Val di Sole is one of the most scenic valleys of Trentino, in Northern Italy, and a side valley to the more famous Val di Non. This is the kind of place where you’ll find majestic mountains, glaciers, forests and rivers, charming villages and mountain farms.
With altitude ranging from the roughly 700 meters above sea level of Malè, the main town in the area, to those of 3500 of the Cevedale and San Matteo peaks in Stelvio National Park, and home of the Adamello and Brenta Mountains, Val di Sole is a great place to visit for anybody who loves nature and adventure sports in both summer and winter time, and at the same time wants to enjoy good food and wine, a bit of history and culture, and relax every now and then.
I visited Val di Sole for a short winter getaway in mid December, and enjoyed every single moment I got to spend there. So I thought I’d write a mini-guide for anyone who wishes to visit in the winter, highlighting the best things to do and see and how to make the most of it. At the end of the post, I will also share some practical information that will help you plan your trip.
Everything You Need To Know For A Winter Trip To Val Di Sole
The fabulous slopes
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Val di Sole in the winter is the incredible range of ski slopes. There’s something like 150 km of slopes only in the Folgarida – Marilleva area (and another 100 km of slopes in the area of Presena Glacier, Passo Tonale and the village Ponte di Legno), with slopes varying in length and difficulty, not to mention the fact that each of them offers a different view and overall experience.
The most important ski station in Val di Sole is Folgarida. Part of Dimaro, this was founded in 1965 on the way that links Dimaro to Madonna di Campiglio, and it quickly grew to become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the area in the summer and, even more so, in the winter.
The web of slopes of the Folgarida – Marilleva area are connected through a series of gondolas and cable cars, so that people who go skiing in Val di Sole can easily reach the many slopes and have a change of scenery throughout the day.
The slopes of Folgarida have good quality snow throughout the winter, and are perfect even for beginner and intermediate level skiers. Indeed, aside from the black level slopes that attract experienced skiers, there are various blue ones, and the red ones are easy enough even for inexperienced skiers. I had no issues going down, and trust me I am no champion at skiing (I started skiing again after a 17 years break last January, when I went on a weekend trip to Cortina d’Ampezzo).
In any case, if you aren’t confident enough on the skis or want to improve your technique, you can take ski or snowboard lessons in one of the 4 schools located at the station. There even are 3 kinder-gardens, which are perfect for families with small children, who can have a great time learning how to ski.
Scattered throughout the slopes there are several mountain huts, locally known as “rifugi” where you can have a break during the day, to enjoy a hot drink, a earthy, freshly prepared meal and to take in the incredible views of the mountains surrounding Val di Sole.
How to reach the slopes
The easiest way to move around Val di Sole is by car. You can easily rent one here.
If you prefer using public transportation, you can rely on the free ski-bus that connects the various villages of Val di Sole with the ski stations. The first ride is usually in the early morning (between 8:15 and 9:00 am, depending on the village) and the last ride back is after the last arrival of the cable car, around 4:45 pm).
Another option to reach the ski slopes of Val di Sole is catching the Dolomiti Express train, which connects Trento (Trentino’s main city) to Daolasa and Mezzana ski stations, where passengers have a changing and deposit room where they can lock their stuff before getting on the slopes.
The cost of the ski-pass for the ski-area Dolomiti di Brenta, Val di Sole and Val Rendena starts at €51 per day; whereas that for the Folgarida Marilleva area only starts €42 per day. The longer the validity of the ski-pass, the lower the prices per day. You can get a ski-pass in any of the cable car stations (they open at 8:00 am) or even online, here.
Where to rent ski equipment
You can rent ski equipment (boots, skis, rackets and helmet) in various places in Val di Sole. There’s at least 3 different places that rent equipment at the Folgarida Marilleva cable car station. It costs €25 per day to rent the full equipment.
Good to know
Biancaneve slope in Marilleva is artificially illuminated so you can continue skiing after dark.
The lovely villages
Scattered around Val di Sole there are several small villages, each of them worth visiting. The main one is Malè (not to be confused with the one in the Maldives!). This counts around 2200 inhabitants. It located at 740 meters above sea level and here you can find the interesting Civil Museum of Solandra, and a local parish church which dates back to the 16th century.
Another important village of Val di Sole is Dimaro, which is located at 766 meters above sea level, at the foothills of the Brenta Dolomites and at the entrance of Val di Meledrio, on the way to Folgarida and Madonna di Campiglio.
Dimaro is a lovely place to visit. For as small as it is, there are some beautiful historical buildings. The most prominent one is the 15h century church of Saint Lawrence, which has some gorgeous frescoes inside. More importantly so, Dimaro is an excellent starting point to explore the rest of Val di Sole and enjoy all that this part of Trentino has to offer.
Another lovely village in Val di Sole is Ossana, which used to be the political, administrative and clerical center of the higher Val di Sole. The village, which is really tiny, is dominated by the beautiful San Michele castle, built in 1191, which is a pleasant place to visit and from which there are beautiful views of the rest of the village and the valley where it is set.
One of the most interesting places to visit in Val di Sole is Monclassico, known as the village of artistic sundials. Other than the ancient sundials built throughout history, there now are 50 sundials that have been created between 2002 and 2012 by local and international artists.
Free guided tours of Monclassico are available but have to be booked at least a day in advance. A guided tour is a great way to get to know more about the history and culture of Val di Sole. Other than providing information on the region, the guide generally shows visitors how to read the time on sundials, something which isn’t nearly as straightforward as one would imagine. For example, did you know that other than the classic sundials, known as French, which simply indicate the time, there are others that indicate how many hours have passed since sunset (Italian kind) or since sunrise (Babylonian kind)?
The winter wonderland landscape
Winter in Val di Sole means enjoying a fairytale landscape, especially when everything is covered in snow. One of the nicest places in Val di Sole is the area of Passo Stelvio and Val di Rabbi. Here, there are a multitude of hiking and walking trails which make it a fantastic place for nature lovers.
The area is a popular place thanks to a 100 meters long suspended bridge from where there are incredible views of the Rio Ragaiolo waterfall. The bridge can be crossed throughout the year. It is a fairly popular place in the summer, and there often are lines to go across. The good news is that there hardly are any visitors in the winter months, so chances are that you’ll have the place all to yourself.
The views of the frozen waterfalls surrounded by the forest covered in snow is simply breathtaking. It’s a real winter wonderland!
The bridge can be reached on an easy hike that departs from the parking lot of Terme di Rabbi. Follow the river and the trail that goes by Malga Fratte, and before the bridge go up the steep, zig zag trail. It shouldn’t take you more than 45 minutes to get all the way to the bridge.
TIP: Although this is an easy walk, hiking boots are recommended. The trail is steep in parts, and especially with snow, it does get slippery.
Another incredible scenic place in Val di Sole is Lago dei Caprioli (Roes Lake), in Fazzon. An easy walk around the lake offers incredible views of the surrounding mountains, and the reflection of their image on the clear waters of the lake makes it special. Hiking lovers will be happy to know that there are several good hiking trails in the area.
Eating the delicious food is one of the reasons to visit Trentino, and sure enough the food in Val di Sole doesn’t disappoint.
Much like the rest of the region, Val di Sole makes it a point to use local products to prepare fantastic dishes that at the same time reflect local traditions and constant culinary innovation. There are many fantastic restaurants and mountain huts in the region where you can try the local specialties. Many of them also rent out rooms – continue reading to discover the best places to stay and eat in the region.
Val di Sole is a land of high quality apples and cured meats such as speck and carne salada – the latter often served in the form of carpaccio, with rocket and Trentingrana, the local Grana cheese. Mushrooms of any kind are used to prepare fantastic pasta dishes, which are served with local wines such as Lagrain. Polenta is often used to accompany meat and cheese dishes.
Among the dishes you have to try in Val di Sole, there are the famous canederli – a sort of dumplings made with stale bread, speck, luganega sausage and casolet cheese, mixed with eggs, chives and milk. They are guaranteed to give you an energy boost to get on the slopes!
If you want to uncover some of the secrets of local cuisine, make sure to take a cooking class. The best place to do so is the lovely Agritur Solasna. This is located in the tiny San Giacomo di Caldes, in a traditional mountain house that dates back to the 13th century from where there are stunning views of Val di Sole below. Here, you can join a cooking class run by the lovely Nicoletta, who will help you prepare canederli and apple pie. At the end of the class, you will be invited to sit in the cozy restaurant and eat what you have cooked, as well as some other local specialties.
There are two beautiful spas in Val di Sole: one is in Rabbi and the other one in Pejo. The latter is open throughout the year. Other than these, there is a multitude of wellness centers, usually associated with hotels, where you can enjoy a jacuzzi, a hamam or a sauna.
The most unique wellness center in Val di Sole is that of Rifugio Orso Bruno, located at 2200 meters above sea level in the ski area of Folgarida Marilleva. There, you can relax in a jacuzzi and at the same time enjoy the most incredible view of the peaks of Cevedale to the north, and of the Brenta massif to the south. Needless to say, the view is absolutely marvelous at sunset. It’s the ultimate place relax after a day on the slopes.
TIP: The wellness center of Rifugio Orso Bruno is only available to guests spending the night at the rifugio. If you love the idea of waking up directly on the slopes and relaxing right after skiing, this may well be the best place to stay in Val di Sole. Remember that the prices include breakfast and dinner, as well as access to the wellness center and a ski-pass.
One simply can’t talk about winter without mentioning Christmas. Needless to say, the Christmas atmosphere in Val di Sole is magical, with beautiful markets and exhibits.
The best place to experience Christmas in Val di Sole is Ossana, where a Christmas market takes place every year with booths scattered around the village and even inside San Michele castle.
Adding to this there is the yearly exhibit that, between the end of November and mid January, shows around 1000 nativity scenes of varying style and size, which can be seen in various courts and squares in the historical center of Ossana, as well as in the castle. The Presepe Grande Guerra, inside the castle, recollects an episode that took place in World War I. The Presepe Monte Giner was built in memory of the victims of a plane accident on Monte Giner, which occurred right around Christmas time in 1956. The Venezuelan exhibit celebrates the culture of one of the most diverse countries in the world.
Make sure to check out my post “The Best Christmas Markets In Europe.”
Planning Your Trip To Val di Sole
When to visit
Any time is good to visit Val di Sole, but a winter trip there is guaranteed to satisfy your quest for noise and cozy atmosphere. The first snow usually falls in November, and that’s when the slopes start receiving artificial snow. If you want to see snow in the valley too, make sure to plan your visit from mid-December onwards.
How to get there
The closest airports to Val di Sole are those of Verona, Treviso and Venice, which are all well connected to the rest of Europe with both regular and budget flights. Public transportation may require several changes and take a long time, so you may be better off hiring a private transfer or renting a car, which also makes it easier to move around once in the region. Here you can get a quote for a car rental.
You can also reach Val di Sole by train from Trento.
If you are flying into Venice, you may want to spend some time there before heading to Val di Sole. If this is the case, make sure to read my post “Seventeen Incredible Things To Do In Venice.”
How to move around
If you don’t want to rent a car, you can move around Val di Sole by bus. Other than the regular bus service that connects the various villages of the valley, you can also rely on the ski-bus which connects the villages to the main ski stations. Keep in mind that the ski-bus runs during the day only, when the slopes and the cable cars are open. You can find the ski-bus timetable here.
The best places to stay and eat
There’s no shortages of excellent accommodation options and restaurants in Val di Sole. This is just a selection:
- Albergo Dimaro, in Dimaro, is perfect for families. Rooms are comfortable and clean, and there also is a wellness center. The hotel also serves dinner. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Rifugio Orso Bruno is at 2200 meters above sea level, right on the slopes of Folgarida Marilleva ski area. Guests can enjoy the onsite restaurant and the wellness center with views of the mountains. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Rifugio Solander is right on the slopes of the Folgarida Marilleva ski area. The restaurants serves delicious food (make sure to have the cake selection!) and the rooms are cozy and comfortable. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Agritur Solasna, in San Giacomo di Caldes, is a beautiful historical home with cozy rooms and a fantastic restaurant serving food prepared using strictly local ingredients – most of them coming directly from the farm.
- Rifugio Albasini, in Folgarida is located at 1800 meters above sea level and you can directly access the slopes from there. The on site restaurants serves delicious local food.
- Rifugio Spolverino serves excellent pizza baked using local ingredients, as well as traditional local dishes. The environment is cozy and informal, and the views of the Brenta mountains from the terrace are simply spectacular.
- Il Maniero is a fantastic restaurant in Ossana that serves delicious local dishes prepared with local ingredients. Pasta dishes are prepared using home made fresh pasta. The “straccetti” – thin stripes of beef with porcini mushroom and truffle oil are mouthwatering.
What to pack for a winter trip to Val di Sole
Winter is cold in Val di Sole, with temperatures regularly going well below zero even during the day. Whether you are planning to ski or not, there are a few items that you need to pack in your suitcase.
- A very good jacket I am a massive fan of Kuhl Arktik Parka: it keeps me nice and warm while at the same time looking pretty.
- Good hiking boots. They are the best to wear if you plan to do a bit of walking, and before changing into ski boots. If you have extra space in your suitcase, you can even pack a pair of after-ski boots.
- Gloves: take a good pair of technical ski gloves, and add a pair of wool or fleece ones you can wear when you are not on the slopes.
- A hat and a scarf.
- Technical thermal underwear and extra warm socks.
- Ski pants (they are more comfortable than a ski jumpsuit) and a good ski jacket.
- A whool or techinical shirt (I love Kozet Long) over which you should wear a very good jacket – I am a massive fan of Kuhl Alska.
- Super warm pants, flannel shirts (I love Kuhl Tess Flannel , and good whool sweaters.
- Hand warmers: you can wear them inside your gloves if your hands tend to get cold. I actually put mine inside my socks as my feet freeze when it’s cold outside.
- A swimsuit, to enjoy the wellness centers and spas.
- A pair of sunglasses or ski goggles.
- High SPF sunscreen and a very good lip balm– your lips will get incredibly dry in the cold weather.
The websites of Trentino and Val di Sole Tourism boards have a wealth of information on places to visit, activities, transportation, hotels, restaurants and anything else you may need to plan your visit.
Further readings about Trentino
If you are planning a trip to Trentino, make sure to read my other posts:
- Ten Reasons To Visit Trentino In The Summer
- A Great Itinerary For A Summer Week In Trentino
- A Concise Guide To Mezzano Di Primiero Trentino
- A Complete Guide To Visiting Orrido Di Ponte Alto Gorge, Trentino
- Five Short But Rewarding Hikes In The Dolomites Of Trentino
- 10 Perfectly Good Reasons To Ski In Val Di Sole
Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Trentino and Val di Sole Tourism Boards during my trip to Val di Sole, and wish to thank them for the incredible experience. Needless to say, all the views expressed in this post are my own and without any bias.
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