This Underrated City Is The Perfect Place To Take In Italian Culture Without The Crowds

There's something magical about visiting small towns in Italy as a tourist. The people regard you with genuine curiosity. When you're sightseeing, it actually feels like you're discovering something new. And there are a lot more quiet moments when you can appreciate the fact that you've practically got the place all to yourself. Exploring a lesser-known city in Italy is one of the best ways to discover the authentic side of this country that often experiences overtourism.

So, let's say you've just visited Venice, and you're looking for a hidden gem after experiencing the dizzying crush of sites, smells, and people that overflow this lagoon city every year. You need to head to Trento in Trentino Alto-Adige/Südtirol, an autonomous region of Italy. Located just north of Lago di Garda (Lake Garda), this city is a great stop in any season and is perfectly located in the middle of everything in the northeastern corner of Italy.

So, whether you're headed to Milan for more sightseeing, Tre Cime di Lavaredo for some spectacular hiking, or want to hit the slopes in Cortina d'Ampezzo, you can easily make this stop before diving back into the mad rush of travel. Here, you can slowly wander around centuries-old villas and castles, explore idyllic piazzas, and eat some hearty Italian food. However, there's also tons more to see just outside the boundaries of this city that will make you wonder how this place has flown under the radar for so long.

Take it slow in Trento

Just like many of the smaller cities throughout Northern Italy, Trento is one of those places that will make you understand why slow travel is more than a passing trend. Here, you can explore slowly without feeling like you have to rush from place to place.

First, head to Castello del Buonconsiglio, the largest castle in the region and one of the most important. This is because the castle was the seat of Trento's prince-bishops from its construction in 1239 until 1802. Today, it is an art museum that houses numerous collections from the region and around the world. What makes this place a must-see are its views of Trento from the loggia. The columns perfectly frame the view of the city below.

After you've seen the city from above, it's time to meander its historic center. As you walk along, you'll notice the names of some shops and restaurants have a Germanic influence. This is thanks to Trento's proximity to Austria and Germany, and it's also reflected in the food — so you'll see lots of bread dumplings, strudel, and other hearty dishes on the menus here. Once you make your way to Piazza del Duomo, you'll see the Cattedrale di San Vigilio, also known as the Duomo di Trento. In the piazza, there's a large fountain featuring Neptune and a handful of little cafes and restaurants where you can sit down and slowly sip a cappuccino or a glass of wine as you people-watch.

Adventures await you just outside Trento

If you're the kind of person who enjoys lazy afternoons in a piazza in addition to some active rest, Trento has plenty to offer you, too.

If you were impressed by the views from Castel del Buonconsiglio, then you'll definitely want to head to the funicular that connects Trento to the town of Sardagna, located on Mount Bodone. At the top, you'll find a panoramic viewpoint, which offers a fantastic aerial view of Trento and the surrounding mountain landscape. From above, you'll be able to point out all the places you just walked, including the castle, the Piazza del Duomo, and the cathedral.

You definitely don't want to miss this next little outdoor adventure near Trento called Orrido di Ponte Alto, a deep gorge made by the Fersina stream. You can get there by car or take the 9 bus from the train station, and stop at Cognola Scuole. To enter, you need to purchase a guided tour. On the tour, you'll get in-depth information about how the gorge was created and see the two beautiful waterfalls that cascade from above. As of writing, the cost of the tour is only €6, and the tour lasts about 45 minutes. While you don't need heavy-duty hiking boots, definitely consider wearing some walking shoes since the stairs down to the gorge may be slippery and a packable rain jacket.