A weekend full of sport and nature in Bondone
Two days where charcoal burners once dwelled, in one of the most beautiful villages in Italy
- 2 days
- March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October
Bondone is a place that dips its feet in the lake and has its head in the clouds. Once home to charcoal burners, since 2018 it has been listed as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy by the Borghi Più Belli d’Italia association.
Located in Valle del Chiese, which is on the border with Lombardy in the southernmost part of Trentino, there are two different sides to Bondone. Its sterner, more warlike characteristics are embodied by the Castello di San Giovanni: a castle perched on a rocky outcrop. Then there is a milder, more carefree side, as encapsulated by the shores of Lake Idro.
Until 50 years ago, Bondone was home to charcoal burners. Early in the spring they would set off for the mountains, taking their whole families with them and leaving their homes empty. They would not return until late in the autumn, after eight months of hard work that would help them to get through the winter. Images of the stout-hearted lifestyles of the past are conjured up today by the little stone and wooden homes lining the narrow streets of the villages. They seem to want to huddle together to protect and keep each other company after long months on the mountain slopes.
Today, Bondone is a truly picturesque village and a great base for a sport-filled weekend in the relaxing natural setting of the Rete di Riserve della Valle del Chiese (network of nature reserves). If you come in August, do not miss the “Bondone in Strada” international street performers festival. Here are a few tips for a two-day break.
A walk around the paved streets of Bondone, admiring the frescoes
When you get to Bondone, the first thing that you will notice are the magnificent frescoes adorning the houses. As you wander through the streets, look for the house at 24 Via Giusti and stop to admire the fresco showing the Madonna Enthroned breastfeeding the Baby Jesus. The work dates back to the 16th century and it is the most important mural painting in Bondone. Take a photo and then get ready for the next part of your visit.
On the shores of Lake Idro
It takes just a few minutes to drive to Lake Idro, where the Porto Camarelle beach has been awarded a Blue Flag by Legambiente. Before you get there, stop for breakfast at the Salvotelli café and pastry shop in Baitoni.
One of the distinctive features of Lake Idro is that the average temperature of its water is around 24°C and it remains pleasant until September, making it ideal for swimming even towards the end of the season. In the summer months you can go canoeing or stand-up paddleboarding, while in the rest of the year you can walk between the two beaches on the Trentino shore of the lake. They are joined together by a wooden walkway that goes through the Biotopo del Lago di Idro, a natural habitat that provides a place of refuge for numerous species of terrestrial and water birds.
Walk to the Castello di San Giovanni
How would you like to walk to the castle? For centuries, the Castello di San Giovanni was owned by the powerful, aristocratic Lodron family, from Trentino. Among those to stay there over the years was Landsknecht leader Georg von Frundsberg.
There are two ways to get to the castle. The first is a 15-minute walk along a dirt track. You can leave your car in the Saltone car park, which is on the road up from Baitoni to Bondone. The second option takes around 30 minutes and it involves following the path that starts near the car park in the Miralago area of Baitoni. When you get to the top, you will have earned the right to admire the marvellous scenery!
Learning about the history of Bondone and its charcoal burners
This story of Bondone is written on its paved streets, the walls of the stone and wooden homes, and the names of places of worship such as the Church of the Natività di Maria (Nativity of Mary). The latter tangibly demonstrates the local devotion to the Virgin Mary, who is said to have quelled the devastating plague that hit Bondone in the 16th century.
After you have visited the church, walk down to Piazza della Levata in the heart of the village to see the touching monument to charcoal burners, which tells a tale of sacrifice and determination. The local men and women would leave their homes for months on end and climb up into the woods to gather wood and make it into charcoal.
Stop off at Bar Levada for a refreshing glass of shandy or apple juice.
Try the famous polenta from Storo
No trip to the area would be complete without a taste of the polenta made with the famous yellow cornmeal from Storo, which is one of the best known products from the Valle del Chiese. One particularly fitting recipe is “polenta carbonera” (“charcoal polenta”), which is both nourishing and rich in flavour because it contains onions, cheese and salami meat.
Other traditional foods from the Bondone area include cheese from shepherds’ huts, alpine sow-thistle, Arctic char, mountain honey and mushrooms.
If you want to take home a delicious reminder of your weekend in Bondone, we can recommend three places that sell traditional products. The first is the Birrificio Artigianale Valle del Chiese, a craft brewery that sells not only flavoured beer but also items such as cornmeal for polenta, jam, pickled vegetables, herbal tea and medicinal herbs. The second is the Agri90 Cooperative, which makes the renowned yellow cornmeal from Storo. Finally, Apicoltura Mora in Storo is a specialist retailer of honey and bee products.
If all this talk of food has made your mouth water, we can recommend a wonderful place to eat fish with picturesque lake views: Ristorante Pizzeria Miralago, in Baitoni.
On the accommodation front, we have three places to recommend. The first is the Idroblu B&B in the village of Bondone, which offers an irresistible combination of simple yet stylish rooms and hearty breakfasts featuring local fare. Elsewhere in the village, Albergo Alpina is another superb choice. Just a short distance away, the Agriturismo La Polentera is a rustic, well-appointed agritourism establishment surrounded by natural marvels. Meanwhile, Camping Miralago is the place to go if you would like to stay on the shore of the lake and eat in a restaurant with a terrace overlooking the water.
Sport in the great outdoors
Wake up early, breathe in the fresh mountain air and you will instantly feel ready to head outside and get some exercise. We can recommend two activities that both start in Bondone. The first is a bike ride on the Valle del Chiese cycle path, which is a fun, healthy way to discover the natural and cultural attractions in the Giudicarie area. The starting point is in Baitoni.
The other option is a walk uphill along an old mule track dating back to the First World War. It will take you to Cima Tombea, where there are sweeping 360° views of the Ledro Alps in the “Alpi Ledrensi e Judicaria” UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.