Dolomites

SAN CASSIANO, THE PERFECT BASE TO EXPLORE VAL BADIA IN THE ITALIAN DOLOMITES.

Hotel Rosa Alpina | San Cassiano, Italy

[SAN CASSIANO IN ALTA BADIA, ITALY] — Wednesday nights are Festa Nights in San Cassiano in the summer. People come from kilometers away, tasting great foods from local restaurants, local craft beers (doesn’t everywhere have local craft beers nowadays?) and watching Ladin craftsman hone wood objects like they’ve done for centuries. (Cutting boards are big sellers.) And, perhaps appropriately, a country music band. Nothing like a little Hank Williams to make your strudel even more fun. Plus, you can waltz to it. You should have seen it. A girl in a cowboy hat introducing each song in Italian, old couples and waiters all beebopping all happy up and down the street. It was a little surreal, sitting outside on the terrace of the restaurant at

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THE PERFECT HOTEL TO EXPLORE THE BRENTA DOLOMITES

Hermitage BioHotel | Madonna di Campiglio | Italy

[BRENTA DOLOMITES, ITALY] — During the ski season, Madonna di Campiglio attracts people from all over the world. During the “off season” — which I can’t relieve believe they call it that, it is such a gorgeous time of year — it is uncrowded and the scenery is just jaw-dropping. And the view from the boutique luxury BioHotel Hermitage in the Dolomites of Italy is about as great as any I’ve seen. Stunning. _________________________________________________ We were sad to leave Milano, but we were jonesing for the next stop. After a quick lunch in quaint medieval Bergamo, finally we went, up into the Dolomites. Spindly little roads needling through small mountain towns, with pesky speed cameras the entire way. We threaded our way up the spine

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THREE GREAT HIKES IN ALTA BADIA IN THE ITALIAN DOLOMITES

ALTA BADIA | TRENTINO | ITALY

[ALTA BADIA, TRENTINO] — After a four hour hike down the mountain, it was finally time for a late lunch. Stanky and sweaty, I rolled into this cute little rifugio out in the woods, accessible only by foot or the brave souls driving up the narrow less-than-one-lane path — so tight the cars forced the hikers to lean their butts and packs over the wood rail fence lining the lane as they passed. I was hangry by then so hearty venison medallions in a juniper sauce, grilled mushrooms and rustic polenta seemed just perfect. And a couple of glasses of Lagrein to wash it all down.  About as good of a meal as it gets, especially in a place so inaccessible. The sun casting a

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TWO GREAT HIKES IN VAL GARDENA IN THE ITALIAN DOLOMITES

VAL GARDENA | SÜDTIROL | ITALY

[VAL GARDENA, BOLZANO] — We were on a long gondola ride heading up a long valley of undulating hills outside of the beautiful town of Ortisei, no doubt perfect ski runs in the winter. But it was summer, off season, so everything was super lush and green, hardly anybody around. The lift pauses at one skier drop-off then continues on, up up up and over a steep massive wall of granite, still shaded by the stark morning sun, darkening the interior of the gondola so much that you had to take off your sunglasses.  Suddenly, you pop over the ridge and you’re thrust into the bright summer sun. Stammering to get your bearings again. We scrambled off, the hustling gondola nipping at our heels like a

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A LONG HIKE THROUGH FANES-SENES-BRAIES NATURE RESERVE IN THE DOLOMITES

Fanes-Senes-Braies Nature Reserve | Italian Dolomites

[VAL BADIA, ITALY] — I know that’s a mouthful. But I didn’t name it. But it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Dolomites are aren’t just one range, but dozens. Kinda confusing really, trying to piece it all together. It’s all called “Dolomites” or “Alto Adige” and “Süd Tyrol” … and in a part of Italy that was once part of Austria. Some people speak German, some Italian and others, especially in the Val Badia, speak the local ancient dialect called Ladin, which dates back to Roman soldiers — and sometimes all at once, in the same sentence! So the names everywhere on all the signs and maps are always in three languages. It fries your brain a little bit. But no matter what you call

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RIFUGIO TUCKETT, THE BEST HIKE IN THE BRENTA DOLOMITES

Madonna di Compiglio | Italy

[TRENTINO–ITALY] — “Theeesa eesa the one.” she said, in that lovely Italan way of needing to add a vowel onto every word. “Theesa one is da best hika in the valley. And ifa you goa heer, ita isa the besta viewa inaalla da Dolomites.” That’s Barbara, the owner of my splendid hotel in the Brenta region of the Italian Dolomites. There isn’t just one Dolomite, but many different ranges. But many say this is one of the best sections, centered around the Madonna di Campiglio ski resort, tucked into a valley with over sixty lifts going in all directions. For those looking for some Vail symmetry and organization, this is done the Italian way. Organically, over the time, with lifts taking off in different directions, lobbing

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