Hiking in Trentino is incredibly varied, and mountains range from the craggy rugged peaks of the Dolomites to the more gently sloping mounts surrounding Lake Garda. Mountains and valleys characterise the wild Trentino region, and it would be doing the region a great injustice not to attempt even one simple excursion.
Trentini are famous throughout Italian history for their aptitude on the mountains and their love of the peaks. Modern-day Trentini are still very much a mountain people, using the local mountains for everything from wine-making to holidaying. Most Trentini have their second home atop the neighbouring peaks, and as a result, the infrastructure (trails, roads, maps) is very well-maintained.
All you really need to get started is a sturdy pair of hiking boots. I would strongly NOT recommend trainers or running shoes, as these tend not to support the upper ankle – an important feature which you will be thankful for on your descents. Other than a decent pair of boots, I would suggest taking along some bottled water and some chocolate or biscuits for energy – all carried in a lightweight rucksack. Some panini (sandwiches) might be useful if there is no rifugio (a serviceable mountain hut serving food). You can buy ingredients for panini in any local supermarket – some will even make the sandwich for you in their shop.
Now the exciting part – the trails. Trentino is crisscrossed by hundreds of marked trails. These range in difficulty from professionals-only ascents to gentle slopes that even Italian grandmas can maneuver. Some trails can be completed in an easy hour or two, while other, more strenuous hikes require multiple days to cross. Really, the choice is up to you and your fitness level, and if there is a particular area you wish to explore, some good local knowledge comes in handy. Ask at Trento’s or Roveretto’s APT (Tourist Office) for details on local walks and advice. Locals often know the local terrain best and can suggest routes to suit your needs. The maps they provide are also generally of good quality and quite clear. If you wish, you can also choose to buy Kompass or Tabacco maps, available locally. In any case, all trails are clearly marked by red and white markers (red and white just happen to be the colours on the local flag), and the trails are meticulously maintained by local branches of the Trentino Mountaineering Society. Each trail is assigned its own number, and deviations on the trail are clearly signalled on sign posts, rocks, or the mountainside itself.
Just two quick and unrelated points before anyone wishes to set out: rifugi and dangers. Rifugi are simple or elaborate huts located on major trails that serve as bars, resturants, and dormitories. Rifugi are a unique mountain experience that are enjoyable and quite typical in the Trentino region. They’re in fact so special that I’ve devoted a separate journal to them. Finally, the dangers. While hiking in Trentino is relatively safe, it is always best to be informed of dangers before you set out. Weather can be brutally fierce, even in the height of summer, and the top of a mountain with little or no cover is not a nice place to be caught out. Freak thunderstorms happen frequently between April and September, usually lasting no longer then a couple of minutes. In any case, always check the weather report before heading out. You also want to keep an eye out for Trentino’s venomous viper. A small black snake, it is quite a shy creature and tends to stay hidden from humans (I’ve been hiking in the regions for years and have only seen two), but it is still poisonous. If bitten, go immediately to an emergency room or call the nearest emergency line. While not deadly to adults, the viper’s bite can cause paralysis and comas.
Everything you need for a foray into the peaks is available cheaply and in great abundance. Good-quality hiking gear like boots and rucksacks are especially good value from one of the many sporting goods stores in the area.