Let’s be honest about it: the Val di Non is not really a valley! If you are imagining a long, narrow area, enclosed between mountains, that is not how the Val di Non is. It is really a wide, sunlit plateau with a lake in the middle and slopes that rise gently up towards the mountains.
Three sides are bordered by very different chains of mountains: to the west, the legendary Brenta Dolomites, to the north the vivid green Maddalene range and to the east the Roen ridge. On this plateau, which is unique in terms of its shape and breadth in Trentino, there are villages which are isolated villages while others merge into each other but which each has its own traditions, customs and curiosities.
To help you find your way around, let’s sub-divide our valley into 5 similar sized areas and also tell you about Cles, which is the main town where you can find services, shops and bars. For the other towns and villages, we will give you a few tips to point you in the right direction.
I’m not sure whether you would call it a large village or a small town but the fact is that Cles is undoubtedly the valley’s hub. We come here to go shopping, to seek out the night life, our kids attend secondary school here and, alas, this is also where we come if we need the hospital or to pay our taxes. Cles is definitely the nerve centre of the valley. The largest of the apple cooperatives, Melinda, has its head office here, whilst many other excellent artisan and industrial businesses are also based in Cles. In the historical centre there are villas and palazzi of considerable note, in particular the Palazzo Assessorile.
Lastly, Cles boasts a unique and romantic location, a short walk from the centre and one we are particularly fond of: the Doss de Pez park, a terrace overlooking the lake from where you can see the whole of the Val di Non and with an unparalleled view of the castle.
The Upper Val di Non
When the apple orchards start to give way to green meadows, you are entering the Upper Val di Non. This area, lying between 900 and 1,500 metres above sea level and enclosed by the Palade and Mendola mountain passes, was home to the first tourist destinations in the Val di Non. Kaiser Franz Josef of Austria and his famous wife Elisabeth, known as Sissi, loved spending their holidays here and today many people from the cities have their second homes in the Upper Valley.
Up here, the sunsets are spectacular. Particularly that moment between the sunset and darkness, as dusk falls. Every evening, it takes the breath away as the mountains are silhouetted by the last rays of the sun turning the sky incredible colours. For example, have you ever seen the sky turn bright pink?
In the Upper Val di Non you can find the Dolomiti Golf Club, Ronzone swimming pool, the ice rink, ski pistes, the Halle tennis club, climbing walls, the Giardino della Rosa rose garden, the Rio Sass canyon and the Museo Retico museum of archaeology.
Our tips for the villages of the Upper Val di Non
- Sanzeno: crammed full of history and culture
- Romeno: with its little church in the middle of the orchards
- Cavareno: a piazza within a piazza
- Sarnonico: the village that merges into the meadows
- Fondo: a wash house, two mills and the houses above the gorge
- Malosco: cobbled alleys and stone houses
- Ronzone: the number one for panoramas and views!
- Ruffrè: a village which can’t be seen from the valley
- Castelfondo: a little world of its own
This is the cutting-edge of the Val di Non! Here you can find the power station designed by Giò Ponti and the futuristic system of underground cells! Let me explain that last one: these are apple stores deep under the surface, the only place of its kind in the world, taking advantage of the dolomite rock to do a job which would otherwise require a huge amount of land and energy. And then there are the stufe di Sfruz, the traditional stoves which still heat rooms across Europe. Have you ever heard of them?
And what about the Casa Sebastiano, with its cutting-edge technology that helps people with autism?
Predaia, for whatever reason, is the part of the Val di Non which is most open to new ideas, where brave people and brilliant minds continue to do things that are out of the ordinary. There is even a centre of excellence for the artificial insemination of cows!
Predaia also boasts ski pistes, Sores Park, San Romedio, the Anaunia trails, Castel Coredo, Palazzo Nero and Castel Thun.
Our tips for the villages of Predaia
- Vigo di Ton: its majestic castle gave us the saga of the Thun family
- Taio: Golden Theatre, the underground apple stores, the turbine room
- Vervò: recent discoveries of ancient history
- Tres: from its “Corno” mountain, you can see virtually the whole region
- Sfruz: the home of the most beautiful stoves in the world
- Smarano: has long been a destination for holidaymakers
- Coredo: castles, villas and two fairytale lakes
The Maddalene and Deutschnonsberg
Like going through a time portal. In the villages on the slopes of the Maddalene mountains, time seems to move more slower, life in the mountains still has its rough edges and it seems that you leave the modern world behind when you enter. Here, in the evenings, you might see milk churns outside the houses or women still doing the laundry at the washhouse. Here you will hear a strange mix of Italian and German spoken, very localised dialects. Here, in spring, you can see stooped figures in the fields picking fresh herbs or patches of crocuses flowering among the last remaining pockets of snow. Here, in July, you can see the rhododendrons flower at 2,000 metres or celebrate the return of the cows to the village in September.
In the Maddelene/Deutschnonsberg area you will find the traditional Alpine dairies, the border trail and Livo castle.
Our tips for the villages of the Maddalene / Deutschnonsberg
- Livo: a noble past among magnificent orchards
- Rumo: there’s no part of it not worth visiting
- Proves: very traditional, including the little cemetery with its iron crosses
- Lauregno: peaceful farmhouses among the fields, a centre that’s hard to find
- Senale: from a home for pilgrims to an idyllic landscape
- San Felice: the hidden frontier and the culture of the border lands
- Bresimo: like stepping back in time
- Cis: a mixture of the Val di Non and the Val di Sole
Novella is the name of the new municipality created by the merger of several neighbouring villages, as well as being the name of the stream which has carved out the deep gorge over many centuries. The Rio Novella might seem like any other stream but it has sliced a spectacular canyon across the Val di Non and an overlooking terrace that seem to be much gentler.
Have you ever seen where the apple trees and rows of Groppello vines grow on the banks of the Novella? Not for nothing are these plantations called “heroic”. The villages of Novella sit serenely on what appear to be gentle slopes but which actually fall steeply towards the Novella or Lake Santa Giustina. What spectacular views of the lake are afforded by Cagnò, Revò and Romallo!
In the Novella area, you can find the Rankipino trail, the Casa Campia stately home and the Novella River Park.
Our tips for the villages of Novella:
- Brez: its tiny hamlets clinging to the mountain
- Cloz: starting point for the panoramic Rankipino trail
- Romallo: the fun Almeleto trail
- Revò: Casa Campia and other stately homes
- Cagnò: the finest view of the lake
The Foothills of the Brenta Dolomites
Behind it are the most impenetrable mountains and in front lies an expanse of rolling orchards. In the evening, the villages of this part of the Val di Non get the shade first because the sun sets behind the mountains that form their backdrop, without doubt the most spectacular in our valley. Yes, we are talking about the Dolomites! This side of the Brenta Dolomites is surely the most unspoiled, wild and unexplored. The residents of this area are seeking to keep it this way. We are inside the Adamello Brenta Natural Park, home to bears which roam freely among the high mountain pastures and forests, where Lake Tovel can be found.
And on these mountain slopes, surrounding the villages, the landscape is dotted with mighty castles. Castel Sporo, Castel Belasi, Castel Nanno, Castel Valer.
The Foothills of the Brenta area includes Lake Tovel, the Adamello Brenta Natural Park, the Bus de la Spia cave and castles Valer, Nanno and Belasi.
Our tips for the villages of the Foothills of the Brenta:
- Ville d’Anaunia: gateway to the Val di Tovel and home to the most stunning castle
- Contà: Alpine pastures and dairies without compare
- Denno: the town with the most charming historic centre
- Campodenno: the charm of Castel Belasi
- Sporminore: home to a “chilling” cave