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I was mesmerised by Lake Levico the second I saw it. It was like a postcard from New Zealand or Canada, a pristine lake with mirror-like reflections of the towering mountains and lush-green trees surrounding it. The type of postcard you just assume has been photoshopped because it looks so beautiful. But, it wasn’t photoshopped and I wasn’t in a far-flung land, I was just a couple of hours from home in Northern Italy.
Valsugana, an award-winning lake land which forms part of the Trentino region in Italy was nothing short of breathtaking. Hiking through mountains and breathing in fresh air, kayaking across still waters, gorging on gelato at the lake-side beaches and discovering tiny thermal spa towns were just a few of the many highlights during my weekend escape.
Lake Levico in Valsugana
‘Valsugana, you don’t know Valsugana, let’s talk about Valsugana’, I feel like I’ve said the word countless times since I returned, always to bemused faces that have no idea what I’m talking about. ‘Type it into Instagram’ I follow up with which usually ends in peoples holiday-plans changing as they gawp at some of mother-natures most excellent work.
If you want a mountain escape full of watersports, tranquil settings and all that Italian food then, my friends, you need to get your butts here pronto!
Sunrise at Lake Caldonazzo
The magic starts from Sunrise
With just a handful of inquisitive ducks for company, I waded myself and my tripod into Lake Caldonazzo. I’d heard the sunrises were magical in these mountains and with such a pristine and serene lake to capture the start of the day at I knew the early-morning wake-up call was going to be worth every ounce of Italian espresso I would need afterwards.
As the sun peaked over the mountain tops and a golden glow illuminated the tranquil scene around me, my heart jumped before I felt a pang of something I hadn’t felt in a long time; loneliness. Travelling solo doesn’t bother me usually, I love the freedom it allows me to explore on my own time, but very occasionally something happens. A unique, magical moment that I want to share with somebody, hand in hand, and talk about for years to come. I had to settle for a slightly creepy chat with a not-so-responsive duck, but that day-break in Valsuagana really was something special.
Watersport’s are a huge part of Valsugana
Watersports are a way of life
If you head to the lakes of Valsugana and don’t partake in some kind of watersport, you are doing yourself a serious misjustice. Whether you want to lazily slow paddle with a kayak, get yourself onboard the SUP bandwagon or make a complete tit out of yourself at water skiing (hiya!), there is a whole range of activities on offer.
I spent my days enjoying the powerful winds which can suddenly appear and send your sailing boat hurtling along to trying out new activities such as water skiing. I also finally mastered SUP with Francesco at Lake Levico following my first lesson earlier this year, accompanied by a cyclone, in Mauritius. It’s worth noting that only Lake Caldonzza allows fast-paced boating activities such as water-skiing which leaves other lakes through Valsugana and Trentino much more peaceful.
The clear waters are blue flag winners
Your taste buds are going to get tantalised
If you suffer from the same diagnosis as I, Gelato induced weight gain, then a visit to Bellavista where vast bowls of delicious home-made gelato drowning in cream, sauces and all those other healthy food categories come together is a must. Ideally, more than once.
Throughout the Valsugana region though you can find local specialities such as Canederli, lots of fresh seafood including river trout, ample supplies of the Italian essentials from pizza and pasta through to Burrata, another of my foodie addictions.
Around Lake Caldonaazo where I was sleeping/having early-morning dates with ducks, La Taverna and Riviera Calceranica al Lago served up some fantastic meals which were perfectly rounded off with semifreddo. You kind of have to visit this country with the belief that what calories happen in Italy stay in Italy, but like the Las Vegas stories that you always hear in secret years later, my waistline post trip confirms it’s just not true.
Book your rail tickets for Italy in advance and secure savings
In general, when travelling by train in Italy and Europe, the best value fares are those booked in advance.
With a variety of high-speed and slower trains serving Italy, you can usually find the right journey at the right price. I’d suggest searching for routes and tickets on Italiarail before travelling to secure discounts.
If you are planning to travel to Italy for more than one or two trips, consider purchasing an Italiarail travel rail pass which will allow savings on extended travels.
The two lakes of Valsugana provide a perfect contrast and can keep you entertained for days. While Caldonazzo offers up more in terms of dining, activities and beaches, Levico delivers that tranquil movie like set to relax by or indeed on.
The beaches are open for swimming from May through to September, and even if you don’t want to stray from the shore, the lazy-walks around the lakes and lidos provide for the most relaxed of escapes.
Amazingly enough, the beaches around Levico and Caldonazzo have been awarded blue flag status. And yes, I was equally as surprised that lakes could win this accolade. This award celebrates both the cleanliness and quality of the water as well as the beaches amenities. With lifeguards in the summer months and plenty of services on offer, it turns out lake-side beaches, something I hadn’t considered for a spot of sunbathing before, can actually be just as lovely as an escape to the coast.
Small cute towns compliment the lakes
Little towns and thermal spas
Throughout the Valsugana region, you can find tiny villages and small towns which make for lazy walks past colourful buildings and quaint churches and can quickly provide ample Instagram spam. Health and wellness are also significant on the menu here and one of the main reasons those in the know come to escape the stress of day-to-day life in these mountains.
Even at my accommodation, Energy Hotel Calceranica, a new wellness area had been installed, and numerous thermal spas can be found throughout the region with Levico and Vetriolo being some of the most notable.
With the fresh mountain air, the soothing spirit of getting out on the water and plenty of outside activities to get lost in this really was the perfect place to work off those extra gelatos!
When it comes to which towns and villages to spend your afternoons exploring, Levico Terme was without a doubt my favourite. With accommodation around the lake, ranging from luxury spa hotels to water-side camping, a short stroll into the town takes you through small streets; a flower-filled park, grand architecture and a selection of delicious restaurants.
For those with a bit more time a detour then you could head to the small village of Bieno, providing spectacular views, or Samone, a sleepy spot full of orchards that gives a truly tranquil escape.
If you haven’t exhausted yourself from eating all the food all those water sports, then a mountain expedition should be next on your agenda. Whether you opt for the challenging hikes which provide some incredible panoramas of both the lakes in the valley or prefer to venture off on two-wheels, Valsugana is essentially one of the most beautiful gyms in Europe.
A range of paths and trails cut across the mountains rising from the lakes and even if you just want a leisurely stroll with some impressive viewpoints, Valsugana will oblige. Well equipped to handle tourism for outside adventures specialist, bike rest areas, stores and repair points can be found across the trails.
Views from Buonconsiglio Castle in Trento
Perfectly paired with a Trento city break
Don’t let your escape to Trentino end at the lakes though and make sure to spend a couple of days in the regions capital city of Trento before or after your getaway.
The cobbled streets of the city were spotless, and the impressive Buonconsiglio Castle, galleries and outside frescos provide enough culture without being overwhelming. Spend your days turning down little alleyways, grabbing drinks in the main square under the impressive cathedral and just enjoying being in a city where the locals seemed as excited to be there as I did.
Paring a few days of Valusgana’s lake-side escapism with the charm and culture of a weekend in Trento makes for an unforgettable visit to Trentino, my new favourite region in Italy.