Caldonazzo is an alpine lake in Northern Italy with warm crystal clear water that is a pleasure to swim and boat in.
Surrounded by Blue Flag beaches and green peaks, it is also the largest lake in the autonomous province of Trentino and within an easy reach from such picturesque and historical cities like Trento, Levico Terme, and Rovereto.
If you are looking for a great place to spend a relaxing summer holiday full of fun activities suitable for families, couples, and solo travellers, Lake Caldonazzo is an excellent choice. From water sports to castle-hopping, from nature hikes to quirky museums, the lake’s area is rich in surprises.
Just over a month ago we spent 48 hours camping at Lake Caldonazzo. It was a blissful beach time during which the most energetic things we did were hiring a paddling boat to roam on the lake and stuffing ourselves with endless portions of gelato from the on-site ice cream parlour. The lake’s warm water – it reaches 24 degrees Celsius each summer – was amazing to swim in while tiny fish were darting around us.
It was all so relaxing and so re-energising! In case you are looking for a great Italian adventure off the beaten track and close to nature, Lake Caldonazzo is a great place to base yourself at and explore further afield.
To make your planning easier, here are ten fun things to do around the largest lake in the province of Trentino. Pick as many as you like.
All recommendations are based on my many trips in and around Trentino and the ease of reach from Lake Caldonazzo to the different sights mentioned below.
For ease of getting to and around Lake Caldonazzo and to and from the many nearby sights, your best option is to drive there. All travel times given below refer to getting there by car.
In case you need to take the train, check train connections to either the train station of Caldonazzo or that of Piergine on the Trenitalia website.
Time to start! Let’s dive straight in:
10 Things to Do around Lake Caldonazzo – The Largest Lake in the Northern Italian Province of Trentino
1. Camp on the Shores of Lake Caldonazzo
The shores of Lake Caldonazzo are dotted with several different campsites. They offer easy access to the lake’s Blue Flag beaches and are equipped with all sorts of amenities. Camping at the lake is an easy way to spend an inexpensive holiday in the north of Italy.
After a bit of research, we booked a pitch for our tent at Camping Punta Lago which is just across the street from a Blue Flag beach and offers different types of accommodation – from mobile homes to pitches for campers and tents. This campsite has a small on-site shop as well as a mini club to keep children busy making crafts during the day and taking part in all sorts of activities in the evening. There are several restaurants in the immediate vicinity.
Our neighbours at the campsite were from all over Europe, especially from the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark. It was all well-maintained, quiet and peaceful (Friday night got a bit noisy but it all died down around midnight) plus the on-site ice cream parlour stayed open from 8 am to midnight!
There are several other campsites at Lake Caldonazzo, so look into them, too before making the right choice for yourself and your travelling companions.
2. Sun Yourself at Lake Caldonazzo’s Blue Flag Beaches
It’s so lovely to spend time on the beach leaving all the niggles and stress of daily life behind for a few hours of pure bliss. It’s even better when the water is crystal clear and warm for a shiver-free dip after the sun has really warmed you up.
Lake Caldonazzo gives you all this, plus its beaches have the prestigious Blue Flag award in recognition of their high environmental and quality standards and the sustainable tourism developed on the lake shores.
Bear in mind that the beach at Lake Caldonazzo that we went to was pebbly and not sandy. Beach shoes certainly helped me both in and out of the water but I was actually one of the very few people on the beach wearing them. Everyone else seemed to love the feel of pebbles between their toes.
3. Practice Water Sports
Lake Caldonazzo is a paradise for fans of water sports. From paddleboating and paddleboarding to sailing, windsurfing, and diving, the sky is the limit when it comes to making the most of the lake’s warm waters. Plus, Caldonazzo is the only place in the region where you can water ski.
We were not that brave, to be honest, so instead, we hired a paddleboat from the operator at the small boardwalk on the beach and spent some time happily paddling on the lake. We specifically chose a paddleboat with a slide as sliding into the water adds so much more to the fun factor. In addition, there was a large whale-shaped structure moored in the lake for people to paddle to.
We paid 15 euros per hour for the paddleboat. It could be rented also for half an hour at a rate of 9 euros.
Lake Caldonazzo’s water reaches temperatures of 20 to 24 degrees Celsius in summer. It’s one of the warmest lakes in Europe and you can swim there from May to September without the unpleasant shivers you get when trying to adjust to seawater or a cold lake. Caldonazzo is also home to several types of fish – from trout to pike. Plus, there are resident gaggles of moorhens and ducks although they keep their distance from the bathers and come onshore in the evenings when the beach is empty.
4. Explore Valsugana
Valsugana is the long and wide valley where Lake Caldonazzo is located. It starts from just after the provincial capital of Trento and extends to where the province of Trentino meets the province of Vicenza.
Valsugana is also the valley where the important for Northern Italy river Brenta is born from the waters of Lake Caldonazzo and the nearby Lake Levico.
Apple orchards, raspberry nurseries, and verdant vineyards dot the valley’s plains and hills. It’s very pleasant to travel through it taking in the mighty shapes of the mountain chain of Lagorai and the peaks of the chain Cima XII-Ortigara. Medieval castles and ruins can be glimpsed here and there adding to the rustic fairytale feel of the landscape.
Since ancient times, Valsugana has been connected to the rest of Italy and Europe thanks to the important Roman road Via Claudia Augusta which was built in the first half of the 1st century AD. Nowadays, a well-developed transport network connects the valley’s important local towns such as Borgo Valsugana and Levico Terme with the provincial capital of Trento as well as with Bassano del Grappa, Vicenza and Padua further afield.
If cycling is your thing, don’t miss the 80 km long cycling path which follows the course of the river Brenta and a portion of the ancient Via Claudia Augusta across the Valsugana.
In winter, there are many options for skiing and other winter sports. For example, ten kilometres away from Levico Terme, you will find Panarotta – a ski centre with three chair lifts, two moving walks, a ski school, and ski rental.
5. Discover Trentino’s Most Picturesque Towns and Cities
If you are planning to spend more than a couple of days on the shores of Lake Caldonazzo make sure that you put some time aside for day trips to the nearby picturesque and historic towns and cities of the province of Trentino. Here are your best options:
- Trento – the provincial capital Trento is less than half an hour away from Lake Caldonazzo. The city is the place where the Council of Trent was held in the 16th century. There are many lovely historical sights there to fill up a day. Among the most important ones are the Buonconsiglio Castle, the Duomo and its adjacent piazza with the splendid Neptune’s fountain, MUSE – an interactive and fun science museum which is great for children, and many others.
- Rovereto (pictured above) – a lovely city which is off the beaten track and easy to navigate on foot. Rovereto is about 40 mins away from Lake Caldonazzo. Once there, don’t miss the expansive Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, the Italian War History Museum housed in the old Rovereto Castle, the House of the Futurist artist Depero, and the St. Mark’s Church where a young Mozart had his first concert on Italian soil.
- Borgo Valsugana, Pergine Valsugana and Caldonazzo – three small but pretty towns in the Valsugana which are, respectively, 20, 14, and 7 mins away from the Punta Lago camping site on Lake Caldonazzo. The crystal clear river Brenta flows through the historical centre of Borgo Valsugana and the striking Castel Telvana (not open to the public) crowns a lush hill above the town.
- Levico Terme – a very pretty town on the shores of Lake Levico and about ten minutes away from Lake Caldonazzo. Levico Terme is famous for the local thermal waters which feed the town’s many thermal baths and spa hotels. Different festivals and events take place regularly here. Levico Terme’s Christmas market is especially popular, too.
- Arco – an elegant town just off the shores of Lake Garda – Italy’s largest lake – and just over an hour away from Lake Caldonazzo. Surrounded by sheer limestone cliffs, Arco has a ruined castle and several beautiful churches and palazzi. The town has a very Tyrolean feel to it and it is interesting to note that the Habsburg Court used to spend the summers there when this part of Italy used to be under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Empress Sisi herself would come to Arco, too.
- Riva del Garda – a lovely town on the northernmost end of Lake Garda which is about an hour away from Lake Caldonazzo. In Riva del Garda don’t miss the following main sights: Rocca fortress (housing the Civic Museum), Torre Apponale – a 13th-century clock-tower, Bastione – a grey early 16th-century tower overlooking Riva del Garda and the lake, MAG – the Museum of Upper Garda, many piazzas preserving the town’s medieval/Venetian look, several nearby beaches, sport centres and hiking trails. Plus, in winter Santa Claus himself sets up house in Riva del Garda which can be visited by children and adults alike.
Once you have exhausted all options for day trips in Trentino from Lake Caldonazzo, you can expand your reach and head to the adjacent Italian region of the Veneto where cities and towns like Verona, Vicenza, Padua, and Bassano del Grappa await you.
6. Browse Exciting Sights and Museums
With its rich history and strong creative spirit, Trentino has a long list of museums, educational sights, and art galleries to explore. Many of these are within a very easy reach from Lake Caldonazzo so that you can visit several of them in a day depending on your interests.
Here is a very short list of some of the most important places of art, history, science, and culture close to Lake Caldonazzo. I have provided average travel times for each one which can be shorter or slightly longer depending on which end of the lake you stay at:
- MART – around 40 mins away, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto has an impressive art collection housed in a striking building.
- Arte Sella – around 40 mins away, this contemporary art gallery is set up in a forest. Each work of art both blends and contrasts with its natural environment. You hike from one to the next following a trail through the tall lush trees.
- Italian War History Museum – around 40 mins away, this museum has an expansive and well-organised collection dedicated to all things war. A special emphasis is placed on the First World War. The museum is housed in Rovereto’s old Venetian castle.
- Bell of the Fallen – around 46 mins away, the bell commemorates the soldiers who fought in Trentino during the First World War. It rings 100 times every evening at sundown. The photo above shows the plaster cast of the bell which currently is held in the Italian War History Museum. The actual bell is about ten minutes up the road from the museum.
- MUSE – less than 25 mins away, this is a fantastic science museum which will keep both adults and kids happily entertained for hours.
You can have a look at Trentino’s official website for even more ideas for unique sights and great museums to explore in this Northern Italian province.
7. Indulge in a Day of Castle-Hopping
Trentino is, undoubtedly, the land of castles with around 300 of them dotting the province’s lush mountainous landscape.
Indulge your inner princess or knight for a day and head to a castle or two to learn more about their history, admire their military architecture, and take countless photos of the stunning views that will open up in front of you from the castles’ highest points.
Here is a shortlist of castles in Trentino you simply cannot miss. I have also included average travel times from Lake Caldonazzo. These will be shorter or slightly longer depending on which end of the lake you decided to stay at.
- Buonconsiglio Castle – about 17 to 24 mins away from Lake Caldonazzo, Buonconsiglio Castle is an unmissable sight in Trentino, Northern Italy. Having served for centuries as the residence of Trento’s Prince-Bishops, the castle was originally built on the cusp between the High and the Late Middle Ages. It was then enlarged significantly several times. As such, Buonconsiglio has a medieval, a Renaissance, and a Baroque parts giving you a great insight into the art, architecture, and politics of three of the greatest periods that Italy in particular and Europe as a whole have gone through.
- Castle Thun – about 38 to 48 mins away from Lake Caldonazzo, Thun Castle was built in 1250. It used to be the seat of one of the most important families in Trentino. The castle has been used both as a military stronghold and as a permanent residence. It has medieval towers, a sophisticated defensive system, a collection of arms, an important library, and a drawbridge.
- Castel Beseno – about 29 and 35 mins away from Lake Caldonazzo, Castle Beseno is the largest feudal fortress in the province of Trentino. Its crenelated walls dominate an entire hilltop and the castle looks straight out from a medieval epic poem.
- Castello di Arco (pictured above) – about 55 mins to an hour away from Lake Caldonazzo, a visit to Arco Castle includes around 20 mins of hiking up a steep path. Your efforts will be generously rewarded though with stunning views over the Sarca Valley and the town of Arco below, the surrounding mountains, and the nearby northernmost end of Lago di Garda – Italy’s largest lake. The castle itself is ruined and very dramatic providing perfect fodder for photo fans and history aficionados. The town of Arco is also very close to Riva del Garda so you can spend a delightful day exploring them both.
- Toblino Castle – about 34 to 41 mins away from Lake Caldonazzo, Toblino Castle will appeal to those who are romantics at heart. The castle is built on a small rocky outcrop in the middle of Lake Toblino. Curiously enough, it was erected at the same spot where a pagan temple had once stood. Nowadays, the castle houses a renowned retaurant.
- Rovereto Castle – about 38 to 40 mins away from Lake Caldonazzo, the Castle of Rovereto was originally built in the 14th century by the Castelbarco noble family. A century later, the castle was transformed into a military fortress by the Republic of Venice. Nowadays it houses the Italian War History Museum. While the exposition is very interesting in itself, the castle is also very impressive with its defensive architecture. Plus, it offers lovely views over the town of Rovereto and the surrounding mountains.
- Castel Pergine – about 12-15 mins away from Lake Caldonazzo, the historic Pergine Castle nowadays houses a hotel and a restaurant. If you want to see the castle without staying there, guided visits are organised twice a week from June until September. A fortress has stood at this place since prehistoric times. It was followed by a Roman settlement and then, centuries later, a Longobard stronghold.
Bear in mind that while a large number of castles in the province of Trentino are opened to the public, many others are not. To avoid disappointment, check in advance if a castle you are interested in actually allows visitors in. Unfortunately, I am speaking from experience here, as two Trentino castles we had glimpsed from the road and fell in love with turned out to be closed to the general public.
A good place to do some more research into castles that can be visited in the proximity of Lake Caldonazzo is this page of the Visit Trentino official website. In addition, have a look at this map of Trentino’s castles – it’s very helpful as it gives you a visual idea as to the locations of the different castles plus just underneath the map, there is lots of information about each one of them.
8. Walk, Hike and Bike
The best way to explore the beautiful nature and the many sights surrounding Lake Caldonazzo is to head out for a walking, hiking or biking adventure. There are numerous paths and itineraries – suitable for easy walkers, experienced hikers, and cyclists of all and any ability – which connect the lake with the nearby towns and villages or lead deep into the surrounding hills and mountains.
Cycling is especially popular here and you can rent bikes in situ as well as stay at hotels which cater specifically to cyclists. The local tourist information centre has developed a special brochure with cycling paths and pertinent information both for road bikes and mountain bikes. You can consult it here.
As mentioned under point 4 above, the 80-km long Valsugana Cycling Path follows the river Brenta. It thus allows you to cycle all the way from Lake Caldonazzo to the picturesque town of Bassano del Grappa in the Northern Italian region of the Veneto. From there you can continue all the way to Venice.
We went for walks around the nearby Levico Terme and Borgo Valsugana. In addition, we attempted the hike to the Ogre’s Bridge (in Italian, Ponte dell’Orco) in Valsugana. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to actually reach the bridge. We followed the instructions on the informational board at the start of the trail but we then walked a really long time and couldn’t see the bridge anywhere. In addition, alongside the path, there were many fallen and broken trees so we decided to turn back. Based on my personal experience, I can’t really recommend this particular hike. This was a one-off though as otherwise hiking in Trentino has always been a pleasure.
9. Have Fun with Your Kids
There is so much to do as a family at and near Lake Caldonazzo.
From swimming in the warm lake waters and eating large portions of gelato to days out at nearby sights, there is something to keep everyone happily occupied irrespective of their age and interests. Here are some family-friendly suggestions to tuck in around Lake Caldonazzo:
- Hike with llamas and alpacas – about 50 mins away from Lake Caldonazzo, you will find Maso Eden – a farm where they rear llamas and alpacas and where you can go for a hike through the forest in the company of these gentle animals. If you are interested to learn more about this experience, please, click here and read my first-hand account under the heading Day 4.
- Play with science – MUSE – a great science museum geared towards children is less than 25 mins away from Lake Caldonazzo. You can easily spend hours there having fun with your kids while simultaneously learning lots and lots of cool scientific facts.
- Get active in nature – Sarnacli Mountain Park is about an hour away from Lake Caldonazzo and has a wealth of equipment to keep your kids physically active.
- Try your hand at mining – ten minutes away from Lake Caldonazzo, you will find the Miniera di Calceranica. This is a former pyrite mine which nowadays has been turned into a museum.
- Meet a scarecrow or dozens – for an experience with a difference, head to the Museum of Scarecrows which is about 15 mins away from Lake Caldonazzo. The museum is housed inside a former watermill.
Of course, most of the activities recommended under points 1-8 and 10 of this list are also family-friendly. Take your pick and have a great day with your kids at and around Lake Caldonazzo.
10. Visit Trentino’s Other Lakes
Trentino is rich not just in castles, valleys, and mountains but also in lakes. While Lake Caldonazzo is the largest among them all, this Northern Italian province has almost 300 other lakes – from tiny to large – for you to spend half a day or longer at.
Here are three that I love to visit. Plus, they all are very easy to reach from Lake Caldonazzo:
- Lake Levico – just next door to Lake Caldonazzo, this pretty lake shares a name with the adjacent thermal town of Levico Terme.
- Lake Tenno (pictured above) – small and compact, this turquoise lake is beautiful to look at. Plus, a hike around its circumference takes only around an hour or so. Nearby you can also visit Canale’ di Tenno – a fully preserved medieval stone village with many cultural and art-focused events.
- Lake Garda – a chunk of Lago di Garda – which is Italy’s largest lake – falls within the confines of Trentino. Head to the lakeside towns of Riva del Garda and Torbole for a great day out.
Lago di Caldonazzo is an alpine lake in the Northern Italian province of Trentino. Unusually warm – its waters reach temperatures of 20-24 degrees Celsius in summer – Caldonazzo is also the largest lake in Trentino and a real gem in the crown of Valsugana (the Valley of Sugana).
If you are looking for a new spot to base yourself at during your exploration of Northern Italy or a place to spend a couple of tranquil days camping, hiking, swimming, and being close to nature, Lake Caldonazzo is a great destination for single travellers, couples, and families with kids.
In the above blog post, I have given you ten ideas for things you can get up to at and around Lake Caldonazzo. I have provided lots of first-hand tried and tested tips and destinations for you to explore and have fun at.
I, personally, loved spending a camping weekend by Lake Caldonazzo earlier this summer. It was a very relaxing and happy time for me and swimming in the warm lake was such a delight. Just bring a pair of beach shoes as the shore is quite pebbly.
More Helpful Links
- Trentino, Italy – Castles, Hikes, and Alpacas – The Perfect 4-Day Itinerary (With or Without Kids)
- Best 12 Towns to Visit around Lago di Garda – Italy’s Largest Lake
- Day Trips from Verona – 16 Destinations to Fall in Love With (With Travel Times and Train Tips)
- Day Trips from Padua, Italy – Over 35 Unmissable Destinations in the Veneto, Lombardy, and Emilia-Romagna
- Day Trips from Vicenza, Italy – Over 90 of the Best Destinations
- 11 of the Best Day Trips from Venice (With Lots of Photos, Travel Times and Italy Train Tips)
- Campo di Brenzone – A Great Day Trip to a Medieval Village in the Hills Above Lake Garda
Have you been to Lake Caldonazzo or any other lake in the Northern Italian autonomous province of Trentino? Which is your favourite lake in Italy and/or in Europe? Based on your experience, what would you suggest that I do there?
Please, let me know in the Comments section below!
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