accommodation. The cheapest hotels will always be booked out in advance, especially in summer, so try to plan ahead if you are trying to save money.
This is especially important in summer, during the high season, because as with everywhere in Italy, Trento can get busy.
Unfortunately, budget accommodation is limited in Trento, and there’s only one hostel in the city. The New International Youth Hostel is a modern, new hostel with great facilities, but space is limited and it can book out.
There are lots of AirBnBs and Bed and Breakfast available in Trento too, and these can be a great option if you’re in a group or if you want to save some cash by preparing your own dinners.
If you’re looking for a more traditional hotel then the better value options will be found outside the city centre, or even in the neighboring villages. In Trento itself, Hotel Everest is a great choice for budget travellers.
Budget eats in Trento
Trento’s location in Northern Italy has ensured that over the centuries its culinary scene has become one of the most diverse in the country.
You can find classic Italian cuisine alongside heartier Austrian style dishes too. There are even a few classic Germanic beer tents in Trento where you can enjoy cheap beers and pub food for a great price.
For budget travellers though you can’t really beat the local pizza parlours, where you can pick up large Italian style thin crust pizzas for a great price, loaded up with cheese and toppings.
If you’re renting accommodation with cooking facilities then you will of course find it cheapest to prepare your own food. If you’re out hiking too, then you’ll also need to take along your own snacks and lunch for the day. There are plenty of super markets in Trento where you can pick up cheap groceries for your stay in the city.
Cheap tours to do in Trento on a budget
One of the best day tours from Trento is to the iconic Lake Garda. This beautiful lake has long been a popular tourist attraction, and while visitor numbers are always through the roof, its beauty still never diminishes.
Italy’s largest lake is just a short journey from Trento, and plenty of tour companies offer great value day trips to the lake’s best villages and viewpoints, which are perfect if you’re short on time or just want everything arranged for you!
One of the most adventurous ways to explore the Dolomites is to join a Via Ferrata tour. The mountains are covered in a network of trails, rungs and ladders that allow you to access the most inaccessible parts of the Dolomites.
You need a guide and special equipment, such as ropes and helmets, to safely traverse the many Via Ferrata routes, but there are routes for all abilities.
The Via Ferrata tours from Trento are surprisingly good value too, and make for a great day out in the mountains.
Recommended budget tours in Trento
- River Rafting for Families
- Trento: 3-Hour Traditional Show Cooking Class
- Lake Garda Tour by Coach with Ferry Ride Included
- Wine Tour in Bardolino area from Lake Garda
- Rental and tours with Electric bike guide on Monte Bondone or Pinè on the lakes
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