Fortress in the Clouds: Trekking to Castel Trostburg in Valle Isarco


Kate + Vin

Castel Trostburg in Italy
tyrolean castle icon

Every trip to South Tyrol should include a wild excursion into its storied past. We share why the mountain-enthroned Castel Trostburg is one historic haunt not to miss.

In a land teeming with more castles than anywhere else in Europe, it’s impossible not to wonder what the world was like when ruled by men and women on thrones. Especially when sweat begins beading on your forehead only 5 minutes into a grueling climb to one of South Tyrol’s most imposing mountainside fortresses.

The stone-shackled road leading to Trostburg Castle snakes up from the village of Ponte Gardena (Waidbruck) in the lower Valle Isarco (Eisack Valley). It’s only a 15-minute hike, but the trudge to this mighty haunt of medieval prowess gives you a real appreciation for how people ages ago managed buns of steel without cheesy workout videos.

By the time you reach the entrance of Trostburg Castle, you nearly expect to be greeted by a knight named Sir Gluteus Maximus. Instead, what does greet you is pure awe. The utter grandness of the fortress up close is as breathtaking as the hike that leads you here.

⇒ Plan Your Visit to Trostburg: Grab our South Tyrol + Dolomites Travel Guide

Wildflowers & Cobblestones

trostburg castle mountainside

Looking up from the trailhead in Ponte Gardena, it’s tempting to become transfixed on reaching Trostburg Castle as quickly as possible. This is a mistake. The hike to the fortress is a gem all its own.

The old castle road inspiring you onward gifts hikers with numerous swoon-worthy sights. You wander past Alpine meadows painted by the season, as well as through shade-friendly forests dotted with benches offering a chance for a contemplative rest.

At the bends of the sloping road, sweeping vistas materialize before you like theater curtains parting for a show. Pausing to inhale the views of the roaring Isarco River below is all you need to press on. 

trostburg castle wildflower
Trostburg Castle enjoys a commanding perch of more than 2,000 ft.

Of course, if you are a photography enthusiast, these viewpoints are where you can do much more than take a brief break. The number of opportunities to capture Trostburg Castle framed in romance is countless. In fact, you may find this trek one of the most rewarding short adventures in South Tyrol.

Farm lovers are equally thrilled with the journey to Trostburg. Lying above the village of Ponte Gardena, directly off the castle road, is a charming farmstead that poetically illustrates the meaning of quaint.

trostburg castle trail shrine

Here, you can make some new friends of the hoofed kind while whistling by. The panorama these animals enjoy might even make you wonder if being a jackass in South Tyrol isn’t such a bad thing.

As you continue hiking up the road, the imposing mystery of Trostburg Castle becomes less mysterious. A sign posted on the roadside tells the story of the stronghold. It is written in German, Italian and English.

King of the Mountain

Oswald Von Wolkenstein
The famous medieval poet, Oswald Von Wolkenstein, once called Trostburg home. Is he winking in this portrait? No, legend has it his right eye was lost during a childhood archery accident.

Trostburg Castle began towering over the Valle Isarco in the 12th century. Its building blocks were born from the boulders left behind by ancient glaciers and rivers once ravaging the land.

Exactly how long it took medieval masons to chisel these stones into castle-ready form, lift them to lofty heights and mortar them into eternal rest on the mountain is not known.

Trostburg Castle exchanged overlords multiple times over the centuries. However, its most famous resident was Oswald von Wolkenstein — a beloved medieval poet and composer who penned odes about travel, sex and God long before Led Zeppelin did.

Trostburg was purportedly Oswald’s childhood home. Why he left such a majestic residence is beyond us, but Oswald eventually lodged his poetic soul at the Abbey of Novacella, an ancient monastery in Brixen that is today one of the oldest wineries in the world.

The castle served as the ancestral seat of the Wolkenstein family for nearly 600 years. Prior to their possession, Trostburg belonged to many prominent nobles including the Lords of Velturno, the Counts of Tyrol and the Lords of Villanders.

Roaming the Castle Grounds

trostburg castle visit

Upon reaching Trostburg Castle, we suggest walking about its grounds to see the fortress in all its grandeur. Admiring the castle from multiple vantage points allows you to peer into the past.

The aged stonework tells of the castle’s modifications, additions and fortifications over the centuries. Portions of Trostburg’s walls appear gray like an overcast sky while others seem burned by the sun with tints of gold and red.

trostburg castle panorama
Trostburg Castle sprawls over a rugged swath of the mountainside.

Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance architectural contours and details are visible with every step as you wander by the stronghold itself and the other structures forging the castle complex. Indeed, the only sights you may encounter betraying the castle’s glorious past are the occasional tourist snapping a selfie or an automobile racing on a road in the valley far below.

Inside Castel Trostburg

trostburg castle doorway

In classic castle fashion, entering Trostburg Castle demands walking through a massive arched door that makes you wonder if only the hand of God can open it.

Once inside the castle, you can marvel at faded frescoes gracing its courtyard walls. They appear almost graffiti-like in their randomness and subject matter.

Walking through the castle’s historic rooms and halls is where you can truly get lost in the craftsmanship of centuries past. They display artifacts and works of art spanning nearly a millennia.

trostburg castle fall gate frescoes
The walls of Trostburg Castle come alive inside.

The castle chapel of St. Anthony is curiously small and depicts moody religious scenes on its ceiling that are intriguing to ponder. 

If you are a hunter, plan to linger in the castle’s large guest chamber. Here, murals showcasing hunting motifs impart clues to what a medieval hunt must have been like.

trostburg castle grand hall room
trostburg castle interior rooms

Especially impressive in the castle are the wood-clad walls and ceilings. These rustic adornments display elaborate details that compel you to strain your neck in study. The rich stucco art in the grand Knight’s Hall leaves you wishing royalty was in your blood.

A castle artifact we found particularly mind-blowing was the immense medieval wine press located in the castle tower. When we first saw the wine press we thought it to be a crude torture concoction meant to contort wretched souls in the most medieval way.

Alas, we were relieved to learn its only victims were plucked grapes. Torturing fruit to give up its sweetness for South Tyrolean wine is fine by us. The wine press is the largest in South Tyrol and employs a 36-foot-long wood pressing level. This mass of lumber projects like a missile across the castle tower.

trostburg castle medieval wine press
Trostburg Castle holds the largest medieval wine press in South Tyrol.

In addition to being home to a number of nobles over the centuries, Trostburg Castle is also the official home to the South Tyrolean Institute of Castles (Südtiroler Burgeninstitut). A section of the castle is dedicated to hosting the South Tyrolean Museum of Castles. Here, you can study remarkable creations of true-to-scale models of 86 South Tyrolean castles.

How to Visit Castel Trostburg

trostburg castle stone trail
Trostburg Castle is a perfect excursion for those looking to embark on a short hike filled with history.

Fitting in a visit to Trostburg Castle is easy to do on your way into or out of Val Gardena. It’s impossible to miss looming above the A22 Autostrada.

If you are driving from Bolzano or Brixen, take the Val Gardena exit and head to Ponte Gardena. You will find plenty of public parking available near the castle trailhead in the heart of the village.

However, if you’re venturing into the Dolomites for a winter excursion, you will have to skip Trostburg. The castle is only open from the end of March to the end of October.

trostburg castle signpost

From your parking spot, follow signs pointing to Trostburg Castle. Take trail no. 1 as shown in the picture below.

Admission to Trostburg Castle is very reasonable: €8 for adults, €5 for kids from 6 to 14 years old and free for youngsters 6 years old and under. But the smart way to visit the castle, as well as a host of other sights in South Tyrol, is to obtain the Museumobil card. The card is €15-€34 depending on the duration of your stay and age. It gives you free access to 90+ museums and historical sights.

If you have worked up a thirst or appetite Trostburg Castle, consider making a 15-minute drive to the artist village of Chiusa (Klausen) located across the Isarco River. Tucked within this postcard-pretty town is one of South Tyrol’s finest craft breweries and taverns: Gassl Bräu.

Here, you can enjoy a hearty South Tyrolean meal or Italian fare if you prefer. We chose both and they each made our mouths sing with praise.

gassl brau birra
Recharge your batteries with a visit to Gassl Bräu.

But no visit to Gassl Bräu’s is complete without drinking a pint of Gassl Bräu’s beer — a fine, frosty reflection of South Tyrol’s centuries-old brewing tradition. Before ordering one too many, though, be sure to walk into the tavern’s brewery. It’s a slightly surreal experience. A glass floor lays beneath your feet revealing a rushing stream with trout darting back and forth.

Whether you dine or simply savor a refreshment, the street-side tables at Gassl Bräu’s offer the idyllic medieval setting to plan a hike to another historic wonder. Allow us to suggest the Sabiona Monastery.

This striking destination clings to a clifftop high above the village. See our post for details on how to get there. #MakeAdventureHappen 😍


trostburg castle visit pin
trostburg castle pin

23 thoughts on “Fortress in the Clouds: Trekking to Castel Trostburg in Valle Isarco”

  1. Trostburg Castle looks amazing, I love the imposing view you have taken of it from below. Fascinating that the stones used to build it were carried in by glaciers and rivers! The interior looks really interesting, and the views out also wonderful.

  2. Trostburg Castle does look to have emerged straight out of the pages of a fairy tale book.So picturesque and as you said it seems as if a knight in shining armour would emerge at any moment. The meadows around the castle and the views are really something to die for or at least to be born as a jackass. Lucky guys to have their breakfast in such pristine environs.

  3. The Trostburg Caslte and the surrounding region is no doubt , very beautiful. At point we were planning a castle road trip to cover all the important castles scattered across Europe. The plan is in the deep freezer now 🙂 🙂 got to take it out and thaw it, Thanks for the nice photos and write up.

  4. I liked the old world feel in the interiors of the castle. The spiraling staircase feels as if somebody would walk up now 🙂 800 is a huge number. I wonder if any blogger has done all of them. The brewery close by is a surprise.

  5. 800 castles! Wow! Definitely must go to South Tyrol! Thank you for the tip of the Museumobil card. I love museum cards. The castle looks so picturesque. And the brewery at the end definitely seals the deal for me.

  6. There is a rustic charm to this place. The walls, the ceilings and the staircase have a certain aura of mystery to them. The grounds are just stunning too. Definitely my kind of place. Loved the post for the virtual tour. Beautiful pics with the write up.

  7. Some great pictures of the castle. The South Tyrol looks a beautiful region and we love the mountain landscape. We haven’t got there yet but hope to change that soon. Also, being from Wales we love a good castle or two.

  8. I am a castle person! I did not, however, know that there are more than 800 castles in South Tyrol! I’ve been to 2 (and one of them was Neuchwanstein, it was GORGEOUS), but even Trostburg looks pretty cool. I love that the hike up to the castle is through beautiful meadows, totally makes the walk worth it. The castle itself looks pretty spectacular too! I need to spend at least a month in the area to be able to explore as many castles as I can get to.

  9. This post has made me add Trostburg Castle to my bucket list! I study history in school and I’m studying abroad in Italy this summer, so I’m hoping I’ll be to see this stunning castle in person!

    • Hi Michela – So glad Trostburg has made your bucket list! You’ll love the history of the castle and the area. Enjoy Italy this summer!

  10. Wow! So beautiful. In my mind I like castles even though I’ve never been to any real ones in real life lol. I like your humor throughout this article. You seem like you would be a fun person to hang out with in real life lol

  11. Love all things castles – and this one looks perfect! The climb must have made it all worth it! These photos are wonderful – thank you for sharing the Trostburg Castle!

  12. This is amazing! Sounds like you had a great time. I love that your post was informative but fun. Also your photos are amazing so stunning! 🙂

  13. This castle is gorgeous! I love going for tours in places like this with history!

  14. wow! I hope I get to see this in person one day. There is nothing that old where I live thats for sure

    Mike Reid

  15. Oh my goodness! All of your photos are so beautiful! I love castles. We visited Scotland and I just could not get enough!

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