Discover Trentino Alto Adige

Of course, you must be familiar with the Dolomites -their images stand out internationally, with the Tre Cime of Loredo impossible to forget. But how much do you really know about Trentino Alto Adige – one of the Dolomites’ three regions? Trentino Alto Adige is Italy’s more northern region, and when you picture Italy, it is probably the furthest image from what comes to mind. But this stunning region is one of my favorites, let me show you why, let’s discover Trentino Alto Adige.

History of Region

Found in the Eastern Italian Alps, Trentino Alto Adige is one of Italy’s autonomous regions. The region is a fusion of cultures – Italian and German / Austrian. For this reason, you will hear a blend of languages and hear areas called multiple names.

While the region remained under the Holy Roman Empire until the 1800’s it then swapped hands between the Napoleonic empire and then the Austrians. It remained under Austrian rule, until the end of WWI when it was handed over to Italian hands.

Exploring the region you’ll come across many mountainous battlefields of WWI, where fights were carried out within the tunnels and cliffs of the Dolomite mountains.

Under Fascism, the region saw a terrible period of Italianization, where German-speaking families were re-located to Nazi Germany, or forced to give up their Austro-German traditions.

Up until the 1970’s the region saw local conflict of separatists, looking to separate themselves from Italy and be either annexed to Austria or made independent. Under the supervision of the UN, Italy, Austria, and local governments reached an agreement for autonomous government under Italy. Though you still may hear noise of separating from Italy.

Language of Region

The main languages you will hear in Trentino Alto Adige are German and Italian, with most signs being written in both. However, while these are the umbrella language, you will find many smaller dialects among the valleys.

You might also hear Ladin, Lombard, Mòcheno, and Cimbrian. While these are rare, they are considered individual languages instead of dialects.

Must-Sees

If you are headed to Trentino Alto Adige, it’s likely you are out for an Alpine getaway. The region is fully encompassed by the iconic Dolomites offering breathtaking alpine scenery. This UNESCO World Heritage site is loved by all -whether you are an avid hiker, or just want to go for a drive and get some fresh air.

While exploring the region, here are some places you shouldn’t miss.

  1. Lake Garda: The largest lake in Italy, Garda provides a stunning backdrop for water activities, charming lakeside towns, and the historic Scaligero Castle in Malcesine.
  2. Castles of Trentino: Explore the rich history of the region through its castles. Buonconsiglio Castle in Trento, Beseno Castle near Rovereto, and Thun Castle in Val di Non offer glimpses into the medieval past with impressive architecture and cultural exhibits.
  3. Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm): Europe’s largest high-altitude Alpine meadow, Alpe di Siusi is a paradise for nature lovers. In summer, it’s adorned with wildflowers, and in winter, it transforms into a snowy wonderland, offering skiing and serene landscapes.
  4. Merano: This charming spa town is known for its thermal baths, historic architecture, and the enchanting Trauttmansdorff Castle with its stunning botanical gardens. Stroll along the promenades, explore the medieval town center, and relax in the healing waters.

These must-sees showcase the diversity and beauty of Trentino Alto Adige, from the majestic mountains to serene lakes and historic landmarks.

Wine & Food

The cuisine of Trentino Alto Adige looks a bit different than the rest of Italy – in part due to it’s northern, mountainous terrain, and largely in part to its German influence. So don’t be surprised when the menu looks quite unfamiliar.

One of the best bites to try in this region: Speck of course! As opposed to the classic Prosciutto Crudo, Speck is actually smoke dried which gives it a rich flavour. You’ll find plenty of different Wurst on the menu – local sausages. One that is particularly delicious is the Merano Wurst. This is made with a mixture of beef and pork and can either be boiled or grilled.

For a first course, you can’t miss a plate of canederli. These delicious bread balls are made with speck (or another cured meat), milk, cheese, and eggs. They are served in broth or with butter and are the perfect comfort food. Another “pasta” (actually more of a gnocchi) from the region is strangolapreti, literally that would translate into priest stranglers… These gnocchi are made with spinach, potatoes, plenty of cheese, and onion butter.

Then for a dolce, you can’t miss the famous strudel -apples, cinnamon, and pinenuts, cooked together in a rolled thin dough. Strudel is also a great breakfast snack!

And what about the wine?

Trentino largely produced red wines in the past, but in modern times they produce 70% white wines, yet its reds are the wines that stand out more (at least, to me).

Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay are the most common varieties, which you’ll also find deliciously blended in the Trento DOC metodo classico sparkling wine. But if you are looking for a more particular regional white wine, look for Nosiola. Nosiola is a native grape, first mentioned in the 15th century. It produced light wines with lemon and hazelnut notes.

If you are looking to fill your glass with red, try a Lagrein or Teroldego. These wines offer beautiful color, with refreshing and fruity notes. Teroldego in particular has smooth tannins with notes of berries, herbs and a hint of tar. You’ll find they hold their age well – even a vintage over 5 years might surprise you with a young taste.

Personal Favorites

Apart from the main things to see in Trentino, I have a few personal favorites I just had to share with you.

  • Novacella Abbey: Novacella was founded in the 1100s, was both a religious site as well as a wine producer and owned much of the surrounding land. There is a museum explaining the social and cultural history of the area, a beautiful library to visit, gardens to roam, and of course, a bar and wine shop where you can enjoy their own products.
  • Lagazuoi: Ok, this one is technically in Veneto, but it’s so close and in the Dolomites, I needed to add it here! One of the coolest hikes I have ever been on, even though the tunnels were closed. This mountain was the site of WWI battles between Austria and Italy, the Italians, to undermine the Austrians, dug tunnels up within the mountain to reach their stations. Today you can hike the outside of the mountain catching glimpses of old stations, and head down the mountain through this tunnel system.

If you are looking for more favorites, check out my Dolomites Thatch Guide, or get in touch for more personal recommendations.

If you found this information helpful you can show your support by buying me a glass of wine 🥂. I really appreciate it and each glass inspires me to research more into life in Italy!

And if you are looking for more help on your journey of making Italy home or looking for local insight to plan the best trip, get in touch, let me help you experience authentic Italy.