Valle del Chiese is the perfect destination in the Italian Alps. If you’re looking for adventure, great local food, and amazing nature, this stunning valley in the mountainous region of Trentino is ideal. Discover a less-known side to Italy; one that feels more off the beaten path than many of the more popular destinations.
This is my Valle del Chiese travel guide, containing everything you need to know about this glorious spot in Italy’s mountainous north. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch or leave a comment at the end of the post!
Disclaimer – my trip was supported by Visit Trentino and Visit Chiese. As always, all words and opinions are my own.
Valle del Chiese lies in the southwest of Trentino, Italy, on the border with Lombardia. The valley stretches from the northern shore of Lake Idro, right up to Lake Roncone. This long territory is home to multiple towns and villages, and takes in a huge variety of scenery as well. In Valle del Chiese you can find mountains, forests, alpine meadows, lakes, and streams.
Visit if you want to find a natural paradise – and have it all to yourself. Lake Idro makes a spectacular alternative to nearby Lake Garda; it’s smaller, quieter, and much less known by tourists. In fact, all of Valle del Chiese feels very much “off the beaten path” – but the region is stunning and definitely deserves your visit.
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The closest airport to Valle del Chiese is Verona. From there the best option would be to rent a car and drive to the valley.
Alternatively, you can take a train or bus to nearby Trento. From there, you can take either a taxi (1 hour) or a bus (1.5 – 2 hours, changing at Tione-Autostazione and continuing on to Roncone, Storo, or Baitoni).
Visit Lake Idro
At the southern end of the Valle del Chiese lies Lake Idro. Although most of the lake sits in the region of Lombardy, it’s tip belongs to Trentino and all of the lake can be easily accessed from Baitoni. And as the lake is fed by the Chiese River it seems only fitting to begin any trip to the valley right here!
Lake Idro, or Lago d’Idro, is like a smaller version of the more famous Lake Garda. It’s just as idyllic; a glacial lake surrounded by stunning mountains. The water is impossibly blue, and although it’s calm in the morning the afternoons are a little windier, drawing wind and kite surfers to the lake. Head to Baitoni Beach to relax and swim, or visit the Ristorante Miralago to dine with a gorgeous view of the lake.
…aannnd Lake Roncone
At the northern end of the Valle del Chiese, Lake Roncone is another beautiful Pre-Alpine lake. Nestled amongst forests and alpine meadows, the lake is framed by smaller green mountains in the foreground, and the snow-capped Dolomites just visible in the distance beyond.
Just like Lake Idro, Roncone is a great alternative to Lake Garda. It’s smaller, quieter, and far less crowded – making it perfect for anyone who wants to head off the beaten path in Italy. If you want to get active, a walking and biking trail loops around the whole lake. Or you can simply laze on the grassy banks, take a dip in the emerald green waters, or relax in the sunshine with an aperitivo outside Snoopy Lake bar.
Try SUP or Kayaking
There’s no better way to make the most of a spectacular lake setting that with some relaxing watersports. I LOVED my morning gliding over Lake Idro on a SUP board, while a couple of my blogger buddies took to the water in kayaks. We rented these from Baitoni Wind Bay, which you’ll find on the Baitoni Beach.
Early morning is the best time as this is when the water is calmer. There will be way fewer people around too, so you can really make the most of the serene setting. You can dip into the mouth of the river Chiese, or explore the Lake Idro biotope. This is a small section of protected wetland providing a natural habitat for a large variety of sedentary or migratory bird species. Just be sure to only skirt the edges, or you might disturb the birdlife.
Paraglide in the Mountains!
One of the BEST things to do in Valle del Chiese is paragliding. For a seriously adventurous way to make the most of the amazing scenery, head to Idroland Fly Zone on the edge of Lake Idro and book a paragliding experience. This is, without doubt, the best thing I did while I was in the area – such an incredible rush!
We drove up to the top of a mountain overlooking the lake, and after a quick safety briefing, we were off. This was my second time paragliding, but that didn’t make the initial feeling of running and jumping off a cliff any less terrifying! Once we were up in the air, though, swirling on the thermals high above the lake – with the snowy Dolomites shining ice-white in the distance – the feeling was glorious. When my pilot asked if I wanted to try a few tricks I said yes straight away. Careening upsidedown to experience zero gravity was a stomach-clenching, nauseating, adrenaline-rush! Don’t miss the chance to try it for yourself.
Go Fly Fishing in the Mountains
Trout fishing is one of the best things to do in the Valle del Chiese. You can easily get a permit for fishing in the area, and there are plenty of rivers and lakes to try your hand at fly fishing. Whether you’re a pro or a total beginner (like me), this is a great way to get out in nature.
We headed up to Valle di Daone in the mountains with local fly fishing guide Matteo from Lavezzini Fly. He’s been a member of the official Trentino Fishing guides team since its formation, so he’s definitely qualified. He was also great fun and taught us the basics of fly fishing. We even caught a trout. Well, he did! This was a no-kill lake, so we threw it back after a little look.
Try Local Dishes at Agriturismo La Polentera
Agritourism is a big thing in Italy, and it’s such a great way to discover the local cuisine and culture. In Valle del Chiese, the Agriturismo La Polentera in Storo is a brilliant option for a stay or a meal that helps you connect with nature. Storo is famous for producing yellow polenta flour – a staple of Trentino’s cuisine – and this working farm on the edge of the village has been producing it for generations.
Don’t miss the iconic local dish, Polenta Carbonera, which mixes polenta with mountain cheese and chunks of pork sausage. But all the food at La Polentera was fantastic. Hearty, rustic dining in a gorgeous farmhouse amongst rolling countryside. What more could you ask for?
Take a Tour of Darzo Mine
Life in the village of Darzo used to be completely dependent on the local barite mine. Even now the mine is closed, you’ll still find that everyone who lives there is connected to it in some way!
Today, you can visit Miniere Darzo for tours. This is certainly one of the more unexpected things to do in the Valle del Chiese, but it was one of my favourite discoveries. You can learn all about mining life, discover an important part of local history, and try your hand at pushing a minecart. Or, in my case, being pushed in one!
Oh, and the view from the mine across the valley and Lake Idro is spectacular. Don’t miss it.
Visit Castello San Giovanni
There are several ancient castles dotted throughout Valle del Chiese, but for me, the most romantic was Castello San Giovanni. Set on a high rocky outcrop above Bondone, the castle has gorgeous views across the valley. Along with Romano Castle at the other end of the valley, Castello San Giovanni was once home to the Lodron family. This feudal family ruled the area for centuries, so these castles are a key part of the local history.
Whether you’re in search of history, a bit of intrigue, or simply some stunning views, you’ll find it all in the evocative ruins of San Giovanni castle. An ongoing project is restoring the property so it makes a fabulous venue. In fact, they also host regular events there, including live music nights all through the summer.
Explore the Pretty Village of Bondone
Valle del Chiese is full of picturesque villages. But the medieval hamlet of Bondone, clinging to the edge of a hill above Lake Idro, officially ranks among the Borghi Più Belli d’Italia (Beautiful Villages of Italy) so it’s an absolute must-see if you’re visiting the valley.
Ancient buildings are crammed irregularly along a labyrinth of cobbled streets, many of them connected by stone arches over the road. The façades of many houses still bear frescos dating from the 16th and 17th century, which depict scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary. As well as centuries of history, this is also a seriously pretty village. Windows are surrounded by colourful flowers, and many streets are connected by stone passageways.
Don’t Miss: Bondone in Strada, a two-day international street artists festival taking place every year on the second weekend of August.
FYI – this section contains affiliate links. If you book something using one of these links I’ll make a small commission, without affecting the price you pay at all!
Hotel Castel Lodron
I stayed at Hotel Castel Lodron in the village of Lodrone. It’s in an ideal location for exploring the Valle del Chiese; right between Lake Idro and the village of Storo. There’s a wellness centre featuring an indoor pool, hot tub, and sauna (gutted I didn’t have time to try it out) and the rooms have incredible mountain views.
Although I didn’t actually stay at Camping Miralago, I did visit the restaurant and saw first hand what a fab campsite it is! The site is right on the edge of Lake Idro in Baitoni, so you couldn’t be in a better spot for enjoying the water.
If you prefer to have a place to yourself, there are quite a few lovely looking apartments and houses around Valle del Chiese on Airbnb. Click here to get £25 off your first booking if you’ve never used it before (I’ll get £15 credit too so we both win!). Search for places in Baitone to be near the lake, or Storo to stay in the centre of the valley.
Have you visited Valle del Chiese in Italy? If I’ve missed anything, scroll down to leave a comment!