There’s no shortage of natural beauty in Trentino’s Val di Non; mountain chains like the Brenta Dolomites are within easy reach to the west, while the solitary group of the Maddalene, dotted with pastures and mountain cottages, occupies the northern part of the valley. Apple orchards are planted all throughout the valley, and, when blooming in spring, make for a wonderful ‘white show’. The Lago di Tovel is considered one of the most beautiful lakes in Trentino and canyons carved into the rock make for thrilling walks.
There’s also no shortage of interesting historical sights: ancient castles dot the valley, the most famous among them Castel Thun, symbol of one of the most powerful dynasties of Trentino, the Thun family. And how not to mention the incredible Sanctuary of San Romedio, perched on a 70-meter-high rocky spur, one of Europe’s most popular pilgrimage sites.
And finally there’s no shortage of delicious food products, from apples to cheeses, from meats to honey, from wine to artisanal beers, all to reward you during (at the local mountain huts – malghe) or after your excursions.
For all these reasons, I return to Trentino’s sunny and peaceful Val di Non time and again and here’s an essential guide to some of my favorite things to do and see in the valley.
Lago di Tovel
Located in the Adamello-Brenta Park, home to a population of about 70 bears, Tovel Lake will strike you for the color of its waters and the backdrop of craggy mountains all around, the Brenta Dolomites. An easy walk goes all around the lake, which is especially beautiful this time of the year, with the fall colors, dominated by the yellow of the larch trees; if you’re up for a long hike, follow directions to Malga Pozzol and Malga Flavona, with ever more incredible views over the Brenta Dolomites.
Monte Peller, gateway to the Brenta Dolomites
This is a wild area of the Brenta Dolomites not many venture to, perhaps because the narrow, rutty road leading to the trail start isn’t exactly easy to drive. But brave it because you’ll be in for a great day out. You can opt for an easier but no less beautiful excursion around the base of Mount Peller, with views over the Brenta group, over Mount Peller itself, and expanding views over Pian della Nana, where silence is your only – and welcome - companion; if you’re fit, you should tackle the ascent to the summit of Monte Peller.
The group of the Maddalene mountains closes the Val di Non to the north. There’s a great trek here for foodies rightly called ‘trekking delle malghe’, as it takes you to a number of different mountain huts where you can taste the local dishes made with genuine products of the valley.
You can explore the Canyon of the Rio Novella, formed by the Novella river, by walking on suspended boardwalks, which allow you to look down into the depths of the gorge. The Canyon Rio Sass is also spectacular, an adventurous walk into the heart of the rock.
Castel Thun is one of the most recognizable symbols of the Non Valley, a medieval castle that was home for centuries to the powerful Thun family. Reopened in 2010 after a vast renovation, it retains original furnishings, precious art collections, a library and an art gallery.
A medieval castle built between the 12th and 15th centuries, it stands in a panoramic position overlooking apple orchards and surrounded by mountains, with its 27-meter-high octagonal tower, built between 1180 and 1200, still standing. Castel Valer belongs to the same family since 1438, and, when you visit, you may even spot one of the descendants, the count Spaur, who lives alone in the castle.
Sanctuary of San Romedio
The Sanctuary of San Romedio is a place that will strike you even if you’re not religious; perhaps because of its solitary location, at the end of a canyon, perched on a 70-meter-high rocky spur; perhaps because of the legend associated with it, that of a saint, Romedius, who is still lovingly revered, and who lived there as a hermit with a bear as the only companion; perhaps because of the way it is constructed, with its five overlaid small churches and chapels, built between the 11th and 20th centuries and connected by a steep staircase of 131 steps. And if you have the chance to see it at night, like I did recently, illuminated by candle light, well, it’s a sight you won’t forget!
Where to stay: my favorite place in Trentino’s Val di Non is the family-run Pineta Hotels.