Trento is an unassuming city surrounded by mountains and if it weren’t for the gelaterias on every corner and many bistros serving huge plates of fresh pasta, you could easily mistake it for a Swiss or Austrian alpine town. In reality, Trento is the capital city of the Trentino-Alto Adige region in Northern Italy, specifically the northwest.
A modest-sized city of just over 100,000 residents, Trento is the gateway to the Dolomites region, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famed for its natural beauty and adventurous outdoor activities like rock climbing, hiking and skiing.
The city of Trento itself is a beautiful, relaxing place to spend a few days or base yourself to explore the wider region. Trento’s Piazza Duomo is the heart of the city and can boast many affordable restaurants serving unfussy Italian dishes with fresh ingredients and tried-and-tested recipes.
The San Vigilio Cathedral and Neptune’s Fountain are the main attractions to see here, as well as the Castello del Buonconsiglio which is a 13th-century castle sitting just on the edge of the city offering views over Trento’s orange roofed city and lush green mountains.
Trento has just enough to offer visitors so that there is plenty to see and do but also leaves you with more than enough time to sit and sip a cappuccino or beer in the many piazzas just watching the world go by in a beautiful, postcard-perfect place.
This Trento travel guide will show you all the most beautiful places in Trento, what to expect when visiting, where to stay in Trento and things to do in Trento which will help you in planning a trip to Trento Italy.
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How to get to Trento
Trento doesn’t have its own airport and there are a few smaller airports to the north (Bolzano and Belluno, for example), but if you’re travelling from elsewhere in Europe or further afield, then Venice Marco Polo Airport, Verona Airport or even the Milan Airports are the closest international airports to Trento. They are all between 100km – 250km away from Trento.
Many visitors to the Trentino-Alto Adige region travel by car as there are lots of things to do throughout the area. Trento is connected by the A22 / E45 highway from Verona to the south and Innsbruck, Austria to the north and there are car hire services at Verona Airport.
Trento is very well connected by train both via regional services and intercity services. Italy’s national rail provider, Trenitalia, offers fast and affordable services between Trento and other cities in the north such as 90-minute, direct trains to Verona.
What to expect in Trento
Trento is an Italian city, so Italian is the primary language spoken here. However, travel just 50km north to South Tyrol and most are German speakers and the Ladin language (a kind of provincial Latin derivative) is taught in schools and appears on street signs.
Most who work in the tourism and service industries will speak English well, but German is a more common second language.
Italy is part of the European Union and Schengen zone and the currency is the Euro. Tipping is not expected in Italy though sometimes a service charge is added, and you would be more than welcome to leave a few coins or round up the bill in appreciation of good service.
Trento isn’t a notably cheap city break destination but it’s certainly not expensive. There are plenty of affordable restaurants, bars and hotels and many of the local attractions are free or very affordable.
How to get around Trento
The centre of Trento is completely pedestrianised and closed off to traffic meaning it’s an extremely safe city to wander around. If you are travelling to Trento by car, many of the hotels on the outskirts of the city offer parking and you can easily walk or catch the bus from your hotel.
You can hire bikes in Trento if you’d like to explore the entire city and the countryside around it or simply want to be more active on your trip.
PrestaBici is a bike hire shop in Trento (that has fluent English-speaking staff) and there are two bike-sharing stations in Piazza Dante near Trento Station. You can hire e-bikes from PrestaBici if you’re planning on riding uphill and you can hire for multiple days.
Trento also has a cable car station so you can very easily travel to the mountain top village of Sardagna across the River Adige.
The best time to visit Trento
Trento is situated in a valley in a mountain range so while the city never reaches extremely hot temperatures in the summer, Trento in winter experiences temperatures just above freezing while the mountains surrounding the city are covered in snow.
The best time to visit Trento for warm weather is from May-September. Accommodation does become scarce in the months of July-August, so even though Trento isn’t an expensive place to visit, try to book hotels as far in advance as possible to ensure you’re not having to book hotels miles away from the city centre!
Trento is an ideal city to visit for a winter break because the Christmas Markets open in Trento in December and they are some of the best in Italy. Trento’s Alpine feel means lots of German and Italian festive drinks and treats, wooden huts selling handmade gifts and lots of lights decorating the cobbled streets.
Things to do in Trento
Piazza Duomo and Neptune’s Fountain
Piazza Duomo is right at the centre of the city of Trento. It is, unsurprisingly, the location for Trento’s main Duomo/Cathedral, which is the San Vigilio Cathedral.
It’s near lots of fantastic restaurants and bars which is why it’s the perfect place to grab a coffee and pastry to start your day.
The pièce de résistance of the piazza is Neptune’s Fountain, originally built in the 18th-century and redesigned in bronze in 1945 when the first statue weathered too much damage.
It’s a huge, beautiful statue and there are also several drinking water fountains throughout the city centre so you can fill up a water bottle on the go.
San Vigilio Cathedral and Tridentine Diocesan Museum
San Vigilio Cathedral in Piazza Duomo is Trento’s main Catholic church named after the patron saint of the city. Built during the 13th-century in the Romanesque style with a Baroque chapel, it’s an absolutely stunning building with a soft, cream-coloured stone, a rose window and slate grey roof.
Also, in the same complex is the Tridentine Diocesan Museum, known as Museo Diocesano in Italian. It’s primarily an art museum and hold’s most of the church’s wealth in Trento containing lots of Christian and religious art from all over Europe mostly between the 12th and 18th centuries.
It’s here you can see the urn of San Vigilio and you can access the tower of the museum by guided tour, which offers fantastic views over the piazza and the rest of the city.
The Church of Santa Maria Maggiore
Another beautiful church in Trento is the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. It’s a pale pink box-shaped church not far from Piazza Duomo built in the renaissance style in 1524 and is now known as a Minor Cathedral.
It’s a quaint church with a beautiful interior that is free to enter so it’s well worth a look in whilst you’re in Trento.
Ponte Alto Waterfalls
A short bike ride or 40-minute walk just outside of the city of Trento is the Ponte Alto Gorge or Canyon.
Its formation began thousands of years ago as it was slowly worn down by the force of the water, and now it’s a ravine with lots of epic waterfalls that have been made accessible to visitors via steps and designated viewing areas.
The tours down these steps are only available in the warmer months, though, for safety reasons.
Castello del Buonconsiglio
One of the best things to do in Trento has to be visiting the Buonconsiglio Castle. It’s a huge fortified castle built during the 13th century, so it’s one of the oldest structures in the city.
The interior is very decorative with lots of elaborate designs in the stone and artwork on the ceilings, but it’s now also an art gallery displaying local art.
One of the courtyards overlooks the whole city of Trento and it’s probably the best view of the city.
Are the church towers and viewing areas around the city of Trento not quite high enough? Well, you can take the cable car across the Adige River to the small town of Sardagna and see over the entire valley and across the mountains.
The cable car leaves every 30 minutes during the day and it’s a short 10-minute journey to the top.
You can stay at little as 30-minutes at the panorama observation deck at the top admiring the view, or you can spend longer exploring the little cobbled streets and cafes in Sardagna before heading back down to Trento.
What to eat in Trento
Traditional Tyrolean and Trentino dishes focus heavily on fresh, locally grown ingredients like asparagus, chestnuts, apples and polenta. Dumplings are a typical dish of the region, made with lots of different ingredients though the most common is infused with bacon or sausage meat.
‘Speck’ bacon is smoked bacon made from seasoned pork leg meat and is very common in the Trentino region.
It is used on a dish called ‘Carne Salada’ (literally translating to meat salad) where the bacon is sliced very thin and served raw with parmesan and rocket over the top.
Trentino also produces its own cheeses but it’s most famous for its wine. There are tonnes of vineyards and wineries in the region and you won’t find it difficult to find local wine in any Trento restaurant.
Trentodoc is a local sparkling wine which tastes more like champagne than Italy’s most popular sparkling wine, prosecco.
Don’t miss out on the beautiful gelato in Trento, either. Head to La Gelateria or Cherry Gelateria for delicious, homemade gelato.
Where to stay in Trento
If you stay two nights or more in a hotel in Trento, you will be given a Trentino card or be given an access code for the app. It’s a fantastic local tourist card that gives you access to many of the attractions mentioned in this travel guide, plus some transport (like the cable car) is included too.
Budget – Trento is a small city with no dorm-style hostels, though there are plenty of budget alternatives. There are lots of Airbnbs listed in Trento, either private rooms or entire properties that start from €20 per night.
Budget B&Bs like Hotel Albermonaco and Hotel Everest offer cosy rooms with breakfast and some even have terraces for around €50 per night just outside of the city centre.
Mid-range – An affordable, nice hotel in Trento either means a simple B&B in the city centre or a beautiful 4-star resort on the edge of the city.
B&B Malvasia offers fantastic value for money at around €75 per night located in the heart of the city. The rooms are simple, yet homey and colourful and free breakfast is included. Hotel Be Place is a 4-star hotel and 8-minute bus ride from the city centre. It’s a gorgeous, modern hotel with hot tubs and floor to ceiling windows.
Luxury – Hotel Aquila D’Oro is a 4-star hotel overlooking Piazza Duomo offering guests huge rooms, freestanding baths and fantastic breakfasts which make this hotel perfect for couples who want like luxurious touches.
Tours to do in Trento
Trento has a long history of winemaking and there are so many great wineries in the Trentino region just outside of the city. If you like wine at all, you should definitely be drinking as much as possible, safely and in moderation of course!
If you enjoy the local dishes on your trip to Trento, you might want to book a place in this cooking class to learn how to cook local, traditional Trentino food. Italian food is available all over the world but food from this region is a little different.
Learn how to make a variety of dumplings, like bread crumb and eggplant dumplings, as well as gnocchi and of course you get to eat what you cook afterwards! You’re also able to take a free cookbook home with you, too.
And if you’re a real foodie, you’ll love this Trento market tour. In a small group with a local guide, you will visit various produce markets in the city, learning about what foods are in season and when and why Italian cuisine is so much better than any other cuisine!
Then, you’ll be treated to a three-course meal made by your local guide in their own home with all of the hard work done for you.
Day trips from Trento
The Great Dolomites Road
Trento is right on the doorstep of the UNESCO-certified Dolomites region so it would be a shame to spend any amount of time in Northwest Italy and not at least spend one day exploring the epic natural beauty of the region.
This day trip takes you through the quintessential Dolomites viewpoints and hotspots including the Fassa Valley with the chance to take the cable car up the Pordoi Pass. Lunch is included in the serene Gardena Valley.
Rock Climbing over Lake Garda
Another beautiful area of natural beauty just a few kilometres south of Trento is Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy.
Small towns and mountains are dotted all around the lake, and you’re in one of the best regions in the country for outdoor activities, so why not take part in one that gives you phenomenal views of a beautiful lake?
This rock-climbing day trip is for climbers of all abilities including novices as long as you have a reasonable fitness level. This is a day trip you won’t forget in a hurry!
Lakes of the Dolomites
By heading to the eastern region of the Dolomites and onto a less touristed area, you will be rewarded with some of the most gorgeous turquoise mountain lakes.
This day trip includes a stop in the ski resort town of Cortina d’Ampezzo and visits to Lake Misurina, Lake Dobbiaco and Lake Braies. The perfect trip for anyone who just loves beautiful vistas, especially keen photographers.
Recommended tours in Trento
- Full-day Lake Garda Tour
- Lunch or dinner and cooking demo at a local home in Trento
- Private market tour, lunch or dinner and cooking demo in Trento
- Rental and tours with Electric bike guide on Monte Bondone or Pinè on the lakes
- Palvico Canyoning
- 8-Day Bike Tour in the Dolomites
- Christmas Market Tour & Typical Dining Experience at a Cesarina’s home – Trento
- Yoga individual lessons