Have you heard about the Dolomites but cannot figure out why or where? Unfortunately, you have a lot of company. We have been crisscrossing Sud Tirol for the last several years, absorbing the beauty and distinction that marks this territory. We are delighted to offer our three-point primer for those open to considering this northern corner of Italy.
1. Active Days for all Ages
For an outdoorsy holiday with busy children there is much to do that is interesting and active. Summer means not-too-hot days – generally 68 to 80 degrees – with endless choices for hiking, biking, rock-climbing and more. Lifts and gondolas make it possible for all ages to enjoy a scenic ride to the top of a range and walk from there. You will find a match for your preferred level of exertion and skill — from meandering walks through fields of wild rhododendron and small white edelweiss to the gripping experience of the Via Ferrara, a protected climbing route literally following the path of warriors from times past.
2. City and Country—No need to Choose
If your family cannot decide between city and country, why not combine Venice with the Dolomites and experience both? February and March school breaks are ideal for this combination. Flights and accommodations offer good value, the local scene is less fraught with tourists and the weather typically affords long days exploring the beauty and fascination this is La Serenissima.
Two hours north of Venice and you are among the distinctive jagged peaks of the Dolomites. Pink-grey in the shifting light because of their calcareous composition, who knew CaMg(CO3)2, otherwise known as dolomite or calcium magnesium carbonite, could be so beautiful? Their jagged, bare peaks reach toward Austria while their green valleys lean back towards the glacial lakes region.
This UNESCO World Heritage site is home to the Dolomiti SuperSki circuit of more than 1200 kilometers of trails and 450 lifts. The Sella Ronda is a rite of passage whether you ski clockwise or counterclockwise. The ski season keeps going into April with long piste runs often untouched late into the morning hours. Lunch above the clouds on the sun-soaked deck of a wooden hut ‘rifugio’ is a must. We were lucky enough to come upon the Gostner Schwaige, mesmerized by the gorgeous platters and skillets of food being set down around us. If you are lucky, you might be serenaded by an elderly accordion player. Be sure to add some coins to his cup.
3. Experience History and Culture at the Crossroads of Europe
The richness of life in Italy has an undeniably different taste when it is mixed with the rigor of the area’s historic Austrian/Germanic alliances. You might actually hear someone say ‘We are more Germanic here. You have to go south to get into Italy’. You will hear people conversing in German as often as Italian and if you can’t understand them at all, chances are they are speaking one of the local micro-languages like Ladin. Signs are posted in at least two if not three of these micro-languages, so Brunico is also Bruneck.
Make sure to leave time to shop for beautifully cut form-fitting felted wool jackets. Pull over at an uber chic goat cheese maker’s shop Formaggio di Alta Quota for a gourmet lunch with a spectacular view.
Get into the true European spa lifestyle – no bathing suit if you please – at Matteo Thun’s stunning Terme di Merano.
This is not a showy part of Italy. It is natural and authentic in its own distinctive way, an all-weather destination where deep green valleys fill with snow and the distinctive tooth-edged mountains offer a painterly panorama of shifting light, color and texture. One more glorious corner of Italy.