Trentino Alto Adige is a popular and well-loved holiday destination, attracting both national and international tourists. Hiking and lakeside chilling in summer and skiing and mountaineering in winter are the kind of activities one normally associates with this region, and yet there’s much more to it – although you could be excused for being too dazzled by the beauty of the dolomites to notice anything else. The scenery in Trentino is, to put it simply, breathtaking and unique and some of its features are so popular that practically all of the touristic influx tends to converge there: Lake Garda and Val Gardena, Pass Pordoi and Lake Carezza are all beautiful destinations for both your holidays and your travel incentives. We, however, went looking for hidden treasures as usual. Trentino is a large region after all and there’s much more to it than the occasional for a nice hiking trail might turn out. Also, luckily, there’s plenty to do even if climbing mountains, skiing and paragliding are not quite your cup of tea.
1. Visit the gardens in Trauttmansdorff Castle and the Touriseum
The grounds of Trauttmansdorff Castle cover an area of approximately 30 acres and they comprise over 80 botanical gardens where plants and flowers from all over the world are grown. Whether you are an expert or an enthusiastic amateur, themed trails and multi-sensory installations will guide you through a rich and surprising experience encompassing art, nature and culture. The lush flora and fauna found in this garden make for one of the most unusual and spectacular sights in the region. The castle itself is a magnificent example of neo-gothic architecture, the first of its kind to be built in Sud Tyrol. Here you will also find the Touriseum: a museum of tourism. This peculiar institution illustrates, by means of a themed path – occasionally looking like a tableaux-vivant – the origins of the tourist trade in the region, starting from the early XIX century, when traveling was risky and unpractical and foreigners were not such common a sight in these parts. This fascinating journey will take you to what is thought of as the Belle Epoque of Sud Tyrol, between the XIX and XX century, when this mountainous region was extremely popular with wealthy tourists, who would sojourn for long stretches of time in the kind of five-star establishments that Wes Craven must have had in mind when he shot Budapest Hotel. The spell, of course, was broken by WWII and it took almost half a century to get this region back to its former glamour.
2. Visit… the pyramids!
The Earth pyramids of Ritten, to be precise. Confused? Allow me to explain. The pyramids you will find in Trentino are not the kind in which ancient Egyptians or south American civilisations used to bury their kings or make sacrifices to their gods. Our pyramids were handcrafted by none other than mother nature herself, out of soft soil, over 25000 years ago. The Ritten – or Renon – is a natural plateau close to the city of Bozen and several of this stalagmite-like formations can be found on it. They are glacial in origin and are made from morainic rocks by a constant and ongoing process of erosion, which continually changes the shape of these incredible natural monuments. These peculiar soil pillars tend to grow higher and thinner and when one finally crumbles under its own weight new formations are born. Since clay is the main component of the local soil, the pyramids stand reasonably solid as long as the weather is dry, but get heavily modified and tend to melt when it rains or snows, offering a suggestive and ever-changing spectacle and peerless photo-op.
3.Visit Palazzo Pretorio in Trento
You won’t believe how many tourists go on holiday in Trentino and never set foot in the regional capital city of Trento. This is not entirely surprising, not because the city itself is not beautiful, but because the rest of the region is so stunning that it is easy to get lost in the magnificence of the mountains and forget about civilisation altogether. Trento, however, is well worth at least a day of your time: the old town is lovely and welcoming, rich in art and history just like the surrounding valleys are rich in natural beauty and biodiversity. A palace has existed in this location (the current Piazza Duomo) since the IX century and the whole structure has undergone several transformations since. Originally used as the local bishop’s residence, this medieval castle went on to be used as a court of justice, which earned it the definition of “Pretorio”. Underneath the palace there is a precious and rare archeological site, which is open to visitors, containing the ancient Porta Veronensis, dating back to the I Century. This archway marked the passage of the via Augusta, which connected Trento to Verona. Within the castle you will find a museum, containing paintings of the famous Council of Trento, which marked a pivotal moment in the history of the Catholic Church, as well as several beautiful XV and XVI century paintings, a collection of gothic sculptures and flemish tapestries.
4. The MuSe in Trentino
Ok, that sub-heading was misleading. Matthew Bellamy doesn’t live here and the muse do not have a Las-Vegas-like residence in a local hotel. MuSe is actually the local Science Museum and you should definitely spend at least an afternoon visiting it. The MuSe is particularly suited to those traveling with children, as it offers several interactive installations, that you will be able to touch and play with under the pretence that you are really only doing it for the kids. In the lobby, which opens upwards cutting through several stories, a giant skeleton towers over the incoming visitors. Nothing in here is kept in glass cages: the exhibits are suspended from iron cables and it is ok to touch most of them. The current building was designed by star architect Renzo Piano, but a science museum has existed in Trento since 1964. The current exhibition includes a whole floor dedicated to glaciers and the adventures of explorers braving the coldest climates in the world, but there are also sections that explore the geological history of the Dolomites, the tropical climates and the history of life itself, involving dinosaurs, DNA and fossils. The Museum also offers important researching seats in the fields of archeology, zoology and geology.
5. Maretsch Castle in Bozen
Since you have decided to leave the quiet and majesty of the mountains to explore the local cities, you should not miss Bozen. There are many beautiful sights to see this eminently german town, but for the purposes of this list we have chosen Maretsch Castle, a beautiful medieval manor located in the heart of the old town. Unlike most castles of the same period, this building was meant as a residence, rather than a fortress, which is evident in its overall serene appearance, more akin to a northern country residence than to a fortified base meant for armies and generals. The oldest tower in the castle dates back to the early XIII century and the whole complex was extended and amended several times throughout the centuries, as it passed from hand to hand, from family to noble family until the late XIX century. Guided tours are available and several halls in the castle can be rented for private or corporate events, conferences, concerts and lectures. As well as visiting the building itself by day, you might want to check the local events and take in a classical concert by night, an exhibition or a seminar.