***Thank you to the Valle del Chiese tourism board and Visit Trentino for hosting me on this trip, as well as to Traverse for helping to make it happen! As always, all opinions are my own.***
Imagine waking up to the beauty of Lake Garda or Lake Como, a gorgeous lake surrounded by cute towns and imposing mountains. Now… imagine the crowds.
Yeah, I don’t really want to go there now either.
But what if you could have that same amount of beauty with none of the crowds? It’s possible, and the answer is only a short drive away from Lake Garda: Valle del Chiese.
This valley, located in Trentino, Italy, is the perfect Italian Lakes getaway without the crowds and a great addition to your Italian bucket list. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Valle del Chiese.
HOW TO GET TO VALLE DEL CHIESE
Because Valle del Chiese is a little bit farther off-the-beaten-path, it’s not as easy to get to as some places in Italy, but it’s definitely still possible!
The closest airport to Valle del Chiese is Verona. You can also fly into Milan or Venice.
By Train & Bus
To get to Valle del Chiese by train, first, get a train or bus to Verona. Then, take the train to Brescia and the LN013 bus to Valle del Chiese.
Alternatively, the closest train station is Malé, which is also well-connected to the valley by bus.
Valle del Chiese is most easily reached & gotten around by car. You can rent a car at Verona, Milan, or Venice airport or once you reach Valle del Chiese. Click here to search for the best deals.
WHERE TO STAY IN VALLE DEL CHIESE
Le Dolcezze – For a classic luxury experience, this B&B in Crone in Valle del Chiese looks like a great pick. Reviews say that the hosts are beyond friendly, and they also offer an airport shuttle service from Verona!
Hotel Castel Lodron – This is where we stayed while in Valle del Chiese. It’s a great mid-range pick and centrally located in Storo. Delicious breakfast as well!
Camping Miralago – If camping is more your style, then Camping Miralago is definitely the way to go! They have a great onsite restaurant, are right on the lake, and have kayaks and SUPs available to rent.
Active Hostel – Finally, if you’re on a budget, you’re in luck! Valle del Chiese has a hostel that’s right on the lake!
WHERE TO EAT IN VALLE DEL CHIESE
Valle del Chiese is definitely a great foodie destination in Italy as well. You won’t find the classic pizza and pasta here, but something else entirely. Here are a few spots you shouldn’t miss eating at!
Agritur La Polentera – For an amazing farm-to-table experience, you HAVE to go to Agritur La Polentera. They specialize in polenta, a cornmeal dish that originated in the area, and it is delicious. Be sure to try all of the different, fun polenta dishes that they have-and say hi to the animals out back!
Miralago – For dining on the lake, look no further than the restaurant at Camping Miralago. So good we ate lunch there both days we were in Valle del Chiese!
Hotel Aurora – Another great, traditional restaurant in Valle del Chiese. The perfect spot for a long dinner with lots of good wine! Their polenta is also A+ 🙂
WHAT TO DO IN VALLE DEL CHIESE
There are SO many things to do in Valle del Chiese, and it’s honestly amazing that we managed to pack all of this into just 2 days! I’d highly recommend staying for longer if you can, so you have plenty of time to do everything there is to do & get some relaxing in.
Kayak (& More) On Lake Idro
By far one of the best ways to enjoy your time in the Italian Lakes is to actually be out on the water. In the morning, the water on Lake Idro is incredibly still, making it perfect for kayaking or stand up paddleboarding! In the afternoon, the wind picks up and you can try your hand at windsurfing!
For kayak and SUP rentals, look no further than Camping Miralago. They have a huge range of kayaks, SUPs, and paddle boats available to rent!
Chill on the Beach
It’s not a holiday by the water if you don’t spend some time chilling on the beach. While not the white sand beaches of the tropics, the naturally stony beaches of Lake Idro are still a great place to sit back, relax, and catch some rays. You’ll find beach access at any of the many camping sites around the lake.
Go Tandem Paragliding
If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, then Valle del Chiese is definitely the place to be. Of the tons of different adrenaline and adventure activities in the valley, tandem paragliding is the craziest of them all.
We went with Idroland Fly Zone, and I couldn’t recommend them more. Their pilots were all knowledgeable and encouraging, and aside from being terrified of running off the side of a mountain, I felt completely safe with them the whole time.
After meeting down in the valley by Lake Idro, you’ll take a short, winding ride up into the mountains & to the take-off point (I recommend popping a motion sickness pill). There, you’ll get set up with all the equipment, and then it’s time to run off the side of a mountain.
And yeah, it’s freaking terrifying.
But then… you see the view of Lake Idro and the Valle del Chiese spread out below you, and it takes your breath away.
Once you manage to regain it, you can get it taken away again with a few flips, if you’re feeling up for it 😉
Visit the Castel San Giovanni di Bondone
Are you really in Europe if you don’t visit a castle? Thankfully, Valle del Chiese has a great one: the Castel San Giovanni, perched on the cliffs overlooking the valley. The view is can’t miss!
The Castel San Giovanni di Bondone is open daily from June-September, 10 am – 6 pm.
Wander the Towns of Valle del Chiese
Valle del Chiese is absolutely full of charming little mountain towns perfect for wandering. After an afternoon of crazy adventure (I’m looking at you, paragliding), wandering around one of these towns during golden hour and then stopping for some dinner is really the perfect fix.
I highly recommend the town of Baitoni for a wander. It’s been named as one of the most beautiful towns in Italy!
Visit the Darzo Mine
For a unique look at the recent history of the Valle del Chiese, a visit to the Darzo mine is a must. After the discovery of the mineral barite in the 1890s, Darzo was a mining town for over a century. The last mine only closed in 2009.
After taking a guided tour of the Darzo mine, I could really feel how this century of mining had really formed the area. As we were driving down the mountain, our guide even pointed to an old man on the side of the road and told us that he used to be the president of the mine. The whole town was really engaged in mining, but now that the last mine has closed they’re hoping to preserve that heritage while also bringing tourism into the area.
Guided tours of the Miniere Darzo are held from June to September. Head to their website for more information.
Learn How to Fly Fish
My time in Chiese was really centered around new experiences, and no-kill fly fishing was definitely one of them! Standing in a small mountain lake in our super fashionable waders while we were hit with a light drizzle isn’t exactly my idea of fun, but constantly casting the line turned out to be kind of therapeutic.
After a half-hour of us not catching anything, our guide Matteo quickly caught a fish so we could see, and then released it back into the lake.
If you’re interested in trying out fly fishing (or if you’re actually a huge fly fisher and want to book a whole trip), take a look at Lavezzini Fly for fly fishing guide service in Trentino!
Grab an Aperitivo By the Lake
It’s not an evening in Italy if you don’t indulge in an aperitivo, is it? Not likely.
There are plenty of great places to grab an aperitivo, but I highly recommend the bar Snoopy Lake. Be sure to try a Hugo-a regional specialty made with prosecco, elderflower syrup, seltzer, and mint leaves. So addicting!
Italy is known for pizza and pasta, but to me, it’s the regional specialties that really make it such a great foodie destination. For the Valle del Chiese, that regional specialty is polenta, a dish of boiled cornmeal (trust me, it tastes a lot better than it sounds!).
There are loads of different forms that you can try polenta in, but for the full polenta experience, you should definitely head to Agritur La Polentera. They have polenta in every form imaginable, from appetizers to desserts. For a starter, I highly recommend the trio of polenta.
For a break from polenta, also be sure to order a platter of speck, another regional specialty that’s like Trentino’s version of prosciutto. The fatty speck is pure heaven!