A promenade around town, in true Trento style
The unmissable tour to discover the beautiful corners of the city
Trento, Renaissance pearl, with streets adorned with fine frescoed townhouses and mansions built over an ancient Roman settlement. Trento, home to fascinating festivals and a historic university. Trento, city of the Council of Trent. Too often confused with Trieste, with which it shares its initial letters and a chunk of its history, Trento is a little gem – set not on the coast but in the mountains and often shining at the top of those lists of the Italian cities with the finest quality of life.
Which is why we’d like to introduce it to you properly. By exploring its orderly yet surprising streets, inviting you to raise your gaze now and then to savour some of its finest sights, hidden glimpses and lesser-known corners. Ready to join us? Then let’s set out on “El giro al Sass”.
The classic local walk around town
“El giro al Sass” is how Trentino folk refer to the familiar favourite stroll around the city centre streets, taking in the main buildings and central squares on a relaxed rectangular route. The locals love it, especially on Saturday afternoons when the frenetic everyday grind is put aside for a gentle walk, a spot of window shopping, and a chat with the familiar faces you bump into along the way.
While everyone from Trentino is aware of this expression, not many know where it comes from. A “giro” is a tour, of course, but “sass” is a dialect word meaning “cobblestone”, and there did indeed use to be a tumbledown popular quarter paved that way: where Piazza Cesare Battisti now lies, in the heart of the city. This old district of narrow alleys called fossati and a large, dense cluster of houses echoed with music and the banter of taverns, before it was gutted and redeveloped in the early 1930s to improve living conditions and public health.
Let us begin
To do this properly, you need to start at the corner of Via Oss Mazzurana and Via Oriola: with Piazza del Duomo behind you, take a left across the elegant little square known as Piazza Pasi. Here you can admire the red marble or “Trento Red” paving, which you’ll also find in other parts of town, and the high terraces that peep out over the roofs. Don’t forget to take a lingering look at the fabulous frescoes to your left, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, recently revealed on the main façade of Palazzo Niccoli.
You then come to the opposite corner of the square; look left down the long street that is Via Oss Mazzurana and press on. After a few metres, the bossage front of Palazzo Tabarelli, on the right, is well worth stopping for; style-wise, it resembles the architecture of Ferrara and Bologna. Just a little further ahead on the same side, pause on the corner with Via Diaz to contemplate the delicate frescoes gracing Palazzo Cazuffi all the way up (not to be confused with the better-known Casa Cazuffi in Piazza del Duomo).
The devilish legend
Stroll on past shop windows, bars and the main entrance to the municipal theatre until you reach the end of the street. Before turning right into Via Manci, stop for a moment and look to your left. A pale, classically elegant façade features a huge wooden gate between double Corinthian columns, set off by a small balcony above.
This is Palazzo Fugger Galasso, better known perhaps as Palazzo del Diavolo (“the Devil’s mansion”) on account of the legend – made famous by Goethe in his Italian Journey – that it was built in a single night, after wealthy banker Georg Fugger had sealed a pact with the fiend.
Walk along the former Via Lunga
Continue and bear right on to Via Manci – once known as Via Lunga (“long street”). The beautiful buildings and porphyry cobbles immediately strike the eye.
About halfway along, note the painted façade of Palazzo Saracini Cresseri on the left. Now the Alpine museum, run by the Trentino mountaineering society, this impressive structure re-opened to the public in 2019, revealing once again the exquisitely restored frescoes, where the two-dimensional trompe-l’oeil design lends the wall a three-dimensional Renaissance bossage effect.
As we proceed, openings appear on both sides of the street, leading to alleys where neat shop windows and craft workshops beckon you in to browse. Now carry straight on to “el Canton” – the junction with Via San Marco (which runs right under the tower of Buonconsiglio castle) – and pause to take in this beguiling corner of town. The buildings are adorned with loggias, balconies and double-lancet windows on all sides and on several levels. Our Giro al Sass resumes on Via San Pietro.
The church and the street of St Peter
Keeping on clockwise, turn right and ease your way down Via San Pietro. The street takes its name from the church, which stands back welcomingly as the road widens opposite the Galleria dei Legionari, a cut-through to Piazza Cesare Battisti.
The church was built on the foundations of an earlier edifice from the 1100s; the 19th-century gothic-style façade has been recently restored. Behind, the charming Piazzetta Anfiteatro waits to be explored, along with a labyrinth of lanes lined with low buildings that are among the city’s finest, most characteristic and yet least-known.
Go ahead to skip back
Carry on along the broad Via San Pietro with its bright, gleaming shops. At the far end, you reach Largo Carducci; the old public slaughterhouse used to be on the corner, where Casa Torre Benatti now stands. As you turn right at the junction, look up for a memorable glimpse of the historic sundial painted on the short side of the tower – a leap back in time to the 17th century. A few metres ahead, you’re approaching one of the nerve centres of the city: the point where 7 streets converge and the Trento heartbeat has pulsed strong since the Middle Ages. The business and social life of the city continues in these streets as vibrantly as it always has.