Valdadige is a splendid land rich in history, culture, DOC wines and many outdoor activities. Furrowed by the Adige river, it is located between the provinces of Verona/Trento/Bolzano and Lake Garda.
Not everyone knows that Verona and Valdadige are also the birthplace of the reigning world rafting champion Pietro Fratton, who is also a certified F.I.Raft (Italian Rafting Federation) guide at Visit Valdadige, a sports company specialized in creating experiences and tours in rafting and kayaking.
Pietro has been in the national rafting team since 2018, competing in Italy and around the world with his team made up of 3 other boys from Verona his peers, representing the tricolor; the team twice became world champion: the first at the 2018 U19 world championships in Ivrea, and the second in July 2021 at the world championships (senior / absolute) in France.
Now let’s go deeper into this discipline to understand all its characteristics well and let ourselves go to the fun!
What is rafting?
Rafting is a sport that is practiced on rivers and streams; it consists in descending rapidly by transmitting propulsion to the dinghy by means of the paddles, not to be confused with the oars (the paddle is not attached to the boat, the oar instead is tied to the boat by the oarlock). There are also inflatable boats with oars, but they are used in more extreme conditions, when despite having a paddling crew, the force is not necessary to face some passages or some rotations to steer.
It is a discipline born in America and arrived in Italy around 1980; the first centers were born in Valle d’Aosta and Val di Sole. We can distinguish recreational rafting from sports rafting. In Italy both are regulated by the Italian Rafting Federation, a federation recognized and associated with CONI. Curiosity: at an international level there is a federation called World Rafting Federation (with President of Italian nationality) which is responsible for organizing world events and pursuing the objectives set by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to ensure that one day rafting can deservedly become an Olympic sport.
In the recreational – non-competitive field, rafting differs from soft rafting. The two variants differ in an objective way thanks to a scale of degrees (II, III, IV +) shared all over the world, even by paddlers. The lower grades correspond to a lower level of difficulty, evaluating the difficulty of the river and its morphology: speed of the water, presence of obstacles such as rocks, holes, waves or very technical rapids.
Real rafting is practiced on rivers ranging from grade III to ascent. In fact, during a descent it may happen that you fall from the boat, or that even the whole boat overturns (in the jargon flip), so you need suitable clothing consisting of a neoprene wetsuit, water jacket, boots and helmet. Being practiced mainly in mountainous areas, the water temperature can drop to 2/3 ° C.
Soft rafting, on the other hand, is practiced on level II rivers, which are calmer, but without excluding fun and adrenaline with speed changes, small rapids, waves. Usually these descents also allow you to admire the surrounding area from a unique point of view: that of the river. In this case, the equipment needed is also different, which is limited to the life jacket and paddle.
Is soft rafting a sport suitable for everyone? From what age can you start practicing it?
Contrary to what one might think, soft rafting is a sport suitable for everyone. It can also be the means that allows some people to deal with the fear of water.
Children aged 4 and over can do it, people with disabilities and, if used to it, even some nice 4-legged friends can get on the boat! The activity is always carried out in complete safety, there is always a certified F.I.Raft (Italian Rafting Federation) guide on board the boat. It is a sport for everyone, and it is even more beautiful if practiced in the company of friends, family or colleagues.
Curiosity: in the competitive sector, as the Italian National team we boast some of the strongest para athletes in the world, with a unique smile and determination!
Is it possible to practice soft rafting in all seasons in Valdadige?
Soft rafting is not a strictly seasonal sport like rafting on streams, it can usually be practiced all year round, following the precautions during the descent that will not make guests get wet during the peak of the cold season.
The only insurmountable limit is the level of the river; in fact, it may happen that in the winter months the snowfalls do not feed the streams and consequently the rivers further downstream. This is the time when rafting guides go on vacation!
What clothing/equipment do you need to practice soft rafting?
In the soft rafting experience it is recommended to dress according to the season, precisely because the river is more “quiet” and if you want you can go down dry after the activity. It is advisable to always wear a pair of old or “expendable” sneakers that can get wet without problems, shorts, swimsuit or leggings. A synthetic shirt or alternatively any shirt. Cap in midsummer when the sun beats down and in colder periods add a light and comfortable jacket for movement.
In summer, a complete change and a towel is also super recommended because those who wish can usually swim in the current or some refreshing dip. It is impossible to resist!
Why do soft rafting in Valdadige and what does the raft ride consist of?
Each descent begins with a briefing in which the guide who will then remain on the boat explains the behavior to be kept on board, the movement of the paddling and answers any doubts of the crew.
On the dinghy you are seated on the external tubulars, the feet are anchored to the internal bottom of the dinghy through small bands / pockets / straps that allow you to put your foot inside. By sitting in this position and keeping your feet in place, it is literally impossible to fall into the water, except by personal will.
The paddle is held by the t-grip with one hand, while the other clings to the handle, a span away from the “leaf” (the part that goes into the water). The movement of the paddle conceptually consists in inserting the paddle as far forward as possible by extending the arms, and then pulling it towards you.
The guide gives the commands and keeps the direction of the boat (shouting funny phrases such as: “you are the engine, I am the rudder, so don’t look at me badly if I’m not paddling!”). Small children sit in the middle of the dinghy, they can enjoy the view by listening to the stories told by the guides or if they wish to try paddling with the help of their parents.
The most beautiful and scenic route to take is the one between Dolcè – Volargne (VR), 10 km long in about 2 hours. We cross the Terra dei Forti and the Ceraino Canyon. At this point the incredible rock walls overlooking the Adige river are also a destination for climbers for the numerous routes present. This land, since ancient times, was the natural link between the Alpine and Central European world with the Mediterranean world. The numerous fortifications are a testimony of long disputed lands and therefore to be defended. The area is included in the Regional Natural Park of the Lessini Mountains and is therefore protected. Its natural, historical and architectural beauties attract attentive and respectful tourism and there is nothing better than a fun rafting or canoe tour among its enchanted landscapes surrounded by vineyards (here also doc wines of world excellence are produced) and ancient period villas embraced by the amphitheater of the morainic hills.
See you next time dear Outdoors!
Silvia Turazza – Garda Outdoors editorial staff – in collaboration with Pietro Fratton, world rafting champion
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