Already popular with adventure travelers, Trentino, Italy is an attractive destination for culinary travelers too. Read on to discover 15 essential Trentino food experiences that will make you want to book a trip and live the mountain gourmet lifestyle.
Occupying a magical space between Austria to the north and the Veneto to the south, Trentino is alive with the sound of music. Okay, the cliched movie analogy may be stretching things a bit, but we couldn’t help but sing with happiness as we explored Italy’s most mountainous region.
Between the Alps and the Dolomites, not to mention a myriad of rivers and lakes including Lake Garda, Trentino is an adventure traveler’s fantasy. But this terrain makes Trentino just as attractive for people like us. Yes, Trentino is an intriguing destination for food travel enthusiasts.
It’s also an Italian region with a unique food set.
The food in Trentino is unique.
Trentino’s many mountains and lakes create an ecosystem that allows its people to produce a diverse mountain cuisine. Some of the best Italian apples grow in Val di Non while a multitude of grape varietals thrive in Trentino’s multi-tiered terraces.
Cows graze in lush pastures, creating milk with a taste made distinct from the grasses and herbs that these cows happily munch on in the warm summer months. And who can blame them for being happy considering the snow-capped mountain views they enjoy during their grazing expeditions?
This Trentino terrain also impacts the flavor of cured meats like speck and mortandela. And let’s not forget about bees who produce golden honey from the nectar of rose, violet and chartreuse flowers growing freely in Trentino’s rolling valleys.
Trentino’s mountain cuisine features plenty of cheese and meat, but its deep lakes add freshwater fish to the mix. Mountain trout of various colors and sizes swim in Lake Garda as well as in the Noce, Avisio and Sarca rivers.
Formerly part of Austria, Trentino serves speck-laden knödel-esque dumplings called canerderli along with Teutonic favorites like spaetzle. But its northern Italian boot location ensures that risotto, gnocchi and all other forms of pasta are commonly available at Trentino restaurants.
Beyond geography and topography, the people of Trentino have the greatest impact on the quality and quantity of the region’s food and products. During our trip, we interacted with generations of Trentino locals who were proud and happy to share their stories.
Trentino locals welcomed us with open arms. We visited them in their kitchens as well as their fields. We also drank wine with them and enjoyed the tasty food they served.
By the end of our week in Trentino, we may have needed an occasional break from risotto and gnocchi but we never tired of wines like Trentodoc, the area’s answer to France’s champagne and our new favorite summer sparkler.
Trentino Food Experiences That You Cannot Miss
Trentino-Alto Adige is a region where any hike or nature walk can quickly turn into a foraging adventure and roses can become ingredients for syrup. And if you’re wondering what to drink in Trentino, wine flows as freely as applie juice in the region as well.
Food travelers will find no lack of food to eat in Trentino, but we challenge you to go further and dig deeper into the mountain cuisine. When you do, the following 15 food experiences will keep you as busy as the bees you’ll meet along the way.
Explore Local Products
Visit any region of Italy and you’ll quickly find amazing food products like tomatoes in Compagna and truffles in Emilia Romagna. It’s one of the pleasures of eating in Italy. Trentino is no exception to this rule.
We recommend that you start your culinary journey with Trentino’s local food products. Renting a car will allow you to explore this vast Alpine region. It will also give you a front-row view of Trentino’s gorgeous views and stunning vistas.
1. Visit A Bee Farm And Taste Fresh Honey
“…A magical relationship between the vegetable world and the animal world…”
Mieli Thun is a mandatory stop during any Trentino food expedition. Sure, you can buy Mieli Thun honey at a Verona bakery or an Eataly outlet, but there’s nothing like sampling and buying Trentino’s premier honey at the Val di Non farm.
Wanting to dip into local honey, we made advance arrangements with owner and beekeeper Andrea Paternoster to meet some of his employees. And by employees, we mean bees. Yes, we donned bright yellow beekeeper suits when we visited Mielie Thun to get close to these frisky employees. Watch our YouTube video to see we got stung in the process.
Andrea Paternoster passed away in a car accident after our visit. We treasure the memory of meeting him and his bees prior to his untimely passing.
Paternoster, a third-generation producer, introduced us to some of the bees that populate the half dozen colonies in his garden. Not only do they create fabulous honey, but these bees are critical to the region’s biodiversity.
As we chatted while munching on bread slathered with forest honeydew honey, Paternoster confided in us that he wasn’t actually a honey producer but rather a translator of insect language. He was a man who also a man who liked to spread joy with the wide variety of honey produced at the boutique operation. Sadly, Andrea Paternoster passed away in 2020, one year after we met him.
Combine honey with olive oil to create a dip that’s both sweet and savory. There’s no need to mix the two ingredients. The combination works surprisingly well.
As much as fun as it was to don beekeeper suits and get up-close-and-personal with Mieli Thun’s tiniest workers, we took this food experience to the next level by joining Paternoster in a tasting of three kinds of honey – Millefiori, Toglio and Heather.
Rich in fructose, golden, transparent Millefiori was a great starter honey with wildflowers that represent all of the flowers of the region. Bees visit six million flowers to create just one kilo of honey. This honey is great for garnishing cakes and other Italian desserts.
Bees only visit linden flowers to produce Toglio, a pearly, opaque monaflora honey. Its glucose sugars harmonize well with herbal teas. A totally different sensation, tasting dark brown Heather was like taking a magic carpet ride flavored with exotic hints of curry, caramel, cinnamon and licorice.
We smelled each honey and observed its color variation before tasting the sweet elixir. We then washed the honey trio down with mead double fermented with …of course… honey.
Buy as much honey as you can carry. We regret not buying more during our visit.
2. Drink Aromatic Grappa
More than a family-run grappa distillery, Villa de Varda is a vibrant part of Trentino’s viticulture history. Continuously producing Italy’s version of pomace brandy since the 19th century, this grappa house has a history dating back to the 1500’s and takes pride in holding Italy’s 17th grappa license.
During our visit at the Mezzolombardo grappa house, Michel Dolzan introduced us to the family’s distillery. During the tour, he escorted us into a hidden subterranean ‘museum’.
A destination in its own right, the Villa de Varda’s private collection features items dating back to the 16th century. A centuries-old still rests among a room filled with historic farm equipment, wagon wheels, specimen jars and wheelbarrows.
Learning about grappa and its production process is equally fascinating. Villa de Varda sources Amarone grapes from the Veneto and then distills them six times in copper stills. They then age the resulting liquid in four types of casks, all made with new French wood, before bottling the liquid gold.
A visit to Villa de Varda would be incomplete without tasting the aromatic aperitif. Though we admired the special 1975 grappa commemorating Michele’s birth year, we also loved fruit liqueurs flavored with elderflower and green apple.
Make an advance appointment for a guided tour. After your tour, take time to sip grappa at one of the tables outside the entrance.
3. Learn About Trentino’s Wine Production
Trentino’s altitude, terrain and climate produce an ample supply of grapes to fuel the region’s large-scale wine production. We visited Mezzacorona to learn about Trentino wine on a first-hand basis.
Mezzacorona is a winery where ‘old tradition meets the future’. One of Trentino’s oldest wineries, Mezzacorona has been producing wine since in the region since 1904; however, there’s nothing stodgy about Trentino’s second largest Trentodoc producer. For inquiring minds, the largest producer, Ferrari Trento has been producing Trentodoc since 1902.
The production process at Mezzacorona is most impressive especially when it comes to Trentodoc. The modern winery produces 2.5 million bottles of the bubbly DOC wine under the upscale Rotari label and stores 8 million of these bottles in cages.
Winemaker Matteo Covazzo guided us through Mezzacorona’s large facility. We saw a vast number of stainless steel containers and ceramic vats, but the best part of the tour was tasting the final product.
Trentodoc may be the region’s signature Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) wine, but Mezzacorona produces other wines with indigenous grapes like Nosiola, Teroldego, Rotaliano and Marzemimo as well as global grapes like Chardonnay, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Noir. Wines can be enjoyed in Mezzacoron’s tasting rooms and event spaces.
Call ahead to book a winery tour. Mezzacorona conducts tours six days a week.
4. Experience Cheese From Farm To Table
Making cheese in Trentino is serious business. Farmers start at the crack of dawn and the cows do a bit of work too. Let’s face it – grazing can be tiring work when it involves choosing whether to eat green or yellow flowers. Such is the life of a cow in the Dolomites.
We started our Trentino cheese exploration with coffee at Solarium Predaia before Lino Rizzardi whisked us from the Trentino restaurant to his family’s panoramic mountain farm. Before long, Rizzardi and son Igor were enlisting our assistance in milking one of their 300 cows.
Our reward? Mountain cheese with a mountain view. The value? Priceless.
Seeing the cows in their natural habitat was a special experience, but visiting a Trentingrana DOP factory was equally rewarding. Cheesemaker Cornelio Brusinelli showed us the cheesemaking process which reminded us of a Parmigiano Reggiano factory tour we previously took in Emilia-Romagna. Let’s face it – the two cheeses aren’t so dissimilar.
Like Parmigiano Reggiano, Trentingranna is a firm, cooked and pressed cheese that ages well. In some ways, the roots of both of these cheeses can be traced to the Alps. However, unlike Parmigiano, Trentingrana milk comes from cows that graze in the mountains.
Both cheeses have stringent rules when it comes to qualifying for Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) status. Cheese Farm Coredo follows all of these rules to create an outstanding cheese product.
After showing us the cheesemaking process, Brusinelli led us through a tasting of Trentingrana cheeses aged for 3, 5, 12 and 36 months. This granular, crystally cheese is ideal for grating over pasta, though we enjoyed eating it on its own.
Stock up on cheese, yogurt and ice cream at Cheese Farm Coredo. The shop has a varied selection of local products.
5. Roast Coffee Through History
Coffee is an important part of life in all parts of Italy including Trentino where most people have their first cup with breakfast and their last cup with dinner. In many ways, Italians have mastered the fine art of coffee enjoyment.
Diving into the local coffee scene, we visited Bontadi in Rovereto to check out the historic coffee roasting company. Known as CoBo, Bontadi’s private collection features 300 pieces of Italian coffee roasting and brewing history from crude 19th-century roasting canisters to sleek, art deco espresso machines.
Tasting coffee is a key part of the Bontadi experience, and we were happy to oblige after checking out the company’s expansive roasting area and warehouse. Though we’re still specialty coffee fans to the core, the tour gave us a new appreciation for Italian coffee culture.
Book your visit in advance via the Bontadi website.
6. Taste Beer At A Brewery
Although Italy isn’t world-famous for its beer like it is for its wine, the boot has joined the craft beer movement with a vengeance. Local brewers throughout the country are crafting beer that compares favorably with brews in the United States, Belgium, Germany and the UK. Yet, Italian brewers have no fear in experimenting with unique flavors and aromatics that gives their brews a unique sense of place.
Beer lovers who visit Trentino will want to check out Birrificio Rethia just outside Trento. This craft brewery led by brewmaster Luciano Faes produces a variety of world-class ales.
Mariamata, an American pale ale, is the brewery’s most popular beer. However, our favorite was their Wild Side, a sour beer brewed with Italian grapes. Other popular beers include Magnolia (a white beer tinged with bergamot), Lisep (a crisp take on Kolsch), Jet Lag (an American style IPA) and Guna (a thick, almost chewy chocolate stout).
In addition to visiting the brewery, you can also drink Rethia’s craft beer in Trentino bars.
Eat Like A Local
Eating local food is a key part of the Trentino experience. We immersed ourselves in the local food scene during our week in Trentino. In other words, we ate a lot of carbs and speck, Trentino’s smoked and cured answer to prosciutto.
We also ate plenty of fruits and vegetables during our visit. Val di Non farmers grow a large number of Italy’s apples, so it’s no surprise that this fruit is a popular ingredient in many local dishes beyond strudel.
Trentino apple varieties include Canada Renetta,Fuji, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Morgenduft, Royal Gala, Stark Delicious and Winesap.
7. Sample Typical Food
Since most Trentino restaurants incorporate both Austrian and Italian influences, it’s just as easy to find canederli and strudel on a Trentino menu as it is to find pasta and risotto. The food is appropriately hearty for those looking to power up for a mountain hike but also tasty enough to satisfy food travelers.
Expect to eat lots of pasta, risotto and gnocchi in Trentino. Carnivores can choose among beef, pork and more gamey proteins while Pescitarians will be in trout heaven. As for Vegetarians, they have a bounty of healthy foods grown on Trentino’s mountain farms.
Don’t plan to lose weight in Trentino. You can count calories after you return home.
8. Enjoy Lunch At An Agriturismo
Staying at an agriturismo is a trendy way to immerse yourself into local Italian farm life. In addition to accommodations, an agriturismo experience usually includes copious amounts of local food cooked by the farm owners.
Trentino has a network of agriturismo options available for travelers who want the full farm experience as well as for those who just want to experience a meal or two. This is a great way to eat like a local in a bucolic setting, often with epic views and friendly animals to pet.
Consider an overnight stay at a Trentino agriturismo for a full farm experience.
9. Linger Over A Wine Lunch
Drinking local wine was one of our favorite things to do in Trentino. We pretty much drank wine at every lunch and dinner without regret.
During lunch at Locanda Camorz, we dined alfresco in front of rows of vines while enjoying Trentino food favorites like Speck dell’Alto Adige and Pea-Cream topped Trout. We paired the courses with Bellaveder wines featuring Chardonnay, Müller-Thurgau and Teroldego grapes.
Be sure to drink Teroldego, Trentino’s full-bodied red wine, when you indulge in a Trentino wine lunch. This big red stands up to the region’s hearty food.
10. Share A Picnic By A Lake
Did we mention that Trentino-Alto Adige is gorgeous? Every time we thought that we found the most beautiful view, we found another that was even better.
Though a lot of the best Trentino views involve hiking to the top of a mountain, there are plenty of scenic spots that don’t involve boots and backpacks. As a bonus, these spots are perfect spots to relax over a picnic lunch.
We recommend parking yourself on a blanket by Due Laghi di Coredo. During our specially catered lunch, we enjoyed a feast of local products from Strada della Mela e dei Sapori. If you’re wondering what to pack in your basket, we recommend the following goodies:
Take a nature walk around two lakes after you eat your picnic lunch.
11. Roll Up Your Sleeves And Cook
Part of the fun of eating great food is learning about its origin. In Trentino, we took the learning process one step further by rolling up our sleeves and cooking local food.
Our first cooking foray involved lots of chopping and dicing of Val di Non apples. Since apples are one of Trentino’s main agricultural products, this was a great activity.
For our second cooking experience, we baked honey cookies with our hosts at Locanda Alpina. Not only did we have fun creating cookies with dozens of different shaped cookie cutters, but we also enjoyed eating our cookie creations after dinner.
Don’t eat too much during your cooking experience. You’ll want to save room for the next meal
Get Close To Nature
With so many mountains and lakes, Trentino is a nature lover’s paradise. But what about food travelers? As it turns out, connecting with the local terrain is a great way for food travelers to connect to Trentino cuisine.
12. Transform Roses Into Syrup
Not every Trentino farm specializes in apples as we learned when we visited Agritur Maso Flonkeri. In addition to its fields filled with fruits and vegetables, this agriturismo has a gorgeous rose garden right near its main building.
During our visit, Nanna Pomeranenco welcomed us with Rose Chardonnay cocktails. Little did we know as we sipped the sweet concoction, but we’d soon be learning how to make rose syrup ourselves.
We joined Pomeranenco in transforming roses into syrup. After we picked the roses and plucked their petals, she boiled a mixture of rose petals, sugar, water and lemon until it formed a sweet syrup.
We later ate a tasty lunch prepared by Pomeranenco and drank more of her rose wine cocktails. After helping make rose syrup ourselves, the cocktails tasted even better than before.
Buy a bottle of rose syrup as an edible souvenir. You’ll enjoy it more than a fridge magnet though it won’t last as long.
13. Forage For Herbs
Between the Dolomites and Italian Alps, Trentino has a lot of mountains in its corner of Italy. Hikers regularly climb these mountains for adrenaline-infused views, but they have much to offer food travelers too.
To get closer to nature during our visit, we rode a gondola 600 meters to the top of Monte di Mezzocorona. Not only did we enjoy dramatic views of the valley below, but we also got the chance to forage for herbs with local expert Stefano Delugan.
Delugan led us on a focused hunt for saffron, ramps, mountain celery and dandelion greens. Adding to the experience, he had us taste several herbs along the way.
Forage for herbs with an experienced guide to avoid exposure to poisonous plants.
14. Make Aromatic Herb Salt
You may be wondering what to do with foraged herbs during your Trentino vacation. We were wondering the same thing ourselves until the folks at Il Leprotto Bisestile gave us the opportunity to turn herbs into aromatic herb salt.
After picking a melange of herbs like thyme, mint, oregano, tarragon and fennel, we used a mortar and pestle to pound them into a colorful salt mixture. This process required a bit of elbow grease, but the sweeping view of Lake Caldanzzo made the work a pleasure.
Tie your herb salt bag extra tight to avoid a packing disaster.
15. Have A Jam Session At A Farm
Visiting a farm like Azienda Agricola Calliari provides a fun opportunity to experience Trentino’s local produce. We toured the Malosco family farm where we saw ancient apples in the orchards and mammoth rhubarbs in the fields. Cows and horses completed the working farm’s bucolic picture.
During our farm visit, we participated in a Le Coccol di Mammina workshop and learned how to make apple rhubarb jam. Flavia Calliari put us to work slicing and dicing apples and rhubarb. She also fed us local cheese and homemade jam, more than a fair trade for our efforts.
Wear sturdy shoes when you visit a Trentino farm.
Where to Stay in Trentino
Trentino has a range of hotel options for different types of travelers. We stayed at the following three Trentino hotels:
Consider staying at Locanda Alpina in Brez. The intimate inn has ten well-appointed rooms including the Bella di Bocao room where we stayed for three nights. Each room has modern features including TVs, safes and free Wi-Fi.
Locanda Alpina also has an excellent food program. Guests can enjoy a hearty breakfast buffet in the morning and traditional Trentino cuisine in the evening.
Agritur La Val
Agritur La Val offers a more rustic experience in Vigolo Vattaro. In addition to growing berries, the agriturismo has a range of comfortable rooms. Our cozy room for the night featured a scenic mountain view.
Guests at Agritur La Val enjoy a breakfast buffet filled with local products as well as items produced on the farm. Highlights are various homemade jams and cakes.
Grand Hotel Trento
Grand Hotel Trento offers a more urban experience in the heart of Trento, one of Italy’s great food cities. The four-star hotel has 136 rooms and suites including the green room we stayed in for four nights. Hotel amenities include free Wi-Fi, 24-hour reception and a health center.
All guests are welcome to eat breakfast at the breakfast buffet. This hotel also operates a restaurant and bar on the premises.
Hungry For More In Italy?
About The Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers their unique taste of the world.
Original Publication Date: July 5, 2019