Last Updated on September 29, 2023
The Brenta Dolomites are a subsection of the Instagram-famous Dolomites mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the very northern region of Trentino-Alto Adige in Italy. While the Dolomites are a can’t miss part of the Italian Alps, their fame can easily overshadow other beautiful areas made for mountain-lovers. But maybe it’s not such a bad thing if it means the Brenta Dolomites can stay a hidden gem!
The Brenta Dolomites are known for their tall (10,000 feet plus at times), vertical peaks. And what I found makes the Brenta even more unique is the sense of mystery that the much narrower valleys evoke, truly making it feel like you are exploring a place undiscovered.
The heart of the Brenta Dolomites is the Parco Naturale Adamello-Brenta, or Adamello-Brenta Natural Park, where the peaks and natural reserves are protected.
If you are ready for an adventure and looking for a place to go off the beaten path on your northern Italy itinerary, then you must visit these beautiful places in the Brenta Dolomites. Read on for more info on how to get around and where to stay to make sure you have the smoothest journey possible
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1. Lake Tovel
Lake Tovel is in the heart of the Adamello-Brenta Nature Park. At this emerald lake, you completely immerse yourself in nature; there are no visible roads, not even a main town for miles!
Surrounded by the Brenta peaks, it was once famous for turning a deep shade of red due to its algae content. This unique phenomenon hasn’t happened for nearly 60 years, but the lake is nonetheless the perfect location for outdoor lovers.
You can walk around the entire lake, which should take you a little over an hour to complete. Along the way, you will see one or two bars for refreshments. And if you really love nature spots like this, you should stay at Chalet Tovel, an idyllic mountain retreat at the edge of Lake Tovel.
For more details on accommodations, check out my guide on where to stay in the Dolomites.
2. Val di Non
Did you know that Trentino-Alto Adige is the region in Italy famous for producing apples? The best tasting apples and apple products like juice and strudel come from this area around the Brenta Dolomites: the Val di Non.
The Val di Non is one of the most scenic areas to road trip in Italy. Picture miles and miles of tranquil, bright green plains and hilly vineyards juxtaposed by the tall, jagged peaks of the Brenta.
It’s also the area with the most amount of castles in Italy, including Castel Thun, Castel Cles, and the ruins of Castle Belfort (read on to learn more about this one!)
And if you want to dive deeper into visiting Val di Non, I highly recommend checking out this guide from Eternal Arrival on some of the amazing things you can do there.
3. Lake Toblino
In an area called the “Valle dei Laghi”, or Valley of the Lakes, right at the edge of the Adamello Brenta Nature Park is Lago di Toblino.
To one side of this lake is the beginning of the looming Brenta peaks, while romantic, wine-producing vineyards surround the rest of the lake. If you are a wine connoisseur, you should check out nearby Cantina Toblino to dive into the typical gastronomy and wine culture of Trentino.
The lake is a natural oasis for various wildlife and is incredibly peaceful, especially early in the morning. There is a long wooden boardwalk for a quick and rewarding walk along the lakeshore.
But the most eye-catching feature is the Castel Toblino, one of the most important castles in Trentino, Originally built in the 12th century, today the castle is a Michelin-starred restaurant and you can even stay overnight!
The castle’s structure that you see today was redone in the 1600s, transforming it from a military fortress to more of a noble residence. And going back even further (2000 years further!) the original building was a temple dedicated to fairies – leaving tons of mystery and legends about this castle.
It is from Lake Toblino that you make your way into the heart of the Brenta group, near the entrance of the Parco Naturale Adamello-Brenta at San Lorenzo in Banale.
4. Via delle Bocchette
This one is for the mountain and sports lovers!
Via ferrata trekking is a popular form of hiking in the Dolomites and the Alps, which involves scaling mountains on a protected iron climbing path. And one of the most unique via ferratas is the Via delle Bocchette in the Brenta group.
Once just made of up the Via delle Bocchette Centrali, the oldest and most classic path, it has now expanded to cover nearly the entirety of the Brenta group. The treks are designed to basically hike all day long from mountain hut to mountain hut, or “rifugios” where you will spend the night.
The mountain huts are at very high altitudes. Those most commonly used along the via ferrata in the Brenta are Rifugio Alimonta, Rifugio XII Apostoli, and Rifugio Tosa Pedrotti, but there are also others.
There is no better way to experience the Brenta Dolomites than climbing your way through them. You’ll get to see the Adamello glacier and famous peaks like the Cima Brenta, Cima Tosa, and Campanile Basso, a super unique peak formation that is completely vertical and round.
If your main focus on visiting the Brenta is to climb, I recommend checking out this in-depth guide to the Via delle Bocchette.
If you’d like to explore the peaks and hike for a day or two, you should check out a day trip hike from Madonna di Campiglio.
5. Lake Nembia
A small, unassuming lake with tranquil beauty. The lake’s smaller size actually makes the towering mountains looming directly above it even more impressive and breathtaking.
Lago di Nembia is on your way to Lago di Molveno, so it fits seamlessly into a Brenta itinerary. The aesthetic wooden bridges along the lake create these picture-perfect moments.
It is best to visit this lake as early in the morning as you can because of how peaceful the quiet surroundings are.
The water is so clear that you can see the huge fish and the bottom of the lake from nearly every angle. It is a turquoise hue and becomes especially vibrant in the sun. You can also swim in the lake but the water is super cold year-round!
There is a free parking lot just beside the lake so it as a quick and easy stop on your road trip.
6. Madonna di Campiglio
If skiing in the Alps is on your bucket list, then make your way to Madonna di Campiglio.
Madonna di Campiglio is a village of 1,000 inhabitants in the heart of the Parco Naturale Adamello-Brenta, situated between the Brenta peaks and the Adamello glacier. Its high altitude at nearly 5000 feet and 57 lifts make it a ski haven all year round.
It is called the Pearl of the Dolomites and during high season, the town books up fast! You must book ahead to stay in the heart of Madonna di Campiglio. And if you are on a budget, you should check out surrounding towns in the Val Rendena for accommodation like Pinzolo.
Pro Tip: And if you’re looking for a ski resort town that doesn’t have as much of a luxury vibe as Madonna di Campiglio, Fai della Paganella is a ski resort village in the Adige Valley on the edge of the Adamello-Brenta Nature Park with more of a rural feel. It can also be a more budget-friendly alternative to the Madonna di Campiglio ski resorts.
7. Lake Molveno
Lake Molveno, even if you’ve never heard of it, is rated one of the most beautiful lakes in Italy. It’s not hard to see why – even on a rainy day (like the one I visited!), the water of this lake is a deep, vibrant blue and the cascading town of Molveno provides endless views of the mountain landscape.
This lake, unlike many others, has a long stretch of “beach” area below the town of Molveno. Beach is in quotation marks because the shore is mostly filled with pebbles, so it isn’t exactly the sandy paradise you may picture! But nonetheless, it allows you to experience the entire panorama of the scenery and lay out on a beautiful day.
The town of Molveno winds along the mountains’ edge, so know that walking around town means you will get a mini workout!
For elegant comfort food at a moderate price, you must check out Imperia Food & Drink. They take simple dishes made from the freshest traditional ingredients and elevate them with their own unique style. Try the polenta – you will not regret it!
Pro Tip: Due to the way the mountains are positioned, this area can be super windy and significantly chillier. Bring a sweater and hold onto your hat!
While stopping along other parts of the lake is a bit more difficult because the road is quite higher than the lake’s shore, there are some areas where you can park on the side of the road and make your way down to walking paths for a more serene experience, immersed in nature.
The city of Trento is the capital of the Trentino-Alto Adige region and a hidden gem for those looking to explore charming Italian cities without the tourist crowds.
And while many of the other areas around the Brenta Dolomites are quite remote, Trento is easy to reach from the highway by car or by public transportation.
Some of the most beautiful things to see and do in the Centro Storico of Trento are the Castello del Buonconsiglio, the Piazza Duomo and Trento Cathedral, and the Doss Trento, one of three characteristic hills around the city. Climb up to the top to reach a park overlooking the city and a unique temple-like mausoleum.
Trento, despite its remoteness compared to other large Italian cities, is a hub for university life and very multicultural with lots of activities and festivals.
9. Castel Belfort
Castel Belfort was built in the early 1300s and today, the ruins are open for the public to explore and enjoy – for free!
The tower is accessible via an iron staircase that leads to a mini bridge. From this bridge, you can take in stunning views of the mountains and countryside, where the apple-growing vineyards of the Val di Non begin.
This picturesque area is also where various walking paths begin and hosts a few picnic tables so you can dine with a royal view.
The castle is located along the main road between the towns of Spormaggiore and Cavedago. If you are along this way on your itinerary, it is definitely worth a stop!
Pro Tip: The tower and castle don’t seem high, but it can get super windy in this open area – so hold onto your hats and belongings!
How to Get Around the Brenta Dolomites
Because the Brenta Dolomites are more remote, I wanted to include some helpful info on how to get around. There are a few ways to fit the Brenta Dolomites into a traditional Dolomites itinerary.
If you are traveling from Milan to the Dolomites, then the Brenta group may be a great addition to the beginning of your Dolomites itinerary. If you are traveling from Venice to the Dolomites and onto Milan or somewhere else going south, then you could add the Brenta to the end of your Dolomites itinerary.
But getting around the Brenta Dolomites can be a challenge. The best option is to go by car. Driving in Italy allows you to explore the more remote, hard-to-reach places like this mountainous area.
As for public transportation, there is a bus network in this area. While viewing the different bus lines, take a look at my guide to buses in Italy to understand how the timetables work and the best way to plan your trip using buses.
You can also do a combination of train and bus. You could take a train to Trento or Mezzocorona and then take a bus to reach more remote towns.
However, I honestly believe renting a car is the best way to go for visiting this area and making the most of your time. The flexibility will be priceless!
The Brenta Dolomites may be out of your way on a traditional northern Italy itinerary. But, I hope this guide has inspired you that getting off the beaten path has its perks too!
The final travel tip I can leave you with for making the most of your visit to the Brenta Dolomites is to leave room for spontaneity. I can’t tell you how many times while we were driving that we decided to pull over on the side of the road because a beautiful landscape just came out of nowhere!
Have any questions about putting together your Dolomites itinerary? Let me know in a comment!
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