Summer Fun in the Dolomites & Where to Eat, Sleep and Hike
11 April 2023
Looking for a holiday packed with both the outdoors and some of the best food and wine you can pack in? Then look no further than the brilliant Dolomites, a still surprisingly hidden gem for many in northern Italy. Our Chief Marketing Officer Andre Rickerby gives us the lay of the land from his short break back in the summer of 2022 to this stunning UNESCO area.
Food and Wine Galore: A Foodie Paradise
If you are into the best of foodie experiences, the Dolomites will not disappoint. One of our top must-do experiences is the Cocun cellar restaurant at the Hotel Ciasa Salares in San Cassiano. If you love wine and food pairings, do their tasting menu ‘Come Piace a Noi’ (8 passi), where wines are paired over eight courses. With over 1,900 labels, 24,000 bottles from every corner of the world and set up by the inspirational Jan Clemens Wieser, you will be in for a surprise towards the end of your meal – presuming you’ve taken the 8 passi. If you fancy something light though, the menu has something for everyone, and the team will gladly match you with the best wine for your meal.
In other culinary treats, the St Hubertus at the Rosa Alpina hotel has recently been awarded its third Michelin-star with outstanding options – as you would expect from such a restaurant. There is also a chef's table where you can watch all the action unfold and see their latest cuisine experience. St Hubertus is nothing short of brilliant with the highest standards.
When on hiking trips up the various mountains, the rifugios (mountain huts) offer a taste of the local cuisine during the day, as well as a welcome rest for the legs. The wonderful Rifugio Bioch has it all – a brilliant wine list with excellent food and desserts – or another option is the Rifugio Scotoni which is a nicely timed stop on the way back from several excellent walking options – from the more exhausting to the more relaxing. Either way, find a table (though you might need to book in advance in the peak of summer) and relax, taking in the mountain, the wine and the food. With everything sourced locally, there are no bad choices, and keep an eye out for the llamas which don't look out of place at all in this setting!
Hotel Ciasa Salares is situated just a stone's throw from the pretty town of San Cassiano. The Ciasa Salares offers an all-encompassing experience for anyone looking to immerse themselves in everything that the Alta Badia region has to offer.
Run by the same family since the 1960s, the Wiesers’ warmth and welcoming hospitality are in no short supply and guests are looked after perfectly. Cocun cellar restaurant is in the basement of this hotel – so guests have no excuse at all not to sample the incredible range of beautiful wines.
Rosa Alpina is where we stayed for our visit – a beautifully presented hotel with not only tip-top service and hospitality but the outstanding St Hubertus restaurant as well as a second restaurant that has a tasty range of options, with many delicious local favourites. (Note: Rosa Alpina is currently closed under refurbishment until winter 2024/25.)
If wellness is your prerogative, then look no further than the Hotel Fanes, a family-run joint in San Cassiano. Get a real taste of Italian hospitality and indulge in their truly exceptional spa. And if you’re travelling with little ones, you can still revel in the spa while the children join the hotel’s “miniclub” where they’ll partake in supervised activities on the hotel’s farm next door.
Lastly, Gardena Grödnerhof, located in the heart of the Dolomites, is the perfect location for hiking and climbing. Easily explore Ortisei, the largest village in Val Gardena, and the Southern Tyrol region – a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its sublime scenery – with the hotel’s guided excursions. Then, end the day with an evening at the Michelin-star restaurant Anna Stuben headed by chef Reimund Brunner.
Hiking in The Great Outdoors
If you’re not into the outdoors, then the Dolomites may not be the place for you, but outdoor lovers have the best on offer no matter the skill level or interest. Mountain bikers have a huge range of runs available – all accessible by ski lifts which are put to excellent use over the summer.
Road cyclists will be in heaven – albeit there are some hills involved to say the least! Climbs and rapid downhills are the order of any cycling visit to the area. For those wanting something more challenging, the Sella Ronda Bike Day, which historically consists of 20,000 cyclists cruising the closed roads, and the Maratona dles Dolomites, which is a slightly smaller event in July, are well worth investigating.
Walkers can test themselves as hard – or easy – as they like with some excellent walks taking in either scenery, history, or both!
We tried our hand at a steep but easy enough walk from San Cassiano up to the Pralongia plateau on foot (you can jump on a lift for an easier ride) and once at the top we were surrounded by views galore and panoramas of all the surrounding mountain ranges. Even as a Kiwi the views are stunning! The air – coming from London – was fresh so make sure to carry appropriate clothing and have layers on hand, even in summer you’ll reach high altitudes quickly which can have a chill.
For the many who aren’t comfortable going it alone in the mountains, guides are an option and Franzi and Diego from Enrosadira are two people you have to meet – or one of their 30+ guides. They can tailor-make your activity and speciality. If you’re an ornithologist they will match you with a guide who knows all the best places to go for local bird life, or if you want to dive into local history (the Dolomites are a must for history buffs!) they’ll do the same.
We took an easy walk to Lago di Lagazuoi with Franzi and Diego and they bravely went for a swim in the lake at the top – I wasn’t feeling quite as brave being a land-based mammal! But they can meet every challenge. The perfect couple to go walking with!
A must-do experience is also the Lagazuoi tunnels – a relic from World War One when the Italians tunnelled to the top of Monte Lagazuoi and literally blew the top off – the Austrians at the top had already moved out of the way but quickly reclaimed the top. However, what the warring sides left is a brilliant walk down from the top through the tunnels. Take the cable car up to the top and a torch and walk back down to the bottom – a completely unique experience to say the least!
Other Notable Things to Do
Cortina has just hosted the Ski World Cup this year and the main town centre is really lovely – one of the bigger towns in the area but worth a visit just for the ice cream!
Lago di Braies is something out of a fairytale book – a lake hemmed in closely by mountains and with that beautiful teal colour. It has its own rich history and in summer it is pretty busy but one of those places you must see. It is a drive to get there, and pre-booking parking is a must-do or else you have to take a shuttle bus from one of the local towns, but the views are worth the hassle. Take a small boat out on the lake (it’s cash only, so make sure you are prepared) and paddle around in your own private lake.
Top tip: If you’re going to the Dolomites, download the Alta Badia app, it is easy to use and very helpful!