Skis, Stube, and Strudel
A perfect blend of spectacular scenery and the simple pleasures of life in the Dolomites.
When I think of the mountains, the first three things which come to mind are skis, stube, and strudel, followed by fond memories of long hikes across Alpine meadows, exhilarating descents bysnowboard and toboggan, and cozy winter evenings spent around a crackling fire, munching knödel washed down with blood-warming grappa.
This blend of spectacular scenery and the simple pleasures of life is what I love most about the mountains, a combination which you'll find in my five favorite destinations in the Dolomites.
Brunico and the Start of a Lasting Love Affair - with Strudel!
You may be asking, "What could a Southern Italian guy who's spent almost all his life on a sunny Mediterranean island in the middle of the Bay of Naples possibly know about the Dolomites?" Well,my mother grew up in these mountains and when I was a child she often took me to visit my relatives who still lived there. These days, of course, I take her!
I can still remember the first time I saw the snow-covered peaks surrounding Brunico, looking just like one of those picture-perfect Alpine towns decorating Christmas cards. Brunico is a jewel of the Val Pusteria, with immaculately clean and perfectly peaceful streets lined with elegant shops, restaurants, and cafès, and dominated by the imposing Plan de Corones: a massive mountain which beckons to skiers and snowboarders.
When visiting Brunico, you absolutely must pay a visit to Pasticceria Gotsch, which serves the best strudel in the whole of Val Pusteria!
Val Gardena: Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...
Val Gardena, Alta Badia, Pordoi Pass, Marmolada, Sella Ronda: even if you're not a mountaineer, you'll have heard of at least one of these sky-high playgrounds in the Italian Dolomites.
Enchanting valleys, adorable "chocolate box" villages, thick woods, lush Alpine meadows, and slopes which provide the perfect terrain for downhill and cross country skiing, sledging, snowboarding and snowshoeing when covered by a thick blanket of snow in the winter months. Val Gardena has all the ingredients for an unforgettable Alpine adventure!
Ortisei is the best known of the towns in Val Gardena, but also make time to visit Corvara, Canazei, San Cassiano, La Villa, and Selva di Val Gardena, where the Women's Slalom World Cup is held each year.
Want to sleep on the slopes? Check out our great hotels in the Val Gardena
Cortina: The Place to See and Be Seen in the Dolomites
Cortina's red carpet, Corso Italia, is the most glamorous street in the Dolomites: an urban catwalk on which the world's A-list celebrities, followed by an entourage of camera-clicking paparazzi, come to strut their stuff each winter.
That said, there's much more to do in Cortina than just people watch. Stop in at the town's Modern Art Museum, visit the workshops where Cortina's carpenters and cabinet makers craft their wooden masterpieces, or admire the artworks in the splendid Basilica.
Oh, and make sure you try a dish of canederli, Cortina d'Ampezzo's version of Tyrolean knödel, served in all of the town's traditional restaurants.
To be honest, the beauty of Cortina d'Ampezzo lies elsewhere for me. I love the surrounding landscape, home to natural wonders like Lake Lagazuoi and Lake Misurina, the Park of the Ampezzo Dolomites, and the Tofane,Tre Cime di Lavaredo, and Monte Cristallo mountains.
These mountain peaks are perfect for hiking, climbing, and every genre of winter sport, and have provided a spectacular backdrop for a number of famous action films like Cliff Hanger, the Pink Panther, and For Your Eyes Only.
Merano, Beyond the Baths...
Famous for its thermal baths which have been attracting holiday makers and spa-goers to the town since the 19th century, Merano has much more to offer than the health-inducing effects of its mineral water.
You could spend an entire day exploring the grounds of Castel Trauttmansdorff, which covers 12 hectares of land and are divided into four fascinating thematic gardens: the Forests of the World, the Sun Gardens, the Water and Terraced Gardens, and the Landscapes of South Tyrol.
From the castle, follow the footpath dedicated to the Austrian Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria (also known as Princess Sissi), who was particularly fond of Merano and its castle's gardens, back to town.
The bank of the Passirio, the river which flows through the city, provides the panoramic setting for another two Merano sights: the Kurhaus and the Puccini theater.
Now a stunning conference and events venue, the dome-roofed Kurhaus is a masterpiece of Viennese art nouveau architecture, which could also be said of the Teatro Puccini. This theater opened on December 1st, 1900, and the ornate turn-of-the-century playhouse has been one of Merano's major attractions since.
Madonna di Campiglio, Aristocratic Slopes
From the moment Europe's royal families started to spend their winter holidays in Italy's mountains, Madonna di Campiglio has been the favorite high altitude haunt of the rich and famous in Trentino Alto Adige.
In the past,Princess Sissi and the Emperor Francesco Giuseppe graced the town with their presence. Today, the elegant streets of Madonna di Campiglio are filled with a cosmopolitan mix of movie stars, business moguls, and winter sports fans.
The Brenta Dolomites and the Presanella and Adamello Alps are Madonna di Campiglio's breathtakingly beautiful mountains, which you can enjoy all year round.
The snow-covered slopes and elegant shops are not the only reason why tourists flock to this adorable Alpine town each winter: Madonna di Campiglio happens to be the location for one of the most spectacular carnivals in Italy each February, too!
The Hapsburg carnival is a weeklong event, beginning with the Royal Procession featuring sumptuous costumes, and concluding with the Emperor's Ball - a faithful historical reenactment of the elegant events once hosted by the Austrian royal family in the town.
Go to the costumed carnival ball and waltz the night away. After the dance, rest your tired feet at Biohotel Hermitage
Could you be our next Insider? Share your love of Italy by contributing to ItalyTraveller! See how!
Hotels in the area
San Cassiano - Dolomiti
From € 95.00
From € 115.00
From € 148.00
Madonna di Campiglio
From € 146.00