Posted by Annette on September 9, 2013
I did it this year: kicking off the season there in April, then returning for a beginning-of-autumn hootenanny to celebrate a dear friend's first wingsuit BASE jumps.
If you BASE jump, you know about Monte Brento. The mountain's exit point has been a favorite since BASE was BASE for its enormous rock drop, its smattering of at-least-semi-reasonable landing areas and an overhang so forgiving that rank amateurs break out their best Parkour moves. Brento has hosted hundreds of FJCs over the years, and it's now the go-to destination for new wingsuit pilots.
If you're planning to sneak in some big freefall in a place you can -- ahem -- adjust your wingloading with some of the world's yummiest food, here's a primer on what to expect.
The main landing area is a grassy field across from the Bar Parete Zebrata, a favorite hangout for locals and motorcyclists touring the picturesque valley. The place is open shockingly early and delightfully late, and they serve what might be the most luxuriantly rich hot cocoa in the world.
Brento is smack-dab in the middle of a river valley that's world-famous for food, wine, sun and sports tourism (especially bicycling and rock climbing). The towns of Riva de Garda and Arco are the main destinations for these, and if you have time you should definitely visit both; however, as a BASE jumper, you're only likely to get to know Dro and Pietromurata, the two towns flanking the landing area. It's OK -- those towns are damn cute, and they have almost everything you need for a couple weeks' vacation. Arco -- and especially Riva de Garda -- are too far away to be convenient to meet the all-important pre-dawn shuttle to the mountaintop.
You may have noticed that AirBNB offerings in the area are surprisingly poor -- they're far-flung and super-pricey.
There are several guesthouse B&Bs in Dro and Pietromurata (like this one and this one), though they tend towards the expensive side and charge per-person rather than per-room. Longer-term arrangements are more economical, but must be negotiated individually. (Speaking Italian helps. Find a translator if you can.)
Most guesthouses advertise with signage outside the property, and both towns are small enough that it takes about ten minutes' worth of driving to see all the offerings.
Loads of BASE jumpers choose to camp. It used to be that you could pop a tent in one of the yards surrounding Bar Parete Zebrata, but that's all in the past; though some folks park their scrapper vans in the lot overnight, tents are absolutely unwelcome.
Agricamp Paolino is the closest campsite to the landing area. It's about a ten-minute walk down the narrow, curving road that's predictably full of loony-pants Italian motorists, but it is technically walkable. Brand-new when I stayed there in September of 2013, the campsite has spic-and-span facilities: showers, a picnic table, road lighting, a bar-b-que setup and Wi-Fi. The site is rimmed with plum trees that invite sticky fingers. (I certainly indulged.)
The most BASE-friendly option is to stay with Fabio and his wife -- the guys who operate the Brento BASE Bus. (More on this later.)
There are entire books dedicated to the nomz of Trentino, so I'll keep it brief.
If you have a little extra cash to eat out most nights, for chrissakes do it.
To stock up on hiking snacks, 5AM breakfast foods and cookout provisions, here are your options:
There's a great big grocery store in Sarche, about 15 minutes north of the landing area, called Orvea Supermercado. It stocks specialty items and has a comprehensive produce section.
Here's what the Orvea looks like from the road.
Closer but smaller, a branch of the omnipresent COOP supermarket chain is right off the main valley road in Dro.
Bar Parete Zebrata, as of 2014, has no Wi-Fi. Bummer. However, there are nearby options.
There's good internet (though only bench seating) at Gelateria Wind in Sarche: a very yummy ice cream shop on the main road, located right next to a large, excellent supermarket.
I also found a solid signal at Chick&Co, a lovely little restaurant not far from the LZ. Keep in mind, however, that Chick&Co opens only after 6PM and gets very busy for dinner. That makes it impractical as a workspace for any significant period of time, but the internet is good for short stints -- and the food is delicious. The lantern-lit, dog-friendly outdoor dining area has a bunch of low tables surrounded by beanbag chairs -- or you can reserve an enormous wine barrel that's been refitted as a windowed dining booth.
Outdoor dining at Chick&Co -- with wine-barrel mini-rooms.
In Dro, tucked right beside the valley-road overpass next to the Coop market and a two-story shoe store, there's Bar Alfio. It's a little restaurant-bar that's open early enough in the day to function as a workspace for a couple of hours. They have reliable Wi-Fi and comfortable seating.
Here's what Bar Alfio looks like from the road, so you don't miss it.
It used to be that the main exit point was accessed by shuttling to a parking lot -- about an hour's drive from the bottom -- then hiking another hour or so up a series of fire roads. Those days are over.
A lovely local couple, Fabio and Adrianna, entered the scene a couple of years ago. They chatted up a few BASE jumpers who complained to them about the annoyance of shuttling cars. In response, the couple came up with a fabulous idea: the Monte Brento BASE Bus. Fabio made some calls and bought a couple of big vehicles, bought access to the roads and got a great thing going. Now, the couple runs a cranking business hauling vans full of jumpers right to the top -- about 45 minutes' worth of hiking past the "classic" parking-lot hike-in, slashing the total hiking time to about 15 minutes. At time of publication, Fabio and Adrianna were only charging 11 Euros for the service. That price includes free -- and startlingly cheerful -- pick-up in case of poor conditions (which occur regularly in the afternoons and evenings at Brento). The shuttle also runs to the other two popular local BASE exits: Paganella and Campione.
The couple also run a bed-and-breakfast from their home at the bottom of the access road. It's been receiving excellent reviews from the jumpers I spoke to who have used it.
Be on the very first BASE Bus shuttle you can. It'll leave before first light. Suck it up, buttercup. Then be packed and ready for the next one.
Yes, it's incredibly early. Yes, you'll probably be up late with the beer and the wine and the chatting (especially if you've gotten used to Swiss beer-and-wine prices and you're celebrating the massive difference). Do it anyway.
There are afternoon buses, but the exit tends to get quite windy in the very early afternoon, and the evening jump conditions are often very unreliable. Wingsuit pilots can generally get back to the main LZ even when it's blowing hard, but trackers (especially intermediate-to-advanced trackers who are moving farther and pulling lower) have an unnerving tendency to end up in the trees, even with excellent canopy skills. The bowl below the exit creates a microsystem, and once you leave that microsystem you can get shoved by the blast. Mightily. At alarming speeds.
True, the BASE Bus will come and get you if you see the canopy insanity below and choose not to jump; however, it takes them about 45 minutes to do so and it's an hour-long ride to the bottom.
Jumping into the Italian sunrise is just about the best possible way to start a day.