The Southern Trentino: Rovereto & Castello Sabbionara
Castello Di Avio -- The first historical mention of the spectacular Castello Sabbionara (tel. 0464-684-453), at the town of Avio 21km (13 miles) south of Rovereto, is from the 13th century, though the castle dates back at least to the 11th century. It was built on the ever-shifting battle line between the dominions of Austrian emperors and the Venetian Republic -- so it's no surprise that, during a 13th-century period of Venetian control when the castle was enlarged, the Casa delle Guardie (Guard's House) was frescoed with marvelous medieval battle scenes featuring the castle in the background. Local folklore whispers that public executions were once carried out inside the imposing Picadòra tower, which defends the north side. A more pleasant part of the house is the beautifully frescoed Room of Love on the top floor. The castle is open February to December 17, Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 1pm and 2 to 6pm (to 5pm Oct-Dec 17); admission 4€ adults, 2.50€ children ages 6 to 10.
Rovereto -- There are two main reasons to visit this noble, medieval town 24km (15 miles) south of Trent. One is simply to stroll through its winding streets and elegant, quiet piazza, both of which lie in the shadow of the 15th-century Castello di Rovereto (tel. 0464-438-100). This Venetian-built castle reminds its visitors that this is as far north as Venice got (by 1418) in its long battle with Austrian powers over control of the Tirol. By 1487, the Austrian factions had control again, but Italian hopes, and the native pro-Italy Irrendentisti, never truly disappeared. This brings us to the other reason to visit: to pay homage to the thousands of mostly Italian and Austrian soldiers who died in the surrounding hills during some of the fiercest fighting of World War I.
These soldiers are commemorated mainly by two sites: the daily sunset ringing of the Campana della Pace, or Bell of Peace (tel. 0464-434-412; daily 9am-6:30pm; 3€ adults, 2€ ages 6-18), which perches atop the hillside near a neoclassical rotunda temple to the fallen, and the Museo Storico Italiano della Guerra (tel. 0464-438-100). The latter occupies part of the castle, at Via Castelbarco 7, and displays photographs, weaponry, and other memorabilia associated with this and other battles. The museum hours are Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 8pm. Admission is 6.50€ adults, 2€ ages 6 to 18.
Another reason to come to Rovereto is to attend one of its much-heralded cultural events: The Rovereto Festival, in early September, features dance performances and a major exhibition of contemporary art; and the late-September Festival Internazionale Mozart (tel. 0464-439-988) features world-renowned performances of the composer's work.
Rovereto is less than half an hour south of Trent via A22. About two buses an hour make the 45-minute trip; contact Trentino Trasporti (tel. 0461-821-000; www.ttspa.it) for more information. The APT tourist office, at a park on the Leno River at Corso Rosmini 6A (tel. 0464-430-363; fax 0464-435-528; www.apt.rovereto.tn.it), is open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 12:15pm and 2:30 to 6pm, and Saturday (summer only) 8:30am to 12:15pm.
En Route To Bolzano: The Strada Di Vino
Some of Italy's finest wines are produced on the vines that cloak the hillsides between Trent and Bolzano. (These local wines include many pinot grigios and pinot noirs, and Vernatsch, the most common red of the region.) If you are traveling by car between the two cities, you can make the trip on the well-marked Strada di Vino (Weinstrasse), or Wine Road. Leave Trent on S12; 15km (9 1/4 miles) north, you will come to the main turnoff for the village of Lavis; take this turnoff, and from here, easy-to-follow yellow signs will lead you along a series of twisting roads past vineyards and around Lago di Caldaro to Bolzano. Many of the vineyards have tasting rooms open to the public and sometimes offer cheese, sandwiches, and other refreshment as well.
The Vini Josef Hofstätter cantina, on Piazza Municipio 5 in Termeno (tel. 0471-860-161), welcomes drop-ins for free tastings, but for most vineyards you must book ahead; keep in mind that most are closed from around noon to 2pm. Check out Georg Baron Widmann, Via im Feld 1 in Cortaccia (tel. 0471-880-092); Alois Lageder in Magrè (tel. 0471-809-500; www.lageder.com); and Castel Schwanburg in Nalles (tel. 0471-678-622). There's the small Südtiroler Weinmuseum (tel. 0471-963-168) in the Caldaro village outside Termeno at Goldgasse 1, open Monday to Saturday 9:30am to noon and 2 to 6pm, Sunday 10am to noon. If you don't have your own wheels, the tourist offices in Trent and Bolzano can provide lists of local tour companies that lead wine tours.