Trento in northern Italy is big on tradition, quality food, and festive cheer12/17/2021
THE snow beneath me crunches as I tread through frozen woodland across Paganella mountain.
Century-old pine trees that line my path hunch over, their branches weighed down by a heavy dusting of snow. In front of me, the sun is piercing through an opening.
Climbing this trail with chunky “snowshoes”, like tennis rackets, strapped to my feet is tough work, but the breathtaking views of Italy’s white-tipped Dolomites that await make the effort worthwhile.
From here you can see all the way down to the village of Andalo, where we’d hired our snow-trekking gear, and all across the vast rocky cliffs that wrap around us.
As we make our way back down the mountain, we watch skiers whizz down the slopes below.
Our base for the next few days, Trento, is a 30-minute drive away from the snowy mountains and an ideal spot for some festive fun for those who don’t want to ski.
This city in northern Italy has remained a well-kept secret for many years, but more recently it has seen a smattering of tourists who come to soak up the culture.
“People are bored of Florence and fed up with Rome and Milan,” my tour guide Sabrina tells me.
“Here, you can still experience traditional Italy and an historic region, but it’s less crowded and more interesting because it’s new to them.”
But the real standout of Trento is its proximity to the slopes — which means you can bag a snowy winter holiday without the hefty price tag.
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The city is brimming with cosy hotels in renovated medieval buildings, including the 4H Hotel America which sits in the heart of the action and has roomy B&B doubles from £86 per night.
December is a great time to visit. The streets come to life at this time of year and near the Piazza Duomo is a quaint Christmas market selling decorations, homemade soaps and festive tipples.
Every evening the square is bustling with locals who come for a warm aperitivo or a Bombardino made with eggnog, brandy and whipped cream.
One drinks stall seems to be attracting more attention than most, though. Tucked away in a busy corner, lively music blares from the shack as the stall owner, Dario, pours fire-lit ladles of mulled wine into a large vat below, stirring the blue flames wildly.
The crowd cheers as he furiously bashes his ladle against the vat’s metal lid, tilting his Bavarian felt hat to the onlookers.
Dario’s headwear isn’t unusual here, I quickly learn. The city once belonged to Austria, before being claimed by Italy in 1919 after World War One.
And Austria’s influence can still be seen in the food. Unlike southern Italy, where pasta and seafood takes prime place on menus, in Trento you will find a unique mishmash of Austrian-Italian grub with favourites including smoked speck ham, cheesy polenta and sweet apple strudels.
There are enough quality restaurants to keep any foodie or pizza nut happy for days and, better still, it can all be washed down with cracking local wines.
Hidden down a teeny side street in the neighbouring village of Lavis, I find Cantine Monfort, a small winery which offers tours with tasting sessions from £12.80 (15 euros) per person.
Sipping on sparkling Trentodocs — the area’s answer to prosecco — as well as fragrant reds and hazelnut-flavoured whites, I learn about how the soil, rich in volcanic rock, and the warm summer months make the surrounding area a great spot for growing wine grapes.
A five-minute walk from here, art fans will love strolling the recently renovated Gardens of Ciucioi that blend Renaissance architecture with medieval castles, church-like walls and colourful lemon trees.
Winding my way back down the rocky roads from Andalo, huge pine trees shrink into the distance and soon Trento’s huge Buonconsiglio Castle appears, its snow-drenched turrets glowing.
With traditional Christmas markets, snowy castles and fabulous ski slopes, the festive city has definitely stolen a pizza my heart.
GO: Trento, Italy
COVID: Fully jabbed Brits need to show proof of a negative lateral flow or PCR test taken within 48 hours of arrival in Italy and must complete an EU passenger locator form.
Current rules require a pre-departure test before returning to the UK and a PCR test on or before day two.
GETTING THERE: The closest airport is Venice Treviso, which is a two-hour drive from Trento.
Ryanair flies from Manchester, Stansted, Nottingham and Bristol to Treviso from £9 each way. See ryanair.com.
STAYING THERE: One night’s B&B at Hotel America costs from £85 (100 euros) per night. See hotelamerica.it/en.
OUT & ABOUT: A tour of the Ciucioi Garden and Cantine Monfort winery, including a guided wine-tasting session and food, is £25pp (30 euros). See pianarotaliana.it.
Snowshoeing on Paganella mountain costs from £12.73pp (15 euros). See activitytrentino.it.
Ski passes to Paganella cost from £42 (49 euros) per adult, plus one child, per day. Further details at paganella.net.
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