The Dolomites: Set Your Spirits Free
The Most Beautiful Work Of Architecture Ever Seen
The famous architect Le Corbusier called the Dolomites “the most beautiful work of architecture ever seen”. UNESCO has included these mountains among the World Heritage sites because they feature “some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes anywhere, with vertical walls, sheer cliffs and a high density of narrow, deep and long valleys… Steeples, pinnacles and rock walls, glacial landforms and karst systems”. This enchanting world includes nine mountain ranges of the Eastern Alps, between Trentino Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia.
Here the dominant culture is the Austrian one, which blends with the Italian tradition and the ancient Ladin culture, survived for centuries among these hard-to-reach valleys. The Austro-Italian city of Bolzano is the gateway to this region. With 18 peaks over 3000 meters, the Dolomites are an year-round destination. Do not miss the Three Peaks of Lavaredo in the summer and in winter the ski slopes of the Plan de Corones. To discover the heart of Ladin culture, visit the Val Gardena and the Alta Badia and to go hiking, do not miss the Siusi Alps, the largest European plateau.
Explore mountain huts, quaint highland villages, gorgeous mountain biking trails, well-marked hiking trails, forests of fir trees, spectacular vie ferrate and fabulous mountain lakes. Enjoy Tyrolean cuisine, cheese fondues and herbal liqueurs. Enjoy the 1200 km of ski slopes in the Dolomiti Superski network, buy local handicrafts, especially wood, and drive along the Great Dolomites Road, one of the world’s most breathtaking panoramic streets. But especially take advantage of the place and breathe deeply, feel yourself part of nature and set you spirits free.
The Dolomites are a group of mountain ranges of the Eastern Alps, extending over 231,000 acres across Trentino, Veneto e Friuli. The highest mountain is the Marmolada, 3348 meters. Between a mountainous group and the other there are beautiful valleys connected by mountain passes. The territory is rich in lakes, rivers and high altitude waterfalls. In the Dolomites is also Europe’s largest plateau, Alpe di Siusi.
The main centers of the Dolomites are connected by a good road network and a capillary system of trains and buses. If you choose to travel by car in the winter, snow chains may be needed. Do not miss the Great Dolomites Road (110 km) that runs from Bolzano to Cortina d’Ampezzo crossing some of the most spectacular spots in the region. The road has many curves and you have to foresee at least a full day of driving.
Tyrolean cuisine is a delicious combination of Italian cuisine and Austrian cuisine. Very appreciated by the Michelin Guide, which rewards Trentino Alto Adige with 20 starred restaurants. Taste polenta with mushrooms, game meat, gulasch (meat soup), cheese fondue, Würstel with sauerkraut, canederli (bread dumplings) with cheese, spätzli (potato dumplings) with spinach and apple strudel.
The region’s most famous wine is a white wine with aromatic flavor, the famous Gewürztraminer. The most important red wines are La Schiava, which comes from the oldest and most cultivated grape of South Tyrol, and the Lagrein. The region is also famous for its grappa and fruit or herb distillates, for Fiemme beer and hot drinks such as jagertee (rum tea), bombardino and calimero (both based on egg liqueur).
Top 5 Things To Do In The Dolomites
Val Badia & Alpe di Fanes
Alta Val Badia is one of the most exclusive alpine destinations, but at the same time the most uncontaminated. Cradle of the Ladin language and culture in South Tyrol, the valley includes some of the most famous dolomitic massifs, such as the Sella group, characterized by the flat top, ideal for trekking. Corvara in Badia is the main center. To the east of the valley lies the mountainous Fanes group, whose highest peak, the Tofana di Mezzo, measures 3.244 meters. There are many mountain ranges to explore and mountain huts ideal for a stopover. The region is protected by the Fanes – Sennes – Braies Nature Park, which with its 26,000 hectares is one of the largest in South Tyrol.
The 3 Peaks of Lavaredo
Symbol of the Dolomites, the Three Peaks of Lavaredo are among the most famous natural wonders of the mountaineering world. These beautiful limestone obelisks are located in Upper Pusteria, Dolomites of Sesto, surrounded by the Three Peaks Nature Park. The group is crossed by the Alta Via no. 4, called Grohmann, and offers hiking trails for beginners and professionals. The best views on the Three Peaks are from the village of the Landro Valley and from the mountain huts Auronzo and Locatelli. The most famous views are however the ones that one can enjoy from the mountains Monte Piana, Torre di Toblin and Paterno. The Three Peaks of Lavaredo are also reachable by car from Misurina.
Alpe di Siusi & Sciliar-Catinaccio Park
The Alpe di Siusi, in Val Gardena, is Europe’s largest plateau and one of the most romantic places in the Alps. The mountain range Sciliar-Catinaccio, with its two peaks Punta Santner and Punta Euringer, is the backdrop to these fabulous landscapes. Situated at an altitude of 1850 meters and part of the Dolomiti Superski area, the valley offers some twenty skilifts, cross-country trails, forest trails, breathtaking cable cars and lovely mountain huts. Explore the Sciliar-Catinaccio park, embraced by woods of coniferous trees, red fir, pine and larch, and inhabited by chamois, eagles and ermellines. For a breathtaking view of Val Gardena and the Siusi Alps reach the mountain hut Bolzano.
Just a few k from Bolzano, the incredible Bletterbach Canyon offers a glimpse into the history of the Dolomites. Plants, molluscs and fossilized shells tell about earth life millions of years ago. The canyon begins at the foot of Mount Corno Bianco and runs for 8 km to 400 meters in depth. Along the way you can see the different geological layers from the Permian period to the Triassic period. Here you will see visible traces of reptiles, snails, sauri footprints of 20 different species, in addition to spectacular rock stratification. The Bletterbach Canyon can be reached on foot from Aldino or the village of Redagno (Radein). Two different difficulty paths are available to visitors.
This small alpine lake in Braies Valley, in Upper Pusteria, enchants for the intense blue color of its clear waters and for the natural scenery where it is immersed, the majestic rocky wall of Croda del Becco mountain. Known as “the pearl of alpine lakes”, Lake Braies is located 1496 m above sea level in the Fanes – Sennes – Braies Nature Park. The lake is surrounded by a beautiful naturalistic trail, easy on the western shore, steep and narrow, with staircases, on the east shore. Come in summer for an unforgettable boat ride and you will enjoy the bright colors of the water. Come in winter to admire the completely icy lake and you will fall in love with this place that seems to have come out of a fairy tale.
The Violins Forest of Paneveggio
The Pale di San Martino, the largest dolomitic mountainous group, is home to a charming little place: Paneveggio’s violin woods, in the beautiful Park Paneveggio Pale di San Martino. This centuries-old spruce forest is so called because from here comes the wood of all the Stradivarius violins in the world. Spruce is in fact a particularly elastic wood, which also resonates thanks to its particular lymphatic channels. It is said that Antonio Stradivari used to walk in these forests in search of the best trees. Explore the road to Passo Rolle, in the green heart of the park, surrounded by the shade of the wild dolomite peaks and listen to the magic sound of the forest.
The Mountain Villages
Surrounded by majestic mountains, the picturesque mountain villages are the salt of the Dolomites. The tiny bell towers, the flowery chalets, the snowy roads, the delicious restaurants where to enjoy Tyrolean cuisine… here life seems to flow peacefully, in harmony with nature. Among the most popular villages is Cortina d’Ampezzo, in Veneto, the “Queen of the Dolomites”, frequented by the international jet-set but also by sport lovers. In Trentino there is Madonna di Campiglio, on the Brenta Dolomites, with one of the most important ski resorts in the Alps. Visit also San Martino di Castrozza, an elegant and picturesque village set in Paneveggio – Pale di San Martino Natural Park.
Arte Sella Open-Air Museum
The open-air museum Arte Sella offers land art in the woods and meadows of Val di Sella in Trentino. This extraordinary museum is located in the municipality of Valsugana and features several routes between works made by dozens of international artists. In fact, more than 300 artists have exhibited here over time. Many works are made of natural materials like stones, leaves and branches. Vegetal cathedrals, wild animals made of logs, fantastic architectures: this place where fantasy reigns uncontested is ideal for adults and children. All seasons are suitable for a visit. In summer the green of the trees embellishes the works, in winter the snow makes them even more magical.
Immersed in the valley of the Rio Gardena at 1237 m above sea level, Ortisei is the main center of Val Gardena. The village is famous for its charming and colorful historic center, its baroque church and local craftsmanship, specializing in carvings, toys and wooden dolls. Walk in the pedestrian area, visit the little churches and the Val Gardena Museum, ideal for those who want to know the ancient Ladin culture of the valley. Explore the shared atelier Unika, created by a group of internationally renowned sculptors, and do not miss a visit to the Church of St. James, one of the oldest in the Val Gardena, on the spectacular background of the Dolomites just off Ortisei.
Trento & Bolzano
The Austro-Italian towns of Trento and Bolzano are the largest in the region. In the background of the green mountains of Trentino, Trento boasts a splendid historical center. Visit Piazza Duomo, the majestic Basilica of San Vigilio, the palazzo Pretorio and the Civic Tower. But also the fortified hamlet of Castello del Buonconsiglio and the avant-garde MART, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, 28 km from the city center. Do not miss the Gothic charm of Bolzano, with the long streets flanked by arcades as the backdrops of the theater. Visit the Duomo, the Portici, Piazza delle Erbe Market and the Archaeological Museum. During Christmas time, both cities boast delicious Christmas markets.
Feltre is a typically Renaissance town at the foot of the Dolomites in Veneto. The highlight of the village is an enchanting historic center surrounded by historic walls, characterized by narrow streets and old fountains. Visit the famous Piazza Maggiore, one of the most beautiful squares in Italy, with the church of San Rocco, and the Piazza del Duomo with the cathedral dedicated to St. Peter the Apostle. Do not miss the underground archeological area. Explore the Palazzo della Ragione, the Civic Museum dedicated to the minor arts, and the Sena Theater, better known as the Little Phoenix, pride of the city. Take a look at the Basilica of St. Vittore e Corona, just outside Feltre.
The Mountain Huts
Among the cultural marvels of the Dolomites there are surely its mountain shelters. Built between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, these huts on the highest peaks served to accommodate the brave aplinists. Today they are delicious restaurants in stunning places. Do not miss the Rifugio Palmieri at Croda di Lago near Cortina, where you can also enjoy an open-air sauna; the Rifugio Fuciade in Val di Fassa where you can enjoy delicious cuisine; the Rifugio Pedrotti on the Brenta Dolomites, paradise of the mountain climbers; the Rifugio Locatelli in Alta Pusteria overlooking the three peaks of Lavaredo; and the Rifugio Pradidali, nestled between the walls of the Pale San Martino.