The Dolomite Alps are a beautiful creation of nature in Italy. Patriotic Italians claim that their country has everything you need to be happy. Some tourists are skeptical of such a claim, but after seeing the creamy peaks of the Dolomite Alps, they dream of returning here again and again. In the surrounding area you can enjoy the cleanest air and beautiful nature. Fans of active sports will be pleased with the kilometers of ski slopes. Moreover, the Dolomite Alps are divided between several resorts and regions, each with its own flavor.
Millions of years ago, instead of high mountains, this area was splashed by a warm sea. Gradually the movement of the continents and seismic activity led to its drying up and the formation of mountain ranges. The remnants of coral deposits have been preserved as a reminder of those times. The Dolomite Alps get their name from the dolomite, the main rock of which they are made up. They also contain a lot of lime deposits.
Located in the eastern part of the Alps and covers an area of nearly 16 thousand square kilometers. The highest point is Mount Marmolada (3342 m). Total in the range there are 16 mountains, the height of which exceeds 3 km.
The mountains look very picturesque. Among them are many gorges and rocky cliffs. In this area, there are frequent landslides and avalanches.
The peaks have a rocky structure, and below the slopes are densely covered with vegetation. Between the mountains are narrow plains covered with emerald grass. Among the meadows there are pine and deciduous forests. In spring, the slopes are covered with flowers of orchids. The fauna is dominated by marmots, martens, ferrets, hares and squirrels. Brown bears and mountain goats may occasionally be found.
The slopes of the Dolomite Alps bear traces of the fierce battles that unfolded nearby. Some consider the area an open-air museum. During World War I, fierce battles between the Italian and Austrian armies took place near the mountains. From the heights it was convenient to attack and track the actions of the enemy, so the number of casualties was quite high. A total of about 8200 soldiers from both sides were killed in 1915-1917.
Among the natural landscapes many trenches and tunnels were found, forming a huge maze. Entire fortresses and forts were built near the mountains, which were then destroyed by the enemy army. To keep the memory of the terrible events, there are routes to the Marmolada Glacier, Tofane, Cinka, Pelmo, Latsaguoi and others.
Regions of the Dolomite Alps.
The cozy plains are full of small villages that look as if they were taken from the pages of a book. However, they are inhabited by ordinary people, busy with daily chores. The whole area is divided into several regions. Tourists can buy a single pass for all trails, their length is more than 1200 km.
Valley di Fiemme.
At the very entrance to the Dolomite Alps is the wide Val di Fiemme. On the emerald plain are scattered cozy villages. The most popular are Predazzo and Cavalese.
The slopes of Val di Fiemme are suitable for all winter sports. Tourists can practice skiing, sledging and snowboarding, as well as figure skating. From time to time international competitions are held here. In the valley there are trails from medium to more difficult, their total length is 100 km.
Between skiing you can explore the medieval Cavalese or visit the museums in Predazzo. More modern activities include saunas, swimming pools, bars, nightclubs and restaurants.
Valley di Fassa.
It is quite high and occupies the central part of the Dolomite Alps. The lowest point is located at 1 km above sea level and the peaks of the peaks reach 2.95 km. The valley is surrounded by picturesque mountain ranges. Locals say that these lands have long been a haven for good spirits. People cherish the ancient legends and language of their ancestors. The most popular resorts are Moena, Canacei, Vigo di Fassa, Campitello.
The valley offers a huge selection of trails of any complexity from the easiest to the “black” slopes. More than half of the slopes are of medium complexity. The total length of slopes in Di Fassa Valley is 220 km.
After a day of skiing you can relax in the small taverns or SPAs. There are many of them in small towns in the center of the valley. Sitting on the outdoor terrace in the sunlight, you can enjoy amazing mountain views and rocky peaks painted in reddish tones.
Very beautiful and wide valley at 1236 m above sea level. For several decades Val Gardena was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The inhabitants still combine Italian emotionality with German pedantry. Tyrolean tradition is expressed in colorful German food and unusual clothing.
The most popular resorts are Santa Cristina, Ortisei and Selva. 175 km of slopes of varying difficulty will suit beginners and fans of extreme sports. There are also excellent downhill courses.
Another area with a Tyrolean flavor, where German is spoken more than Italian. The most popular towns are San Vigilio di Marebbe, Reischach, Olang.
Kronplatz area features beautiful panoramas and a variety of slopes. There are a lot of slopes for beginners, but more experienced skiers will not be bored either. The total length of the slopes is 90 kilometers. There is an excellent halfpipe for snowboarders. There is a 200 km long track for cross-country skiers.
Once you’re down from the peaks, you can relax in a restaurant or visit a movie theater. For more active activities bowling, tennis or horseback riding are offered.
Cortina d’Ampezzo is a city and resort for respectable vacation of wealthy tourists in the Ampezzo Valley. There are many comfortable villas and boutiques. In the evenings there are often fancy parties where the ladies wear fur coats and the gentlemen wear suits of famous fashion designers. Most tourists prefer vacationing in the valley itself rather than skiing.
The valley is characterized by an abundance of sunshine and warm air. High ridges protect it from gusts of cold winds. There are beginner and medium difficulty slopes on the adjacent slopes. Total length of the slopes is 140 kilometers. In order to provide comfortable skiing there are snow cannons installed near the slopes. They constantly keep the right level of snow cover. Those who wish can go snowboarding, skiing, bobsleigh and snow-rafting.
You can take a break from intensive training at the swimming pool, the cinema or the SPA.
What is a ski pass?
In order to use the elevators or ski slopes, you need to purchase a special plastic card – a ski pass. There are various programs, depending on the cost of the card. The validity period of a ski pass is 1-28 days. In addition to the standard price, there is a discount system for students, senior citizens, and children. To calculate the prices for different types of cards you can visit the official website of Dolomite Alps: www.dolomitisuperski.com
How to get there
There are several ways to get to the ski resorts of the Dolomites Alps:
Going to the Italian Alps
Christina Maistrova works as a QA engineer, tests everything she sees, and in her spare time she draws illustrations, snowboarding, and blogs about drawing and travel. For 34travel, the girl talked about a busy trip to Italy – the Dolomite Alps.
I’ve been dreaming about the mountains for the last couple of years. My husband and I have already managed to get to the Caucasus and the Balkans. For complete happiness, of course, the Alps were not enough. I read about mountain lakes, about cozy chalets and maddening landscapes. But the final kick was the legend of the Dolomites. It says that the Dolomites used to be a blooming rose garden and was home to dwarves and their king. But it so happened that one day the roses could not shelter their magical ruler from pursuit, and he cursed them, shouting that he did not want to see them day or night. Fortunately, the king forgot about sunrises and sunsets, leaving us to see the mountains bloom in the rays of the setting and rising sun. So we went into the mountains in search of the “garden of roses,” and in passing we decided to drive around Garda.
“We took our time at all, stopping at viewpoints and obeying the rules even when it really annoyed the hot Italian drivers.”
The most comfortable flight from Moscow to Verona is direct flight by S7, it will cost about €200-250 per person. Such a sum did not fit into our budget. It was decided to buy tickets by “Pobeda”. Pobeda is often happy with its prices, but is always disappointing in terms of quality. At the start of sales the ticket cost € 60 round trip per person. But according to the favorite scheme of “Pobeda” I had to pay in addition for everything: baggage (10 kg – € 7), the ability to sit next to my husband (about € 5), the fee for payment by card (10%).
Our flight arrived at the small airport of Treviso, near Venice. After an hour of queuing at customs and another hour of fiddling with paperwork at the car rental company, we picked up the car we had pre-booked on the Rentalcars website. There we took additional insurance with deductible. Its cost was equal to the cost of the car, but the peace of mind is more expensive. And we had to pay extra for snow chains. The chains are obligatory from November 15 to April 15. The rental with insurance and all costs for 6 days cost € 120.
From the airport of Treviso to Lake Garda you can get cheap, beautiful and long – on regional roads via Trento – or expensive and fast – on the A4 and A22 toll roads via Verona (€ 15). We took the long way and we didn’t regret it, because the road went along picturesque slopes, mountain rivers, small towns and very small villages. On the road we spent about 4 hours, but we were not in a hurry, stopped at the viewpoints and obeyed the rules even when it annoyed the hot Italian drivers.
Day 1: Fogs on Lake Garda
We decided to live in the town of Torbol in the very north of the lake near Riva del Garda. Both towns stretch along the shore, flowing from one to the other. If you want, you can walk through them, walking along the promenade. Torbol, quiet and peaceful, is loved by Austrian and German tourists from June to August. In April, however, many hotels are free, restaurants are half-empty and prices are 1.5 times cheaper than in season. If you want a room overlooking the lake, you have to pay € 50-60. Or cheat and rely on the goodwill of hoteliers.
We stayed at the Hotel Residence Torbole (via Lungolago Concad’Oro, 49, Torbole). A room with a garden view, kitchen and breakfasts cost € 50. We told the front desk at check in that we were on our honeymoon, but we didn’t mention that we were on our honeymoon every vacation. There were few guests at the hotel and we were offered one of the best rooms with a terrace and a view of the lake. It was the luckiest of the whole vacation. We enjoyed our morning coffee on our terrace, and there we preferred to eat dinner with what we bought at the store. Good thing the kitchen had everything we needed, and not far from the hotel was a supermarket Conad, so we saved a lot on dinners.
Garda greeted us with fog, closed restaurants and 16 °C heat. The weather forecast promised rain for the whole period of our stay. The locals shook their hands: if it’s raining in the valley, it’s for a long time – and continued to drink their coffee. We too drank our coffee, stocked up on optimism and made raincoats. We realized the beauty of the lake and the view from the hotel in the morning when we opened the doors to the balcony. The night rain had stopped, the sky began to clear. Literally 10 meters away the somber cliffs were drowning in turquoise water, and the fog blanketed the whole thing. We drove all over the lake that day, but it was the north that impressed us the most that morning.
Day 2. From Lemons to Dictator.
We had one full day at the lake, had a car and a bunch of plans. So we just decided to drive around the Garda and see everything. Needless to say, we are inadequate optimists and you don’t need to repeat after us? Italy does not tolerate fuss.
The first stop is “the most Instagrammable town of Garda” – Limone sul Garda. And the first encounter with paid parking. When planning a road trip in Italy, it is better to lay out a separate line item for parking and freeways, it will be a significant amount. An hour of parking on average can cost from € 1 to € 5. Only locals are allowed to enter the old town. Look out for the traffico limitato sign, do not drive under the small sign to avoid a fine of €120.
Limone which is set on a hillside is not suitable for cars but is ideal for walking and loved by tourists of all stripes. The town completely lives up to its name. Lemons are everywhere: potted and tubbed, displayed on signs with street names and house numbers, bottled with limoncello, and displayed in shop windows as dried fruit, soap, and candy. They lead through narrow streets and inexorably to the seafront.
Along the coast the usual tourist life is boiling. There are cafes, bars, restaurants. In all languages, the callers persuade you to go for a boat ride, which I would not advise you to do. If you want a walk on the lake, wait for the city boat and take a ride to one of the neighboring towns. It’s a lot cheaper, and the experience is just as good. Here, on the waterfront, there is a small market with everything from food and souvenirs to cheap Chinese clothes. By the way, the price of souvenirs in Limon is much lower than in other towns.
Half an hour away from Limone is our next stop, and also the iconic for Italians Villa Vittoriale in Gardone Riviera. The villa belonged to the national hero, the poet and adventurer Gabriele d’Annunzio. As an extraordinary person, D’Annunzio became famous not so much for his poems as for his extravagant deeds. For example, he seized the Croatian port of Fiume, declared it a republic, and appointed himself commander and ruled there for a year. What’s the big deal?
Villa Vittoriale is a reflection of its owner’s irrepressible temperament. You pay €10 for a ticket, go inside, and you wonder what’s going on here in the first place. After half an hour, nothing surprises you anymore. A naval ship on a mountain? It happens. A huge blue horse? Nonsense! Go on, there’s a three-story mausoleum with sarcophagi of D’Annunzio and his friends. No kidding, this place is not in the guidebooks, but I highly recommend a visit, if only for the sake of stunning views of the Garda and the atmosphere of the Italian villa.
Next, we made a big mistake and went to the south of the lake to have lunch in Cermione. First of all, the road from Gardone Riviera to Cermione goes through all the towns and traffic jams start by evening. Even traffic circles don’t help. It took us 2,5 hours to drive here. Secondly, Cermione is the most expensive and the most touristy of all the visited towns. Dinner at San Lorenzo Restaurant (via S. Salvatore, 7), consisting of a pizza for two and two cups of espresso cost € 15, to this amount was added € 10 for service and we were given to understand that the tip is not included.
“After half an hour, nothing surprises you anymore. A navy ship on a mountain? It happens. A huge blue horse? Nonsense! Go on, there’s a three-story mausoleum with sarcophagi.”