Castel Pergine

A castle hotel near Trento, Italy

It says a lot when your hotel is listed as a top regional sight in travel guidebooks. Castel Pergine—two concentric rings of battlemented, moss-slicked stone walls protecting a mighty 1503 keep at the center—is simply the greatest Gothic castle in the mountains of the Trentino, Italy’s undeservedly under-visited Alpine region north of Verona and Lake Garda.

This rambling 13th-century fortress commands a forest-clad hill above Lake Caldonazzo, 20 minutes east of Trent and surrounded by craggy Dolomites and the Suisi Alps. It is, in other words, a five-star setting—for a one-star hotel. The small rooms—each with little more than a bed, desk, and chunky armoire—are described even by manager Verena Neff as being “like monastic cells.”

The owners and the art

When they next get around to renovating, Neff and her husband and co-manager Theo Schneider do plan at least to replace the rooms’ chunky, Neo-Gothic furniture—a legacy of the German owners who first transformed Castel Pergine into a hotel in 1910—with more contemporary, designer pieces. It’s all part of their philosophy of mixing modern with antique.

Though in some ways this place is medieval to the hilt—Neff and her husband and co-manager Theo Schneider both sport pageboy haircuts, and their Giant Russian Terrier, Poldo, lazes about doing his best “castle Irish wolfhound” impression—the castle offers many modern counterpoints.

Each year the contemporary sculptures of a different regional artist are scattered around the grounds. “We like the tension between old and new,” explains Neff. “The castle is old, the walls are old, and they speak of history, but it’s important to put something new in here as well. Everything that has been done to this castle was modern—at the time.” She is proud that even the concerts she and Schneider host feature the music of contemporary composers, not classical.

Public spaces at Castel Pergine

Still, it’s the Middle Ages that pervade Castel Pergine. Guests enter the keep via an echoing, cross-vaulted octagonal hall spun around a fat central support column. The floor, cobbled in a crazy stone quiltwork of mismatched flagstones, leads to a wide spiral of worn stone steps up to the bar/lobby directly above, where another fanwork of vaulting sprouts from the massive central pillar.

Here the walls are lined by window niches deep enough to fit tables for two; the padded sills serve as benches. Each window is set with stained glass featuring the coats of arms of one of the families that have owned the castle over the centuries: the Dukes of Austria, Emperor Maximilian I, and various prince-like Bishops of Trent. One of the latter—Bishop Bernardo Clesio, who called the famous 16th-century Council of Trent repudiating Protestantism (to which Martin Luther wisely did not show)—was responsible for the many of the castle’s Renaissance additions.

Guest rooms at Castel Pergine

Among these is the long, ivy-smothered wing of creaky wooden floors and a dragon-scale slate roof angling off the central keep. This wing was probably built as stalls and storerooms, but now houses most of the guest quarters. Rooms with a sink but without toilet or shower cost €128 ; those with full bathrooms range up to €172, depending on size.

A few more rooms are tucked into the guard tower at the opposite corner of the castle’s innermost garden, where children play soldier on the grass and older guests sit in mod designer chairs to read, drink wine, and soak in the sunshine. The tower over the double portcullis gate, through which visitors squeeze their cars after navigating a long road winding through a deep, dark wood, has been converted into a quad room reserved for stays of three to four nights of longer (€68 per person).

Another tower on the outer defensive wall should be ready for guests by the time you read this.

Dinners (included) at the castle

Rates include breakfast—a simple affair of hearty bread, fig jam, fruit, and slabs of cheese and mountain ham—and a candlelit dinner in a Renaissance hall of the central keep. The set menu (four courses plus salad and dessert) changes daily, and includes innovative twists on traditional dishes: spinach pasta moons stuffed with ricotta and asparagus under a truffle and walnut pesto followed by a chicken and porcini stew or fresh river trout with roasted potatoes and grilled zucchini. The tart, herbed white wine comes from vines visible on the opposite side of the valley through the hall’s tall windows.

Any guest crazy enough not to indulge in this standard mezza pensione (half-board) deal can save €19 per person by opting out of dinner—but there’s no way you could eat this well at a restaurant down in the tow below the castle, and certainly not for so little.

The castle is closed from early November through mid-April.

Tips & links


Castel Pergine
Via al Castello 10, Pergine Valsugana (Trento)
tel. +39- 0461-531-158

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Castel Pergine
Via al Castello 10, Pergine Valsugana (Trento)
tel. +39- 0461-531-158

Useful links

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