8 Top Tourist Attractions in Trento & Easy Day Trips
From its 13th-century castle to a collection of rare aircraft and the state-of-the-art MUSE science museum - a landmark of contemporary Italian architecture - Trento is full of surprises. Although its location at the junction of the trading route from Venice up the Val Sugana with the road over the Brenner Pass made it an important city since Roman times, its place in history was assured when the Council of Trent met and deliberated here from 1545 to 1563. Prompted by the Protestant Reformation, the council laid down the rules and forms of the Counter-Reformation that shaped subsequent Roman Catholic doctrine into modern times.
Between 1814 and 1918, Trento belonged to Austria, and after the peace treaty of Saint-Germain at the close of World War I, it became part of Italy, along with the rest of the Sudtirol region. But unlike Bolzano and towns to the north, it has a distinctly Italian character. Along with seeing the tourist attractions, be sure to explore its streets and piazzas to admire the colorful frescoes that decorate the facades of many of Trento's buildings.
1 Castello del Buonconsiglio
The largest castle complex in the region, Castello del Buonconsiglio was the residence of the prince-bishops of Trento from the 13th century to the end of the 18th century. A massive round tower dominates the 13th-century Castelvecchio, the oldest part, expanded with an Italian Renaissance-style Magno Palazzo in the 16th century and the Baroque Giunta Albertiana in the late 17th century. At the south end is the Torre Aquila, whose interior is decorated with the exceptional 15th-century Cycle of the Months, one of the finest cycles of secular art from the late Middle Ages. It depicts court life and outdoor activities month by month. Inside the Magno Palazzo, walls are decorated by another cycle of frescoes painted from the late Middle Ages to the Renaissance period. The Castello houses the Museo Provinciale d'Arte, with sculptures, period furniture, archaeological, and ethnological collections and the Museo del Risorgimento. These exhibits relate to Italy's struggle for unification and liberation from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
2 Duomo (Cathedral)
In the center of Trento is the Piazza del Duomo, which has a beautiful Neptune Fountain (1768) and along one side, an outstanding painted facade. The cathedral, built in the 11th and 12th centuries, was remodeled inside at the beginning of the 13th century, and is remarkable for the combination of Lombard Romanesque style with the high vaulted ceiling more common to later Gothic architecture. Also unusual are the two staircases built into the side walls leading up to the two bell towers. The interior has 13th to 14th-century frescoes from Venetian, Lombardian, and late Gothic schools. Under the cathedral are the remains of an early Christian basilica (sixth century), with a fine mosaic floor. The Council of Trent met in the church from 1545 to 1563, and in the south aisle, the Alberti chapel contains a large crucifix, in front of which the decrees of the Counter-Reformation were announced at its close.
Address: Piazza Duomo, Trento
3 Museo Diocesano Tridentino (Diocesan Museum)
On the east side of the Piazza del Duomo is the Palazzo Pretorio, with the imposing Torre Grande (clock tower). Inside the palace is the Diocesan Museum, whose collections, although religious in nature, document the development of local artistic styles and techniques, especially in wood carving and sculpture. The rich treasury includes fine silver and gold work, liturgical vestments, rare illuminated manuscripts, paintings, and 16th-century Flemish tapestries.
Address: Piazza Duomo 18, Trento
4 Via Belenzani
The wide street, Via Belenzani, runs north from the Piazza del Duomo, and you should follow it, looking upward to see some of the best of Trento's painted facades. This is the finest street in town, with a series of palaces painted with historical, classical, and mythological motifs and faux architectural details. Near the north end of the street, on the right, is the 16th-century Palazzo Municipale, with the 15th-century Casa Geremia opposite.
Address: Via Belenzani, Trento
5 MUSE (Museum of Science)
MUSE, the Museo delle Scienze di Trento (Museum of Sciences of Trento) opened in July, 2013 in a stunning building, a major showpiece of Italian architecture created by Renzo Piano Building Workshop. The LEED gold-rated building itself is worth seeing, the dramatic outline of its soaring glass walls echoing the silhouettes of the surrounding mountain peaks and slopes. Inside, its various levels present the local mountain environment from the geologic formation and fossil record through prehistoric times and into the present natural environment of flora, fauna, landscapes, glaciers, and avalanches. Throughout, it is filled with hands-on, multimedia, and sensory experiences that bring the artifacts and the subject to life. This is not a museum just for children, but a dynamic introduction to the Alpine landscapes of northern Italy.
Address: Corso del Lavoro e della Scienza 3, Trento
6 Museo dell'Aeronautica Gianni Caproni (Museum of Aeronautics)
Italy's oldest aviation museum lies next to the Trento Airport, dedicated to the memory of Gianni Caproni, the Italian aeronautical engineer and aircraft designer. More than two dozen aircraft are exhibited in the museum, including a number of Caproni planes, a Lockheed F-104G Starfighter, and the only surviving fuselage of a Fokker D.VIII. Eight other aircrafts on display are the only surviving examples in the world.
Address: Via Lidorno 3, Trento
7 Santa Maria Maggiore
In the choir of the Renaissance church of Santa Maria Maggiore (1520-23), northwest of the cathedral, are a beautiful organ gallery from 1534 and a fresco from 1563 showing likenesses of the members of the Council of Trent, which sometimes met here. One of the side chapels has an especially beautiful Baroque altar.
Address: Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore, Trento
8 Roman Tridentum
Under Trento lie remains of the buried Roman city of Tridentum, about 1,700 square meters of excavations that reveal part of the city wall, a long stretch of stone-paved street, sections of houses with mosaics, courtyards, a well, and workshops. It's not a very large site, but it is well interpreted to give a picture of Roman Trento.
Address: Piazza Cesare Battisti, Trento
Day Trips from Trento
South of Trento is Rovereto, crowned by the 14th-century Castello with beautiful views of the town below and the mountains rising from the Adige Valley. Inside is one of the region's best museums of the two world wars - especially the first, which was fiercely fought in this valley - and their effect on local towns. The artifacts are so well curated and displayed, and so complete, that you don't need to read Italian to get a clear picture of the times. Near the center of town, the Museo Civico explores local silk manufacturing and has worthwhile collections of Greek and Roman artifacts, as well as local dinosaur finds. Ask here for directions to dinosaur tracks on the hillside above town. On the way here, you'll pass a circular building, the Sacrario di Castel Dante, containing the remains of more than 20,000 dead of the First World War. Above it is a gigantic bell cast in 1965 to commemorate the dead of all nations, which is rung each evening.
Museo degli Usi e Costumi della Gente Trentina (Ethnographic Museum)
One of Italy's best and largest museums of culture and popular traditions, and one of the best anywhere in the Alpine region, the Trentina Ethnographic Museum fills 41 exhibit rooms on four floors. Its specialty is the agricultural traditions and methods of the Alps, and it includes tools and implements for haymaking, timber cutting, cheese making, beekeeping, and a complete water mill for grinding grains. Other sections cover artisans, such as woodcarvers, wood-turners, cartwrights, wheelwrights, and metal workers forging copper and iron. A textile section includes wool preparation, spinning, and weaving, and the museum also displays a large collection of kitchen implements, pottery, copper vessels, and bronze pans from the 16th and 17th centuries. Folk costumes, folklore, carnival masks, musical instruments, religious customs, nuptial traditions, hunting, and winemaking round out the exhibits.
Address: Via Mach 2, San Michele All'Adige