Via Ferrata around Italy’s Lake Garda
The Italian Dolomites are home to many excellent Via Ferrata(VF). In late September 2020, we made it to South Dolomites and Lake Garda area in Italy and did some awesome Via Ferrata amid the COVID19 chaos. As we arrived late in the hiking season, this area has the perfect climate to explore outdoor activities. The VFs here are located at lower altitudes, therefore accessible all year round. During our 10-day trip, we managed 5 wonderful VF routes and greatly enjoyed the scenic villages and delicious food in this area.
Each country has a different Via Ferrata grading system. In Italy, the technicality of the VF is graded from 1-5(1 being the easiest) and the walking condition is graded from A-C(A being the easiest). The combination of these 2 letters gives a good idea of the routes’ terrain and difficulty. Our routes are around Grade 2/3.
The best guidebook to plan the route is Cicerone’s ‘Via Ferratias of the Italian Dolomites: Vol 2 – Southern Dolomites, Brenta and Lake Garda’.
Most VF routes in the book are located outside major towns, so renting a car can free you up a lot more VF routes and accommodation choices. Although some routes like VF Burrone Giovanelli, VF Colodri and VF Centenario are accessible by train or bus. It is good to make the decision by how many VF routes you want to complete and how flexible with the schedule you want to be.
We used only apartments during this trip to have the benefit of a kitchen. There was no shortage of big supermarkets and roadside farm shops to top up our food supply, so we cooked most of our meals. Our accommodation was booked through Booking.com and Airbnb.
Raining day options
VF is a highly dry weather-dependent activity, fortunately, there are so many wonderful destinations around Lake Garda for rainy days. We visited Verona for its ancient Arena, wonderful churches and Juliet’s House. The other day we drove around the pretty lake towns like Sirmione, Peschiera del Garda and Valeggio Sul Mincio for their unbelievable tortellini. For more relaxing options there are many excellent vineyards and thermals to explore further.
VF Routes overview
Via Ferrata Burrone Giovanelli (Burrone di Mezzocorona)
Difficulty: Grade 2B
Duration: 4 hours
Via Ferrata Burrone Giovanelli is a very scenic route located outside Mezzolombado, a peaceful small town surrounded by wineries. The access to the VF is via a truck road just before the bridge outside the town centre. The VF starts from a waterfall and continues into a gorge, with wonderful views of the waterfall, the gorge and the valley underneath. The climbing was not difficult but some parts were quite steep. We were walking or crossing the watercourse all the time so weatherproof boots are definitely recommended.
After the VF, a visit to Villa de Varda Grappa distillery and Azienda Agricola Foradori winery in Mezzolombado made it a perfect day.
Via Ferrata Colodri (Sentiero Attrezzato del Colodri)
Difficulty: Grade 2A
Duration: 2.5 hours
Via Ferrata Colodri is a short route just outside the popular climbing town Arco on the north side of Lake Garda. It is located on the top of a rock climbing area, so we were accompanied by many climbers on the way. We parked the car at Camping Arco opposite to the approach path. The VF route is fairly simple with plenty of footholds and handholds and the view from the top overlooking the valleys is superb.
On the way down we visited Arco castle, where you could have a panorama view of Arco. The lively Acro town centre is full of cafes, restaurants, outdoor shops and very fit-looking people, a perfect stop to spend the rest of the afternoon.
VF Chez Guevara
Difficulty: Grade 3C
Duration: 8-9 hours
The third Via Ferrata in the Italian Lake Garda region we did is called Chez Guevara, named after the Cuban Marxist. It is rated as 3C, not because of technical difficulty, but a solid 5-hour climbing and 3-hour descending. Indeed it was a very long day. We started as early as 9am and still made it just before dark. The route is built entirely along a rock face, so many parts are more scrambling than VF. It was a good place to practise judgement on rocks.
Difficulty: Grade 3A
Duration: 5-6 hours
VF Centenario is a very accessible route just outside the popular resort town Riva del Garda. It is famous for its many long ladders. The route is not technically difficult but very exposed on the ladders, hence the 3A rating. Definitely not for someone who has vertigo!
We parked the car just outside the town to avoid the hefty parking charge. The ascend first took us to the Bastone and Chiesetta St.Barbara, fantastic viewpoints overlooking the old town of Riva del Garda and the lake. Then the route zig-zagged upwards along a steep rock face with a series of ladders. The highest ladder went up to 40m! The fog came in during the climb and made the journey mysterious and even more dramatic. The summit of Cima SAT greeted us after 8 ladders in total! A super fun route overall.
Via Ferrata Sentiero Attrezzato
Difficulty: Grade 2C
Duration: 4-5 hours
VF Sentiero Attrezzato is located inside a beautiful gorge near Mont Baldo. Starting from the friendly Refugio Monte Baldo, the biggest problem for us was crossing a stream that feeds waterfall Cascata Prefesa to get to the starting point. Because it had been raining for days, the original path was completely flooded. We managed to find a flat part of the steam and had to walk into the ice-cold water! The VF starts shortly after the stream along an impressive rock overhang. Exposed but with good cable protection all the way. The final stretch led to steep wood with a stunning view over the gorge and the valley below. A very scenic route.