Traveling has always been one of my passions. The world is full of fascinating places and cultures and I hope to see as much of it as I can.
Pinzolo and the Magnificent Val Rendena
Nestled in the Val Rendena in the Alps of northern Italy is the beautiful alpine village of Pinzolo. With a population of just over 3,000 residents, this beautiful Italian community is a hidden gem of the Dolomites. Mostly unknown to travelers outside of Italy, this area of Europe where Switzerland, Austria, and Italy come together forms some of the most magnificent mountain scenery to be found and is a virtual playground for the outdoor enthusiast. Along with the nearby resort community of Madonna di Campiglio, this valley is the main access point to the Brenta Dolomites, which are a part of the Adamello Brenta National Park. The beautiful Rendena Valley runs for approximately 12 miles along the Sarca River and divides the Brenta Dolomites to the east and the Adamello Presanella mountain group to the west.
While most foreign visitors to Italy who seek to visit the lakes and mountains of Italy head either farther east to Cortina d’Amprezzo or farther west to the mountains around Lake Como and Lake Maggiore, this area is just as beautiful and has so much to offer those seeking an outdoor adventure. From hiking and biking to wintertime skiing the natural beauty of this area makes for the perfect backdrop for visitors during any season.
There are some beautiful lakes in this region as well with the glacier-fed Lake Molveno located just to the east of the Brenta Dolomite Group and Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake, located just 30 kilometers to the south.
During the summer Pinzolo is a hub of activity as hikers, mountain climbers, cyclists, and paragliders descend on the area to enjoy the long summer days. With hundreds of miles of trails from short, scenic, alpine hikes to multi-day treks such as the Dolomite di Brenta Trek, which takes experienced hikers around the Dolomite di Brenta Mountains, there is a trail for every level of hiker.
The community of Pinzolo itself is a beautiful little village with a distinctive alpine look to it. You will immediately notice the colorful flowers everywhere and the window boxes draped with geraniums of all colors. If you didn't know better you might think you were in Bavaria.
Church of San Vigilio
Besides the scenery and outdoor activities that abound in Pinzolo, there is a very interesting church here that is worth a visit. The Church of San Vigilio, which was founded in 1362 and built with granite stones quarried from the Val Rendena has some very well preserved fresco's that adorn its walls both inside and out. On the outer south wall of the church is the famous Dance of Death, which was painted by Simone Baschenis in 1539. This fresco contains the images of sinners from all facets of life including a Pope, a priest, a king, the rich, the poor, as well as the young and old all being led by the skeletons to death. It signifies the equality that we all endure in the face of death no matter what our social background or status in life.
Doss Del Sabion Chair Lift
For a real treat head to the Pinzolo lift station that will whisk you to the top of the Doss Del Sabion at almost 6,900 feet above sea level. The lift has a mid-station stop where you can spend some time but the grand prize awaits you at the top.
From the peak of the Doss Del Sabion, you can hike the trails at the foot of the towering Cima Tosa that soars to 10,410 feet literally right in front of you. The Brenta Dolomite group here features three towering peaks over 10,000 feet and provides an unbelievable vista from the lift station at the top of the Doss Del Sabion.
This is the perfect place for a mountain hike and when you need to refuel or relax for a bit there is a wonderful restaurant at the lift station where you can have lunch or a snack all while gazing at one of the most beautiful views imaginable. The outdoor terrace here is a great spot to get some sun and relax for a while either before or after heading out for a trek.
If you happen to be here when the paragliders are taking off then you are in for another treat. It is fascinating to watch these aerial daredevils as they prepare their gliders and then literally launch themselves off of the mountain. Seeing the different color chutes riding the warm thermals and soaring above the valley truly is a sight to behold.
Paraglider launching off of the Doss Del Sabion
If you’ve ever imagined a beautiful alpine field with grazing cows then this is that spot. You can follow the sound of the cows with their bells tolling as they graze their way across the ridge. It makes for the perfect setting. Just be careful where you step.
I need to add here that when driving in the valley or walking through the village of Pinzolo you get no indication of the incredible views and high mountains that are nearby. The hills that form this valley do a great job of hiding the mountain peaks and while spending time in the valley is certainly beautiful you need to hop on a lift and go vertical to really appreciate the natural beauty of this area. When the gondola to the top of the Doss Del Sabion reaches the lift station you will be absolutely blown away by the view in front of you. It’s that amazing and definitely worth the price for the round-trip lift ticket.
Madonna Di Campiglio Lift
Just a few miles further up the valley from Pinzol is the resort community of Madonna Di Campiglio. There is another chair lift here just outside of the community, the Groste Lift, which will take you to the top of the Passo Groste at just over 8,000 feet. This is just another spectacular spot to hike while enjoying the amazing views of the Brenta Dolomites.
If you don’t want to go quite so high but are spending time in Madonna Di Campiglio you can take the Monte Spinale lift, which is located right in the heart of Madonna Di Campiglio. This lift takes visitors up to about 6,900 feet and still offers a spectacular view of the Brenta Dolomites.
When it’s time to finally come back down to the valley below there are other treats in store for you here. Just outside of Pinzolo on the west side of the valley as you head north out of town is the Nardis Waterfall, which tumbles more than 400 feet. This waterfall is fed by the Presanella Glacier, which is located in the Adamello Presanella Mountain group to the west of the valley. It’s a great way to cool off in the summer as the spray from the falls casts a cool mist onto those who venture close enough.
The multiple cross-country skiing trials in the valley become a wonderful network of trials for mountain bikers during the summer months. Mountain biking is fast becoming a very popular past time in this region and the terrain and beautiful surroundings make this the perfect location to rent a bike and hit the trails.
Other Activities in and Around Pinzolo
There are two equestrian riding centers located in the Rendena Valley for those looking for a little different way to explore the valley. For the golfers out there you can also hit the links at one of the two golf courses in the area; the Golf Club Rendena located just to the south of Pinzolo or the Campo Carlo Magno Golf Club located just north of Madonna Di Campiglio. There are also plenty of camping facilities in the valley and the Sarca River makes for the perfect spot to do some fishing if you are so inclined.
The obvious activity of choice here in the winter is skiing. This valley is blessed with plenty of snow every year and this region becomes a mecca for the ski enthusiast once the snow starts to fall. The slopes of Pinzolo and Madonna Di Campiglio are very close and it’s actually possible to get from one community to the other via a new lift. Pinzolo makes for the less expensive alternative as far as accommodations so take this into consideration when planning your visit.
In addition to downhill skiing there are many cross-country trails for those looking to do some cross-country skiing. There is also an indoor ice arena in Pinzolo for both winter and summer skating and in Madonna Di Campiglio there is an outdoor skating rink for winter skating.
Getting to Pinzolo
Pinzolo is located about 220 kilometers to the northeast of Milan. The trip is about three hours by auto. From Verona the trip is about 175 kilometers and two hours by auto. While it is possible to get to Pinzolo by bus having a car is the easiest and quickest way to get here.
The main autostrada routes in the this part of Italy are the A4, which runs east-west from Milan to Verona and onto Venice, and the A22, which runs north-south from Verona north to Trento and onto Bolzano.
No matter what season you find yourself visiting Pinzolo and the Rendena Valley, you are certain to find plenty to do to help you enjoy this beautiful region of Italy. While it is somewhat off the beaten path and not part of the typical tourist itinerary it is well worth the effort to get here. To experience the true flavor of northern Italy and its beautiful lakes and mountains consider a journey to Pinzolo and the magnificent Val Rendena.
Ciao for now.
© 2013 Bill De Giulio