Borgo di Valsugana is a village twenty miles to the east of Trent on the upper reaches of the Brenta. The present view was taken from the stone bridge over the river, looking down the valley. James Byam Shaw traced the original vantage point and found that 'the parish church has been altered, and the river disfigured with an ugly lock; but some houses on the right bank are just as Guardi drew them, and the unchanging contour of the mountains, as you look in the direction of Bassano, still testifies to the accuracy of his record' (J. Byam Shaw, op. cit., pp. 35-6). The drawing was made on the only major journey of the artist's life, up the Brenta to his family's ancestral home in the Val di Sole in the Trentine Alps, made in the Autumn of 1778. Although at this late stage in his career Guardi rarely seems to have drawn views from life, the mountain landscape must have inspired him. He may have intended to work the present drawing up into a painting since, in a technique Byam Shaw suggests was learnt from Canaletto, he has added colour notes to the sketches on the verso to aid his memory.
Two other drawings from the journey survive, of similar size and technique: a view of Borgo di Valsugana from Roncegno (formerly in Byam Shaw's own collection, sold at Sotheby's, New York, 25 January 2002, lot 70; A. Morassi, op. cit., no. 416), and a view of Lévico, a village ten miles further up the valley, formerly in the Stralem Collection and now in the Thaw Collection, New York (A. Morassi, op. cit., no. 418). Each of these drawings is a clear topographical record. It is possible that the present drawing was, like the View of Borgo di Valsugana from Roncegno, intended for John Strange (1732-1799), the British Resident at Venice, who certainly owned the latter drawing. Strange was particularly keen on accuracy, as suggested by his instructions to the dealer Giovanni Maria Sasso in a letter of 1785, in which he asks that two drawings that he had commissioned from Guardi be 'non solo netti, bene finiti e compagni ma anche coloriti esattamente' (not just clear, well finished and a pair but also coloured exactly) (F. Haskell, 'Francesco Guardi as vedutista and some of his patrons', Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 1960 (XXIII), p. 269).