If you visit Trentino, the first thing you’ll notice is that the scenery is jaw droppingly beautiful. And since your mouth is going to be hanging open for the majority of your trip… why not fill it with fresh, unique and 100% Trentino food?
In Trentino, the cuisine is heavily influenced by the alpine climate, a deep connection to the land and location near the Austrian border. There’s access to fresh mountain spring water and the climate is ideal for growing grapes, so you know that the drinks will be something to write home about as well.
In order to make the most of your time in Trentino, I’ve compiled a list of authentic foods and drinks to try and where you can find them.
Trentino food and drink you don’t want to miss!
1. Trentino honey is all the buzz!
If you want to get the full local experience, you should start your day with the Trentino breakfast, a thick slice of rye bread, drizzled with olive oil and topped with a generous spread of honeydew honey, made by bees who feed on nectar and oak sap.
BEE a beekeeper for a day
You’re never going to BEE-lieve this, but at Mieli Thun, you can don a suit and get up close and personal with the bees. Did you know that in every language, the title of beekeeper relates to the bees? Not a single language refers to them as a honey farmer. That’s because the bees are of the utmost importance in the honey-making process. In order to make one kilogram of honey, bees must visit six million flowers! And the beekeeper must be in tune with nature enough to know when and where to move the hive for optimal single-varietal honey.
Andrea Paternoster is the founder and bee-whisperer at Mieli Thun. His grandfather started the farm as a hobby and Andrea has made it his life mission to rediscover the importance of honey in the kitchen. Watching him with the bees is akin to watching a great conductor with his orchestra. He knows his bees and was able to point out a bee birth and find the queen, all while dressed in street clothes and speaking gently to his “children.” Because honey is a product of both the bees and the flowers, each jar of honey names both.
It’s not just the bees taking flight in Trentino
Upstairs at Mieli Thun is a large wooden table in the center of a high-ceilinged tasting room. Three wine glasses each hold a portion of honey. Just as in a wine tasting, glasses are sniffed, swirled (s-l-o-w-l-y) and tasted.
Want something a little stronger? Sparkling honey mead is a perfect drink to complement the super sweet honey, flavored with the flowers of the alpine region.
2. Say cheese!
I’m not much of a milk drinker. At all. But the milk that comes from the cows grazing in the high mountains of Trentino is unlike any you’ll find in an American grocery store. The milk in the Trentino region is so good, there are 11 (yep, ELEVEN) festivals dedicated to it.
High quality milk lends itself to naturally to a whole host of dairy products. Although ice cream will always be my first love, cheese is pretty high up there.
Milk the experience for all its worth
At Solarium Predaia, Lino Rizzardi and his family are focusing on educating kids as a way to invest in the future of the planet. Their restaurant is set in a picturesque mountain chalet with panoramic views of the Dolomites. And their farm, San Romedio, is home to about 20 cows who live in stables in the village of Smarano all winter and graze in the mountains.
When I visited, I had the chance to meet Anita, the cow. We got real close, real fast, and I had my first cow-milking experience! Who would’ve thought a Texan would have to go to Italy to learn to milk a cow?! Shortly after the milking experience, we had the chance to try nostrano di malga cheese made with milk from Anita and her bovine buddies.
Have you ever seen a cheese bath?
Caseificio Sociale di Coredo produced 100,000 wheels of Trentingrana DOP on a yearly basis. With each wheel weighing nearly 84 pounds, there’s 8,377,570 pounds of cheese going through this cheese factory on a yearly basis!
A visit to the factory takes you on a tour from milk to mature cheese in a process that’s similar to Parmigiana. My favorite part was the cheese bath, where all the wheels of cheese soaked together in a giant tub!
Each wheel from Caseificio Sociale di Coredo is marked with a special pattern and left to age before being sold. This cheese is great on pasta or on its own!
3. The scoop on gelato in Trentino
In Italy, gelato is sacred. Fresh and local ingredients mean that the gelato in Trentino is some of the best in the world.
Try hay ice cream
I thought hay was for horses… but in Trentino, the innovative chefs at Berry House are dreaming up unusual combinations for a menu that changes every evening. The evening I visited, hay ice cream paired with Casolet cheese and a pear and ginger jam was definitely one of the most unique ice cream flavors I’ve ever tried! (Side note… did you know that July 1 is National Creative Ice Cream Flavors Day? If there was an award for the special day, Berry House takes the cake!)
If you’re too chicken for hay… how about some regular old gelato
When the dessert menu was passed around at Berry House, I requested to try both the hay ice cream and their mint and artemisia dessert. Since mint chocolate chip ice cream is my favorite in the whole world, I could have definitely eaten about five more plates of this one.
Visiting Trento? I visited the best gelaterias in Trento so you know where to find the best gelato in town!
Visiting in June? Every year, Trentino holds a three day ice cream festival, including a gala dinner, tastings, music and a picnic.
4. No whining… Only wine
If you don’t go wine tasting, have you even been to Italy? Robust reds, sweet wines and bubbly beverages are an integral part of every meal. And this region is home to many unique varietals of grape you won’t find anywhere else.
Enjoy a religious experience in a glass
The region of Trentino produces a holy wine, or vino santo from their indigenous nosiola grapes. The grapes are harvested in September or October and left on a trellis for 5-6 months. There’s a phenomenon in the area called Ora del Garda, where the wind blows from the north in the morning and the south in the afternoon, drying the grapes. During this time, the grapes grow noble mold, which add to their flavor as their water content evaporates.
The grapes are collected during Holy Week, pressed and aged in a barrel for a minimum of 10 years. The resulting wine is sweet and the perfect way to end a meal.
The labor involved in this process is intense. To make one barrel of vino santo, 11,000-13,000 pounds of grapes must be pressed. Even a tiny tasting pour is the result of 11 pounds of grapes!
At Azienda Agricola Fratelli Pisoni in the Valle dei Laghi, try wines from four generations of winemakers. With a history that stretches this far, the family has some great stories to tell! Many years ago, the current owner’s grandfather presented six bottles of holy wine to a friend for a baptism. Just recently, the son of the man who was baptized returned one of the bottles to Marco— a 1925 vino santo!
Enjoy a royal experience in a glass
Teroldego Rotaliano is considered the prince of wines and it is royally awesome! The native wine grape is grown on the Campo Rotaliano has a long history in Trentino and received DOC status in 1971.
Bellaveder makes an incredible Teroldego “MasPicol” that’s earned its crown! I tried it during a picturesque lunch overlooking a vineyard at Locanda Camorz di Andrea Rossi, but you can also visit Bellaveder for a tour and tasting.
Enjoy a bubbly experience in a glass
Trentodoc is probably the most important Italian sparkling wine you’ve never heard of. Trentino is the only sparkling wine region where the grapes are grown in the mountains, lending a unique flavor and freshness to the wine. Some even say that these are the highest vineyards in the world!
To be considered a Trentodoc, the grapes must be grown within a specific part of the Trentino region. Then, the wine is processed using the classic method (the same way Champagne is produced), where the second fermentation happens in the bottle.
And it’s not just a cute name. The DOC in Trentodoc stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, one of Italy’s controlled designations, so you can be sure you’re getting high-quality wine from the Trentino region every time. Even better? A bottle of Champagne’s Italian cousin is way easier on the wallet!
Want to give it a try? Take a tour of Mezzacorona winery! Here, you’ll learn about the cooperative, where 1,500 members farm 7,500 acres of grapes. These become 5 million (!) cases of still wine and 2.5 million cases of Trentodoc, sold under the Rotari brand. On the tour, walk through some of the two soccer fields-worth of Trentodoc fermenting for two to nine years. The bottles are stored in cages that can be precisely rotated on a regular basis to control the process.
5. Try (try) a Tortietei
Hotel Il Falchetto is located in the forest of Val di Non and serves typical alpine fare. Their deep fried potato pancakes made this Texan very happy! Try a little juniper berry jam on top for a sweet and salty combination!
6. An apple a day… (is exactly what you’ll get in Trentino)
On arrival at Locanda Alpina in Brez, the desk in my hotel room held a welcome apple. This apple was the first of many consumed during my time in Val di Non, the region of Trentino that could be described as a giant fruit orchard. In this region, 4,000 farmers cultivate 7,000 hectares of fruit, where Italy’s only DOP apple is grown.
Try a frittelle di mele
My stay at Locanda Alpina began with an apple and ended with a frittelle di mele. Val di Non apples are horizontally sliced into cross sections, battered and deep fried.
Jam out at an apple orchard
L’Azienda Agricola Calliari is a family-run orchard committed to safeguarding the crops of the territory. They produce apples and recently planted a vineyard. In their workshop, “Le coccole di Mammina” (which translates to Mommy Cuddles), join Nonna Emanuela for a lesson in turning local apples and rhubarb into a delicious jam.
While the jam cools, enjoy a tasting of local cheese with jam made with love by Nonna.
Enjoy and apple-themed picnic
If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, I should be good for a while after my time in Val di Non! Strada della Mela put together a local picnic, complete with apple sauce, dried apples and apple cider along with cheese, charcuterie and honey.
This was all enjoyed on the Due Laghi di Coredo, where everyone had a great time and even a few goats showed up to join the party!
7. Be on the lookout for priest stranglers
Don’t worry… No one’s getting strangled here! Strangolapreti (even the macabre sounds better in Italian!) is the name given to a traditional gnocchi dish in the Trentino region. This gnocchi is made with stale bread, butter, cheese and greens like spinach or nettles. Legend says that this dish was a Friday favorite for priests, who were forbidden from eating meat on Fridays. They loved it SO much, they would eat it until they choked!
8. It’ll sting if you don’t try the nettles
Before visiting Trentino, the only thing I knew about nettles is that they sting. I mean… it says so right in the name! Trentino taught me that they’re high in lots of good vitamins and protein. And after enjoying it in a few meals, I learned they’re really delicious in gnocchi, ravioli and pesto.
The only thing that will sting is if you miss out on this local delicacy!
9. Look at Trentino through rose-colored glasses
Have you stopped and smelled the roses lately? Chances are good that they either smell like synthetic rose perfume or nothing at all.
As growers breed roses for their looks instead of their scent, we’re losing the gorgeous scent that’s inspired romantics through the ages. In Trentino at Maso Flonkeri, Nonna is growing roses that actually smell like roses. (And they look beautiful, too!)
Nonna created rose syrup from her garden, which can be enjoyed in a glass of chilled Chardonnay for a refreshing and floral aperitivo.
10. Sauerkraut: cuisine from Trentino’s northern neighbor isn’t the wurst
No.. I haven’t gotten my Trentino food guide and Düsseldorf, Germany food guide mixed up! Because Trentino sits in the far north of Italy, their cuisine draws heavily from their neighbor Austria. If you get tired of typical Italian fare, stop by Forsterbräu in Trento for a bratwurst and a side of sauerkraut with a Forst beer!
11. Make thyme for Trentino herbs
Fresh mountain air and a whole lot of nature gives the people of Trentino a special connection to the land.
Forage for herbs
In Piana Rotaliana, we took a cable car to the top of a mountain to meet Stephano, an alpine guide who knows the area like the back of his hand. Together we foraged for herbs and tasted the freshly picked plants. We tasted dandelion grown in calcium and a plant called “one thousand leaves,” which heals wounds. I learned about the most exciting herb: mountain celery. Apparently it helps you become happy if you’re sad and for men, it’s an aphrodisiac!
Make herb salt
In the picturesque Bosentino village, we visited Azienda Agricola Il Leprotto Bisestile where we met our host, Francesca. Here, she runs a rural farmstead that’s home to donkeys, goats rabbits, ducks and two rescue chinchillas.
There, we picked herbs from Francesca’s garden and used a mortar and pestle to make our very own erbes del Trentino salt!
12. Cheers to craft beer
Welcome to the Wild Side, where Birrificio Rethia is brewing the first-ever Italian style grape ale! It’s a sour beer made with hops from New Zealand and Sauvignon grapes purchased from one of the best European winemakers, a 30-year-old female farmer just 10 kilometers away from the brewery. A pair of shoes and several tops were sacrificed to get the sparkling wine-sized bottle in my suitcase to share with family!
Another favorite is the fig and prunes lambic beer, which we agreed (after a few tastings) would be the result of a dark beer and a port wine having a baby. Unique and definitely worth trying!
Rethia is named for the ancient people who lived in the region before the Roman Empire, and while their name is a nod to the past, the brewers are thinking about the future. The owner and master brewer grew up on his family’s vineyard and achieved his sommelier training. After his first taste of craft beer, though, his whole life changed. In 2010, he began making beer in his home and four years later, Birrificio Rethia opened.
Visit their brewery for a tasting and tour or look for Rethia all over Trento!
13. A bit of aperitivo advice? You go & drink a Hugo
The Hugo might be my favorite Trentino discovery. In May and June, the elderflowers are in full bloom, and it’s the star of this sweet, refreshing cocktail. Although there are many ways to make this drink, the Trentino classic combines one part fresh elderflower syrup, three parts sparkling wine (might I recommend Trentodoc?), a handful of fresh mint and a lime wedge. Serve in an extra large red wine glass with ice and enjoy! Bonus points if you’re sipping it from a cafe in Piazza Duomo. Everything tastes better with a beautiful Trentino view!
Note: Elderflower in Italian is sambuco. But don’t worry! There’s none of that (delicious, if you ask me) licorice liquor, Sambuca, in this cocktail!
14. Get a grappa
Across Italy, grappa is a common after-dinner drink for many households. But did you know that grappa was invented in Trentino? The icy weather of the mountains called for extra warmth during the winter and after a glass of grappa, cold is a thing of the past!
Tour one of the oldest grappa distilleries in the world
Villa de Varda has been producing wines and grappa since 1678, making it one of the oldest distilleries in Italy. The quality is evident from the first sip, and you can taste their commitment to excellence, using only grape skin (instead of including seeds and stalks) in 100% copper distilling vats. The alcohol is mixed with pure mountain spring water and aged in barrels for 3-5 years. Lest anyone accuse them of tampering with the goods… the police hold the only key to the aging room!
Stop by for a tasting, where I recommend trying the green apple grappa. (Once you taste the very strong liquor, you’re responsible for your own actions!)
15. Have a slice, slice baby… Of Trentino pizza
I made it 3,088 words before mentioning pizza. (BTW, thanks for hanging around this long.) But you didn’t seriously think I could write a post about Trentino food you need to try and NOT include pizza, did you!?
TripAdvisor lists 102 restaurants in Trento serving pizza. Your options are overwhelming, but I’m here to help!
When in Trento… go local! At the Green Tower Ristorante, I tried the Trentina pizza. The pizza, topped with San Marzano tomato, mozzarella cheese, local lucanica sausage and gorgonzola cheese was the best pizza of my entire trip!
A close second was the prosciutto and mushroom pizza at Pizzeria Al Duomo.
Watch out for the dessert there, though, because they snuck celery and carrots in a mirepoix under chocolate sorbet!
I left Trentino with a belly full of food and a suitcase full of booze. Is there anything better? What food or drink are you most excited to try in Trentino?
Note: Visit Trentino and Traverse Events hosted my stay in Trentino. All opinions are my own, and I’d never recommend anything to you that’s not awesome!
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