Do Winter In the Dolomites Right

What to eat, what to see, and where to ski in Italy’s stunning northern region

By Valentina Solfrini, Travel Writer

Felicity—a 20-something travel lover—has teamed up with her friends from around the world to provide readers with local, insider knowledge of today’s most awe-inspiring destinations. Through writing, photography, and video, they’ll share the best tricks and tips for experiencing a place authentically and getting off the beaten path.

Dear Felicity,

You asked for my best recs in northern Italy, and I am happy to oblige!  

The Dolomites, a UNESCO world heritage site, have so much to offer. This mountain range, covering several regions in northeastern Italy from River Adige to the Piave Valley, is a treasure trove of activities, breathtaking views, and delicious food. The streets smell of cut wood, fresh herbs, and the air is crisp—the cleanest you will breathe. It's also one of the most incredible luxury winter destinations in Italy, and a much dreamed-of vacation spot for holiday-goers of all ages. Whether it is for skiing, enjoying the outdoors, stunning photography, dining, or holiday shopping, there’s something in the Dolomites for everyone. Since I live in Italy and have visited many times, I’d love to share with you a few of my best tips for fully enjoying the area!

Glowing mountain town at night in winter

Photo: Shutterstock

A Primer On The Geography

The Dolomites are located in northeastern Italy and are shared between the provinces of Bolzano (Bozen), Südtirol (South Tyrol), and Belluno. These places offer some very pretty sights, including the major towns of Brunico, Merano and Bressanone. If you’re after some smaller (and less crowded gems), go explore the smaller, Mitteleurope-style villages like Glorenza (Glurns); Ciardes castle; San Vigilio di Marebbe; and Curon and its submerged bell tower. Each of these places is a treat unto itself.

Church steeple frozen in middle of lake

Photo: Shutterstock

Get Outside (And Into the Snow)

The Dolomites are an absolute heaven for skiers; they are not only full of luxury resorts, but Südtirol in particular is known for always having full, thick snow on their skiing tracks during the season. While it is perfect for beginners and experts alike, there are many other winter activities for those who are not keen on skiing: you can try sledging, guided winter hikes, treks in the snow, and—most importantly—some gorgeous indoor and outdoor spas, as well as natural hot springs.

Snowy ski slope with mountains in background

Photo: Shutterstock

If you are looking for famous valleys and peaks for skiing, trekking, and fun winter activities, these names might ring a bell: between Bolzano and Cortina d'Ampezzo you'll find Alta Badia, Val di Funes, Alpe di Siusi, and Val Pusteria, closer to Austria. In Veneto, right on the border with Trentino Alto Adige, you'll find the stunning Three Peaks of Lavaredo.

Small mountaintop church near peaks

Photo: Shutterstock

Where/What to Eat and Drink

Wherever you decide to go in the Dolomites, the food is sure to be earthy, local, and fresh. And here’s a fun fact: Trentino-Alto Adige has the highest concentration of Michelin stars per inhabitants in the country, so you don't have to try too hard to find a restaurant with one (or several). Including St. Hubertus in the Hotel Rosa Alpina under Chef Norbert Niederkofler, well over thirty restaurants in the Dolomites area have at least one star. Other prominent names are Gourmetstube Einhorn, Terra, and La Siriola (which features a cheese room and a chocolate room). 

While these restaurants are at the cutting edge of contemporary northern Italian cuisine, there are plenty of more traditional options, too. As for local gastronomy, the area's fortes are surely apples, dairy, game, and whole grains like rye and buckwheat. Some dishes to try are canederli (bread dumplings also known as “knodel”—order the tris to taste the three main kinds!), spinach spaetzle, brezeln (pretzels), boar stew, apfelstrudel, and apple fritters.

Photos: Shutterstock

Make sure to enjoy a good glass of aromatic Gewurztraminer, Muller Thurgau, Sylvaner, or any of the other wonderful wines that are produced amongst these mountains. If you're more of a red person, here you can also find some of the best Pinot Noir produced in Italy.

A Christmas Kingdom

Ubiquitous across the Alps, the Dolomites’ magical Christmas markets are one of my favorite reasons to visit this region in the winter. While they can be found in bigger cities and small villages alike, the best are to be found in Bolzano, Bressanone, Merano, Levico Terme, Ortisei, and on Carezza Lake (where there's one in the nearby woods!).

Photo: Shutterstock

Speaking of Christmas, one of the most interesting winter traditions tied to the Dolomites are the Krampus festivals. Krampus—legendary, demon-like creatures—are said to come along with St. Nicholas in early December. During this time, several small towns in the Alps (such as Kastelruth, near Bolzano) celebrate this legend by dressing up in horned masks and furs and parading down the streets, carrying St. Nicholas the Bishop in a cart with them. The biggest events usually take place on December 5th, 6th, and 7th, with hundreds of dressed up people storming the villages.

Where to Stay

If you are looking for some top hotels, check out Rosa Alpina (which hosts a 3 Michelin star restaurant - see above), the Cristallo Luxury Resort & Spa, Hotel Chalet del Sogno, Alpina Dolomites in the Alpe di Siusi, and the stunning Luis Lodges.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Valentina Solfrini was born in 1990 in a tiny Italian medieval village called Gradara, where she still lives after a bit of wandering through the USA. In the past, she has stained her hands with oil paint, engraving ink, black charcoal, and darkroom developing fluids before switching to digital photography and making a career out of it. She photographs vineyards, food, people, and other beautiful things all around Italy. Her work has been published throughout the world, in magazines and online in the US, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Japan, Italy, and Germany. The first book inspired by her blog, Naturally Vegetarian, was published by Penguin Random House in November 2017.

Interior or modern alpine dining room with wooden walls

Cristallo Luxury Collection Resort and Spa

Via Rinaldo Menardi 42, Cortina D Ampezzo, Italy

  • 100 USD Restaurant Credit and 1 Round of Golf
  • Complementary round of golf
  • Complimentary daily full breakfast for two
  • Early check-in upon availability
  • Property will offer upgrade upon availability at time of check-in
  • Basic Wi-Fi
Interior of modern alpine hotel in the Dolomites

Hotel and Spa Rosa Alpina

Strada Micura de Rue, 20, Bolzano, Italy

  • US$100 Resort credit
  • Complimentary Buffet breakfast for two daily
  • Early check-in upon availability
  • Property will offer upgrade upon availability at time of check-in
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

Inspired to Travel to Italy? Connect with one of our expert travel agents.

Contact UsFIND AN AGENT