A valley extending 45 km from Gavardo, close to Lake Garda, and ending at Ponte Caffaro at the top of Lake Idro, near to the Trentino border. Excavated by the Chiese river and famous among canoe enthusiasts, fed by streams and torrents that arrive as rivulets and cascades – a paradise for fi shermen – overlooked by imposing mountains, Valle Sabbia is a natural spectacle all to be enjoyed, from the meadows surrounding Lake Idro up to the woods of oak, chestnut trees and hazel groves, and higher still to the fresh pinewoods and the bare slopes of the peaks.
Flower-filled meadows dotted with mountain huts and farm buildings open up at the sides of the roads that give access to areas ideal for walks and excursions. On horseback, on foot or mountain bike, there is a lot to discover in Val Sabbia.
Blumone, Gaver, Colombine, Misa, Corna Blacca, Pezzeda and Baremone are places to mark on the map as sites for rock-climbing, summer trekking or splendid ski descents. Maniva, Pezzeda and Gaver, in winter, become modern ski resorts where the pistes lead through wonderful pinewoods. Alleys, flowering balconies, old courtyards and stone houses give these small localities a typical mountain imprint. Tranquillity and relax are assured in the deep green of lateral valleys.
Love of the mountains combines with that of the lake when the valley opens up into Lake Idro. At 368 metres above sea level, the smallest of the big Lombardy lakes is 10 km long, with a maximum depth of 248 metres and a surface of about 10 square kilometres. Nestling between the mountains, it conserves some evocative boroughs offering small beaches, mostly appreciated by holiday families, or the younger generations looking for more entertainment with water sports.
So rich in history, Val Sabbia preserves its prehistoric treasures in the Archaeology Museum in Gavardo where one room is dominated by the skeleton of a cave bear. Castles and fortifications, churches and sanctuaries, draw a historical and artistic trail of great prestige, rich in precious wood cuttings and carvings by the Pialorsi di Levrange family, more commonly known as the “Boscai”. Of truly ancient origin is the parish church dedicated to St. Mary in Undas at Idro; beautiful walks lead to the 14th-century Morti di Barbaine sanctuary, to Livemmo at Pertica Alta and Madonna di Visello at Agnosine.
Very special are the “Chiese rocca” – churches built on the remains of the fortresses guarding the territory around the 10th century. Evocative remains can be seen at Nozza di Vestone and Bernacco. A splendid example can be found in Sabbio Chiese, rising in solitary splendour on an outcrop protecting the river. A church, two actually, one above the other, built in the 16th century, endowed with engravings and frescos, and conserving the castle structure with three rings of walls. In the midst of luxuriant greenery emerges Rocca di Anfo, having suffered all the effects of war since the Venetian dominion in the 16th century to recent times, just like the fort in Valledrane.
Absolutely worthy of a visit is Bagolino. This characteristic locality lies in a hollow and surrounds the majestic parish church dedicated to St. George. Entirely frescoed, the church conserves canvases by important artist such as Tintoretto and Palma il Giovane. A place for both summer and winter holidays, Bagolino still conserves its ancient high-rise buildings, crammed together and with important decorative motifs, welcoming visitors to its squares, porticoes and fountains found along the step stone roads.
Famous and an authentic anthropological rarity is the local carnival with music and dancing unchanged from the 16th and 17th century, celebrated with mascher e balarì (masks and dancers) dressed in precious original costumes.
The spa town of Vallio Terme, with its spring named Castello rising from a carefully attended mountain source, enjoys a mild climate making it a true oasis for relaxation and well-being.
Valle Sabbia jealously hides its treasures, below round at times as in the case of the nature reserve Altopiano di Cariadeghe at Serle: a unique environment in Lombardy due to the Karstic formation of caves, dolinas, potholes and galleries that make it extremely interesting for speleologists. Curiously, the caves have been named buchi del latte because in ancient times they were used to preserve the local dairy products.
Valsabbia cuisine is closely linked to the territory. Trattorias and restaurants serve mountain and lake products. Ceps mushrooms are the base for the delicious “Zuppa di Barghe”; also full of fl avour is “Polenta Taragna”. Mountain-stream trout and carp, perch fillets and snails, whitebait omelettes – all specialities from Lake Idro. However, reigning over the local scenario is a cheese: the precious Bagoss matured in the mountain pastures and the lower valley at Bagolino. It has a splendid straw yellow colour and intense flavour. A curious proposal is “zucchero amaro” obtained with herbs from the woods and meadows.
There are many festivals and events all drawing their origin from traditions that continue to survive in the heart of local inhabitants.
Hospitality is offered by comfortable family hotels, apartments, B&B and camp sites.
Between Lake Garda and Valle Sabbia a visit is worthwhile to the splendid greenery of Valvestino – a fjord-like lake formed by barring a dam. It can be reached by following the panoramic road leading up from Gargnano. 28 km through the forests, crossing tiny hamlets up to Fienile di Cima Rest: an ancient Mittel-European construction testifying the rural history and culture of a border zone.
A special place culminating in the Astronomy Observatory which, during the summer, is open to the public who can admire the skies with the private silence of these high peaks.