Trento rarely makes the news these days, but that wasn't the case in the mid-16th century. During the tumultuous years of the Counter-Reformation, the Council of Trent convened here, dishing out far-reaching condemnations to uppity Protestants. Modern Trento is far from preachy; instead it's quietly confident, liberal and easy to like.
With its leafy boulevards, birdsong, oleanders and cacti, Merano feels like you've stumbled into a valley Shangri-La. Long lauded for its sunny microclimate, this poignantly pretty town (and one-time Tyrolean capital) was a Habsburg-era spa and the hot destination of its day, favoured by the Austrian royals, Freud, Kafka and Pound.
Val Badia & Alpe di Fanes
For centuries potent Ladin legends have resonated across this mystical landscape, which inspired the fantasies of JRR Tolkien. Not surprisingly, the Badia valley and the adjoining high plains of Fanes are often touted as one of the most evocative places in the Dolomites. Since 1980 they have been protected as part of the Parco Naturale di Fanes-Sennes-Braies.
Madonna di Campiglio & Pinzolo
Welcome to the Dolomites' bling belt, where ankle-length furs are standard après-ski wear and the formidable downhill runs often a secondary concern to the social whirl and Michelin-starred dining. Austrian royalty set the tone in the 19th century, in particular Franz Joseph and wife Elisabeth (Sissi).
Altipiano della Paganella
Less than an hour's drive northwest of Trento, this dress-circle plateau looks out onto the towering Brenta Dolomites. The Altipiano incorporates five small villages: ski resort Fai della Paganella, touristy Andalo, lakeside Molveno and little Cavedago and Spormaggiore.
Alto Adige’s oldest city, dating to 901, might be the picture of small town calm, but has a grand ecclesiastical past and a lively, cultured side today. Stunning baroque architecture is set against a beguiling Alpine backdrop, a stately piazza leads into a tight medieval core and pretty paths trace the fast-moving Isarco river.