Trentino-Alto Adige is Italy's northernmost region. It consists of two self-governing provinces, Trentino in the south and Südtirol, the northern province bordering Austria--and to the west by Switzerland--called Alto Adige by the Italians. South Tyrol is mountainous and covered by forestland.
Why go? The Italian tourist board gives a few hints
Land of confluence between Latin and Nordic worlds, Trentino Alto Adige is the guardian of a remarkable cultural heritage, made up of prehistoric evidence, charming castles, sanctuaries and towns with great historical and artistic significance.
Let's take a look at the map and the top cities.
Trento is the capital of the southern Trentino province. Bolzano is the capital of the Alto Adige. To German speakers, it's the Südtirol; the North Tirol is in southern Austria.
South Tyrol or Alto Adige, part of Italy’s northernmost region, is a mountainous area with lakes, castles, and vineyards. Alto Adige only became part of Italy following WWI and still retains much of its Austrian heritage, including the German language. The region has more than 800 castles, vineyards producing some of Italy’s best white wines, and 19 Michelin star restaurants, the highest density in Italy, including the 3 star St. Hubertus in the Rosa Alpina luxury hotel. Much of the region is in the Dolomite Mountains. - South Tyrol in Northern Italy.
Few Americans have discovered Rovereto, a small town wedged into the Lagarina valley along the Leno River near its confluence with the Adige. It's south of Trento on the Brenner-Verona railway so there's easy access if you're taking the train. It once protected the southern flanks of the region, so there's a 14th century castle built on a Roman fortress. It's now a war museum containing the most extensive collection of war artifacts in Italy (closed on Mondays, shown below).
Italy's second largest bell commemorates the fallen from a hill south of town.
North of the town near the plain above the point where the battle of Caliano was fought in 1487 is the fairytale Castel Pietra. You can book a visit online. The price at time of writing is 5 euro per person. Note the translation available from the toolbar. Check the events listing for things like "Aperitif in the Woods" which includes a drink in the woods and a tour of the manor at night.
To Stay: The highly rated Casa del Pittore is a ten minute walk from the town center and you can relax in a garden fitted with a hot tub, deck chairs and parasols. If you're searching for inexpensive lodging in the center with parking, you might look into the Hostel: Ostello Di Rovereto.
Riva del Garda is a resort town that sits upon the northernmost point of Lake Garda, west of Rovereto. Nietzsche and Kafka relaxed here, so expect to be philosophical, literary or turn into an insect while you're on vacation. The castle, dating to around 1124, is right on the lake shore and now houses the city museum and art gallery.
The Palazzo Pretorio, built in the 14th century, is also on the water.
Walkers at all levels of endurance might find a trail to enjoy on Garda Trek. The long walk takes you from "the cliffs of the lake to the mountain pasture land of Mount Stivo and Altissimo." You'll need a week or so to do it.
Just outside the city to the northeast is Arco, which has a commanding view of the lake and a castle.
To Stay: Prices of lodging in Riva del Garda tend to be higher in spring than in fall or even summer. Tourists dwindle after September.
Formerly part of Austria and Austria-Hungary, Trento was annexed by Italy in 1919. It's one of Italy's most prosperous cities. It was a Celtic village before the Romans conquered it in the 1st century BC.
The Duomo is a Romanesque-Gothic cathedral built on a Roman basilica which you can view by descending into the crypt. Next to the duomo is the Palazzo Pretorio. Built in the 12th century it has a bell tower from the 13th century and hosts a collection of baroque paintings of religious scenes. Bishops lived here until the mid-13th century.
Gothic frescoes are found in the Buonconsiglio Castle which also contains the Provincial Gallery of Art.
See examples of modernist architecture in the train station and the post office.
To Stay: For the tranquil resort experience in the hills above Trento the Villa Madruzzo will fit the bill. If you're looking for a centrally located hotel, the Hotel America is a 5 minute walk from Castel Buonconsiglio.
The village and ski resort in the Dolomites is considered one of the best in Italy. The ski area handles more than 31,000 people an hour. It hosts World Cup alpine skiing and snowboarding races. The season starts late November and runs through the middle of April. Here's some information for skiers.
Bolzano or Bozen is the capital city of the province and is on the train line from Italy to Munich. Bolzano had a good medieval center and Gothic Duomo.
Castel Roncolo was built in 1237 by the Lords of Wangen and offers the tourists some good medieval frescoes to view. You'll have to leave your car in the free parking lot below the castle and walk 8 minutes up the "Kaiser- Franz- Josef-Weg" path. Closed Monday.
Other cultural attractions provided by the
Bressanone or Brixen has a good medieval center with porticoed walkways, fine buildings, and a river. Bressanone has a heavy German influence and many people still speak German rather than Italian.
The 10th century cathedral was rebuilt in the 13th century and again in the 18th. The Diocesan Museum includes a presepe (Italian manger scene) with 5000 figures.
The Pharmacy Museum shows the development of the pharmaceutical profession over the centuries. Yes, there is evidence of the age-old beaver-testicle based cure presented here. The Peer family has owned the pharmacy since 1787.
To Stay: August, September and December are the big tourist times in Bressanone. The 500 year old Hotel Elephant is highly rated and has a great location. Less expensive in the same part of town is the Alter Schlachthof.
The mild climate of Merano or Meran has contributed to its popularity as a popular spa and resort destination for a couple hundred years. The medieval town is on the right bank of the river Passirio. As befitting a health resort there promenades along the river and in the nearby hills. The town has many castles as well.
To Stay: The highly rated Hotel Therme Meran sits next to the spa in Central Merano. The panoramic spa comes with 2 saunas, 3 hot tubs, swimming pools, gym, and a studio for beauty treatments.
There are no major airports here, but the Trento-Venice railway connects Trento to Mestre, where it connects to the main line from Verona. The Brenner Railway connects Italy to Austria, so there is train service from Innsbruk to Verona passing through the Brenner Pass.
The cuisine in the Trentino-Alto Adige is mix of Italian and Austrian so you'll find dumplings, canederli, as well as meat filled ravioli.
Speck, a smoked ham popular in colder climes where prosciutto can cure in the chimney of a fireplace, is a staple of this region. Beef, pork, hare, and venison frequent the menu as does trout from all the mountain streams. Polentas made of cornmeal or buckwheat are frequently found.
Apples and mushrooms play a large part in the cuisine, too. Val di Non apples make their way into the famous apple strudel, which is celebrated during the "Week of the Apple Strudel" in the Altopiano dello Sciliar during the harvest season, usually in the first half of September. in fact, one in five apples eaten in Italy comes from Trentino, due to the favorable conditions and long ripening season here.
Good DOC wines are produced in the hills from grapes that will be familiar to Americans, including Pinot, Riesling, and Traminer whites and Cabernet and Merlot reds.
Enjoy the Trentino Alto Adige region of Italy. There's a lot to see and do here--and eat!
Here are some travel planning tools that are especially useful if you're planning your first or second trip to Italy.