Northwest of Trento lies a mountain range with a separate identity from the more famous Dolomitic peaks to the east. With their saw-toothed peaks and glaciers, the Dolomiti di Brenta have a rougher character than, say, the Catinaccio/Rosengarten range in the main Dolomites – and their trails are far less well-trodden. While they are steep, few peaks rise above 3000m, and the paths are easy to follow. It should be said, though, that the walking is strenuous. Climbers come here for the towers of Cima Tosa and Cima Brenta, accessible by vie ferrate – iron “ladders” knocked into the rock. If you are looking for easier strolls, Val Genova has a gentler beauty, with a woodland path taking you past a number of waterfalls cascading down the mountainside.
The range is circled by a good but slow and winding road, the southern half of which passes through the quiet lake resort of Molveno. The Trento-to-Madonna di Campiglio road takes you past the frescoed churches and wooded valleys of the Valle Rendena before arriving at Campiglio itself, the best base for skiing in the area, and a transport hub for walkers and climbers. The northern half of the Brenta mountains is bounded by the Val di Non and the Val di Sole, both served by the privately run Trento–Malè railway.Read More
Vie ferrate (literally “iron ways”) are an Italian phenomenon, consisting of fixed metal ladders, pegs and cables that climbers clip onto with karabiners, making otherwise difficult (or downright impossible) routes accessible. Many vie ferrate began life as far back as the late nineteenth century as mountaineering took off as a sport in Europe; Alpini troops put others in place during World War I to assist the climbs that were a matter of survival for the soldiers fighting in the mountains. In the decades since then, volunteers from local Club Alpino Italiano groups have created many more.
Kompass maps show vie ferrate as a line of little black dots or crosses, so you can easily avoid them – they are definitely not for beginners or vertigo-sufferers. To use them, you need to be confident belaying and have the proper equipment (including helmet, ropes, two self-locking karabiners and a chest- or seat-harness). Incidentally, it’s not advisable to climb a via ferrata in a thunderstorm either, as it might just become one long lightning conductor.
Once you’ve done a few straightforward paths up in the mountains you may be inspired to tackle some ferrate, and there are plenty of specialist guides around who can show you the ropes. Individual guides charge by the hour, so save money by getting a small group together. Many of the rifugi are run by mountain guides, or you could enrol on a mountain skills course: both Trentino and Alto Adige provincial tourist offices keep lists of guides and mountaineering schools, but you’ll need to book well in advance.