The Dolomite Mountain range is the Italian region of the Alps. Being the hikers that we are, Dave was quick to put this on our itinerary once we had decided to visit Italy. I had never heard of this area before but as we researched and explored online, I was blown away. The pristine villages and striking peaks were unlike anything I had imagined seeing in Italy. We stayed in the village of Ortesei in the region of Val Gardena and had plenty to explore in the short 3 days we had there. It was everything I had hoped it would be and we left with tired legs and smiles on our faces before heading down to the Florence.
From our Venice apartment, we negotiated the water taxi system to the train station to get hop on a high-speed train headed north. It was fairly easy to get tickets at the station and we were off. The train was comfortable enough and had several stops along the way to our destination to Bolzano where we caught a bus to the village. The scenery was beautiful and became progressively greener as we travelled through Verona then north through Trento up to the mountains. We had views of the miles of vineyards and were able to catch glimpses of old castles. The roads to Ortisei were winding and narrow, but bus driver drove it with no hesitation whatsoever. There were multiple shops with carved wood offerings and religious souvenirs along the way. Our bus stop was a short walk to our hotel and though we were still a bit tired from the travel and lingering jet lag, the fresh mountain air was invigorating.
Where we stayed…
We chose to stay at the lovely Chalet Hotel Hartmann during our stay in the Dolomites. We almost chose the Hotel Hell because, well, how often do you get to say you stayed in Hell, right?!? (FYI- it did look nice, so I’m not throwing any shade their way) Anyhow, Hotel Hartmann was about a mile walk into the village center, but there were really nice paths throughout the town to connect us. It was friendly, clean, quiet, and the breakfast spread was AMAZING. I’m not kidding. Everything was freshly made (baked goods, sliced meats and cheeses, spreads, some sort of to die for yogurt), your cappuccino was made to order as you sat down and there were views of the valley and mountains throughout the dining area. The concierge woman who greeted us gave us a list of restaurants to try that all turned out to be unique and delicious. I would stay here again without a second thought.
What we did…
We hiked until the sun went down on both of the full days, we had in this magical place…and then we walked some more. It set the pace for the amount of walking we did on this trip. The weather was pleasant, and the trails were all clean, so it was no both to walk everywhere. There were ample bus stops available, but we opted to stay on our feet.
On day one we took a gondola ride (actually 2) up to Seneca and hiked through picturesque meadows and craggy peaks. It felt unreal. Literally there was a horn playing across the valley when we arrived, we were able to stop at these little huts (we stopped here at the end of the day) for beers and snacks, and there were only whisps of clouds in the sunny blue sky. I had a pang of feeling like we were cheating a bit by taking a lift up there but there were ample heights to be climbed still. I did like how it was accessible for those to enjoy the view but weren’t up for a climb. If you choose to hike in the afternoon, do note the time that the gondolas stop working. We arrived at the gondola to return us to our starting point just as it was closing. So, we had to ride down to the town of Santa Cristina and walk back to Ortisei, not a huge trek in general, but after covering 10+miles in the mountains, your legs are ready for a rest.
One day 2 we took the other gondola from the center of town up to the mountain plateau of Alpe di Siusi for another day of hiking. This is considered the sunniest area of the Dolomites, and we lucked out and had another epic day of walking under the blue skies. This was more walking trails that wander through pastures with view of the mountains, rather than climbing them like we had done the day prior. Personally, I was ok with this as my legs were rather like jello from the day before. That being said we still covered over 10 miles again. We saw horse-drawn carriages, more rocky peaks and enjoyed some local beer in the sun. It was as picturesque as it comes.
What we ate…
Much thanks to our host at Hotel Hartmann, we enjoyed a delicious variety of restaurants during our stay in Ortisei. It ranged from “Typical” cuisine (we learned that this means local) to pizza to a higher end modern restaurant. This stop on our trip got us primed up for the mass amounts of sliced meats that we would be consuming over the next weeks. If you were having a cocktail or beer, it was customary to be given chips, prosciutto, cheese, and pickles. You almost didn’t need dinner, but it was good to soak up drinks for sure. We also hit up a local salumeria in the village on day one for hike snacks and wine as well. Note to our future selves- grab a knife from the hotel prior to leaving for the day. Hard blocks of cheese aren’t meant to be eaten by biting off chunks.
Here’s a highlighted list:
- Turando– Upscale Pizzaria & bistro. The Crudo Gialla pizza was to die for and upon recommendation from our serve we had our first (but definitely not last) Amaro cocktail. Yum!!
- Snetonstube– This was the most “typical” style restaurant we visited. It seemed to be mostly locals celebrating occasion or another. The food and wine were great. We started with meats and cheese starter, and I ordered some sort of schnitzel type dish that felt authentic for the region. It was fun to feel the vibe of this place.
- Adler Shop- Lively bar and cafe attached to the upscale Adler Hotel. We had the best gin and tonics I have ever drank. Both ingredients were local to the area.
- Zicoria Brasserie– We enjoyed steak, pasta and wine at this upscale steak house that was near the base of the gondola on day 2. We were pretty tired from hiking and didn’t want to walk all the way back to the hotel before dinner, so we showed up a bit grubbier than what we normally go to a place like this and arrived before they opened. They were still kind and we sat at the bar before being sat. It was a really nice meal to end our stay in the Dolomites.
- Hotel Hartmann- I have to give them a shout out, because as I said earlier, the breakfast included in the stay was next level.
I was off my game for food pictures so enjoy some mediocre pics of our bar food at Alder Shop and a very questionable hotel sign that cracked me up 🙂
The Dolomites is officially on my top favorite places in the world I have visited. Being with my love and hiking around majestic mountains in the autumn sunshine cannot be beat. I would go back here in a heartbeat and would enthusiastically recommend anyone give this place a visit if they find themselves in Northern Italy.