Visit Trentino – Northern Italy’s Most Diverse Region
Trentino is probably one of Italy’s most diverse regions. About halfway between Milan and Venice, Trentino reaches from the northern tip of Lake Garda into the Dolomite mountain range. If you are planning a trip to Italy, I highly recommend you to visit Trentino, especially if you like outdoor activities, history, spas and good food.
What makes Trentino so special? It is a unique region because you can see the transition from Northern Italy (very similar to Austria/Germany/Switzerland) and the rest of Italy (the Italy that most people imagine when thinking of Italy). You can see this in the food, but also in the architecture, and also the climate and landscape.
In northern Trentino, you are in the Dolomites, which reach up to 11000 feet (3340+ meter) in elevation and have a very alpine feel. The jagged grey mountain peaks immerging from deep green pine forests, ice blue glacier lakes, gushing rivers, and picturesque villages that dot the countryside can be found in Northern Trentino.
On Lake Garda, on the other hand, you will find peach-colored Mediterranean villas, palm and olive trees, and beaches along on Italy’s largest lake and its pristine and crystal clear waters. This area in the South of Trentino has a more Mediterranean ambiance and definitely feels more Italian.
This mix and diversity makes the Trentino region very special and gives you a very unique experience compared to the more touristy sites in Northern Italy.
Best Time to Visit Trentino
Trentino is not just diverse in itself, but your experience in this region will also vary by season, all depending on your preferences and the things you like to do. I was recently invited to visit Trentino in the spring and it was absolutely beautiful, but the locals also raved about the gorgeous Indian summers they get in later months of the year and I really hope to return sometime in the fall to see the leaves turning.
Spring in Trentino
Spring is a great time to visit Trentino. The mountains still have their white caps on but in the valleys, the sun has already woken the spring flowers that turn the meadows into colorful paintings. The weather is starting to get warmer and sunnier, hotels are not yet packed with families (and it is cheaper), and more often than not, you will have the place you are exploring completely to yourself. When you plan a trip to Trentino in the Spring, I recommend to be a little flexible and plan some indoor as well as outdoor activities, so you have alternatives depending on the weather.
Summer in Trentino
Summer in Trentino is glorious, but also quite crowded. Especially around Lake Garda, you will find families from all over Europe soaking up the sun on the shore and eating gelato in the shade. If you are traveling with children, it can be a great way to have them make friends from all over the world. Summer is a great time for all kinds of outdoor activities, from hiking in the mountains to water sports on Lake Garda and anything in between. If you don’t mind crowds, summer is a great time to visit Trentino.
Fall in Trentino
Usually, the places that are gorgeous in spring are even more breathtaking in the fall. Most locals that I spoke to told me that spring and fall are their favorite seasons in Trentino. The changing leaves turn the hills and mountainsides into a symphony of oranges, reds, and golden tones. It is a great time for hiking and exploring the culinary treasures of Trentino, visit a few wineries and relax at one of the many thermal spas.
Winter in Trentino
Trentino is a paradise for winter sports lovers, from apres to cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and whatever else one can do on the powdered slopes of this winter wonderland.
Things to Do in Trentino
Trentino has a lot to offer, no matter what your interests are. This makes it a great destination to spend more than just a few days because there is so much to do.
Hiking in the Dolomites (UNESCO Natural Heritage Site)
The Dolomites have been a UNESCO Natural Heritage Site since 2009 and 4 of the 9 serial regions are located in Trentino. The Dolomites are a perfect place to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, and trekking.
Perception Walking is a very unique experience. Essentially, you are led through the forest by a guide – with your eyes closed. This will give you a completely different way to experience your surroundings and challenges the way you perceive the world around you. It forces you to use your other senses and gives you a child-like appreciation for discovering things as if it were for the first time.
I enjoyed this experience a lot. Similar to Yoga, it felt refreshing for body and soul. As this was something I had never done before, I felt it was challenging and relaxing at the same time and it was a very rewarding experience. Contact Mattia and his wife Alissa to book a perception walk via Email (they speak English, French, and Japanese): firstname.lastname@example.org
Spa and Wellness
The Terme di Comano in Western Trentino is a Spa and Wellness heaven. The natural springs are beneficial for all kinds of skin related maladies, but the pools and saunas are fun and relaxing for everyone. I stayed at the Grand Hotel Terme di Comano and took full advantage of their spa and wellness offers. When you see the beautiful spa area at this hotel, you hope for a few days or rain, just to relax and rewind and treat yourself a little. You are on vacation, after all!
Prehistoric Pile Dwellings (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Prehistoric Pile Dwellings dating back to the bronze age have been discovered all over the Alpes and have been recognized by UNESCO as a multi-site World Heritage Site in 2011. The Pile Dwelling Museum in Fiavé does a wonderful job explaining not only the history of the prehistoric settlement but also the scientific background and work of the archeologists working on the excavation.
This museum is great for all ages and if you are bringing your children to Trentino, this would be a great stop to add to your itinerary.
Read my full article about the Prehistoric Pile Dwelling site.
Castles in Trentino
Like most places in Italy, it is practically impossible to not stumble upon a castle or palace during your trip. Trentino is no exception and there is no shortage of castles in this region.
I visited the Castello di Stenico, not far from my hotel in Ponte Arche. The castle was started in the 13th century and passed down from each Prince-Bishop of Trento to the next, each adding on a section to the existing castle, turning it into an eclectic mix of architectural styles ranging from gothic to renaissance to classical elements.
In the 19th and 20th century, Castello di Stenico was used by the local Police as the main station and now is home to a museum showcasing local artifacts, furniture, and other collectibles. My favorite was the collection of about 20 church bells, saved by a local priest who saved them during World War II when the army wanted to confiscate them and melt them down for ammunition.
The Trentino countryside is dotted with romantic little alpine villages. I visited a couple of them, but my favorite ones were Rango and Balbido (close to my hotel in Ponte Arche and within walking distance from each other).
Rango is a traditional village with the authentic and unique architecture of the region. The houses in this part of Trentino have the ground floor built with stone (this is where the kitchen was and therefore the fire danger was the highest there) while the higher floors were made out of wood and often were very open, so the stored grains and hay could dry out and not rot in the humid climate.
Balbido is just down the hill from Rango and also a cute little village. In the 80s, they invited artists to paint murals all around the little village. You can find one on almost every house and they depict scenes of the rural way of life, showing various professions and scenes of the daily life of times past.
Those times were not always easy and people experienced severe hardships in the not too distant past. Practically every local was a farmer in that region but in the long and harsh winters, they had to find other means to earn an income. While the women stayed at home to tend to children and the animals, the men would go out into the world and try to make money by selling and fixing things or as day laborers. It was very interesting to see a tribute to these people, who went through incredibly rough times, but they never gave up on their home and always knew where they came from.
Agri Life Donkey Farm
The Agri Life Donkey Farm was another highlight of my visit to Trentino. The owner started this farm less than 10 years ago when she found out that her child was lactose-intolerant. Now her organic farm does not only include a herd of (really cute) donkeys, but also an organic berry farm and bees. They produce all kinds of organic donkey milk skin care products, grow fresh organic produce, and make jams, syrups, spreads, and honey all from scratch on the farm.
You can definitely see the passion that the owner has for her work and how much she cares for the donkeys. When we visited them in their pasture, they were so playful and trying all kinds of things to get our attention. They also really enjoyed being pet and very cuddly. Visiting the Agri Life Donkey Farm in Trentino would be a great outing for the whole family!
Where To Stay in Trentino
Trentino is a fairly large region in Italy and as I already mentioned, very diverse. Depending on your preferences and itinerary, I suggest picking Comano as your home base and explore from there. It will cut down on your driving time and you will have more time to explore your area.
I stayed in Western Trentino in the Comano area and I can highly recommend this region. You can go hiking in the mountains, but yet you are still fairly close to Lake Garda if you want to have some “beach” time.
The hotel I stayed in is located in Ponte Arche and I can only recommend it. The 4-star Grand Hotel Terme di Comano has an amazing spa and wellness area with 6 saunas, various pools, and excellent spa treatment offers (make sure that your room includes access to the spa when you book).
I had half board (breakfast and either lunch or dinner) included, and let me tell you, I have rarely seen food so beautifully presented as here. What I like the most, was that there were plenty of healthy options, many traditional dishes and always fresh ingredients.
My room was modern, spacious and had plenty of amenities. I especially liked the very large walk-in closet, something that you rarely find in hotel rooms and especially in Europe. It is so nice to store your bags and make your room look nicer than with scattered stuff and overflowing suitcases.
Where to Eat in Trentino
Since breakfast and dinner were already arranged for me at my hotel, I didn’t have the chance to eat at too many restaurants, but I highly recommend these places that I did have the pleasure of eating at:
Refugio Alpenrose is an alpine hut in the mountains of Comano that does not only serve absolutely incredible food, but hikers can also spend the night there (simple, often shared quarters). I met the two owners and they were so warm and welcoming that they instantly made me feel at home. You can reach Refugio Alpenrose by car and there are a bunch of great hiking trails in the area.
Refugio Cacciatore is a little harder to reach. You can either walk there, but it will take you 2+hours to get there, or you can hire a 4-wheel taxi to drive you up there (+39 333 5909327). The food there was really good as well and since you are above the tree-line, you feel like you are in the middle of the Dolomites. From the Refugio, you can do some excellent hiking and the views of the Dolomites are incredible.
You can’t visit Italy and not have Gelato! In Ponte Arche, I tried M’AMI Gelateria and it was heavenly. They use locally sourced organic milk to make a yogurt-based gelato that is so creamy and light. I had their Stracciatella flavor and it was absolutely divine! Please, give it a try, when you are in the area!
Trentino is a wonderful and super diverse region of Italy that offers you a lot of fun activities. This makes it an ideal family destination, but also a great option for couples who are interested in doing lots of different things.
Thank you Visit Trentino for inviting me to your beautiful region. I had a fabulous time and I can’t wait to return, hopefully soon!
Before coming to Italy, do not forget these 2 important points:
- Get Travel Insurance! I use Allianz Travel Insurance and can only recommend them. If you travel a lot, I recommend the Multi-Trip Insurance, but you can read all about whether single trip or multi-trip travel insurance is right for you here – as long as you get insurance.
- Visit my Travel Gear and Resource Page to see my recommendations on useful travel gadgets and helpful travel services that can help you with planning your trip.
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