With travel plans frustrated, now’s a great time to reminisce. Perhaps best known for the Dolomites, Trentino has something for everyone of all ages and I wanted to experience it all. We flew to Milan and transferred by coach through stunning countryside on a glorious, sunny day with spectacular views and high mountain peaks. We were off to a great start.
It was an early start the next morning to San Lorenzo in Banale where we would start our alpine walk to the Val d’Ambiez, a valley in the Brenta region of Trentino. Our mountain guides, Armando and Simone, led us up, up and away with views looking back changing with every turn.
Closer to hand – or eye – were many varieties of butterfly as well as bright lilac wild orchids and lilies. Our destination was the alpine lodge, the Cacciatore Refuge, at an altitude of 1800 metres, where we would have a ‘light’ lunch.
The lodges, or refuges, are open from mid-June to mid-September and provide energy-giving food prepared with an Austrian influence – polenta, good meat stews, vegetable casseroles and lots of bread. During the winter months, rooms are left unlocked for climbers and mountain walkers who seek shelter and a place to warm up and prepare food carried with them.
It was starting to feel like I had left home weeks ago. Lunch had been far from ‘light’. Dinner was booked at the family-run Mezzosoldo, a rural restaurant in Spiazza Rendena; all produce is either grown or picked by the family.
So, I expected basic family fare in a cosy environment. Welcomed by the owner, we embarked upon the first of our thirteen courses. From herb pate, zucchini flowers, soufflé, local cheeses and much more, we ate on through the evening, every dish delicious.
The days started hazy and hot, typical of this mountain region and rather like I felt. The next venue was the lake at Molveno. Here, a cable car runs from the town up to Pradel where a chair lift travels on upwards to Refuge La Montanara, at 1525 metres.
The views from this point are magnificent across the jagged peaks and lush narrow valleys so typical of Trentino. Just a short walk downhill is a ‘malga’ or dairy where cheese and butter are handmade in the traditional way; local cheese has to mature here for 40 days before it can be eaten.
Back at the lakeside town of Molveno there was a ‘seaside’ holiday atmosphere. Cafes and wine bars, restaurants and shops and, of course, the lake where grassed lawn areas run down to a narrow beach at the water’s edge.
This is a wonderful place for families to picnic and for kids to play in surroundings so clean and user-friendly alongside the warm and inviting waters. We set out along a lake path, passing an early 16th-century water-powered Venetian sawmill, with maybe another food reward at the end.
After a brisk 40-minute walk, we reached Baita Fortini di Napoleone, an alpine refuge built on the remains of an Austrian fort used in battles against Napoleonic forces. Coffee and strudel were served outside in the sunny garden and we lay on the grass discussing the undoubted merits of the region’s food and which diet we would start when we got home.
I can still savour those taste sensations – honest!