Summer in the Dolomites is one of Italy’s best-kept secrets. Forget the crowds vying for coveted sun loungers in Sorrento or the hordes of live streaming tourists in Venice and Rome. If it’s a slice of the real and completely organic la dolce vita you’re after, it’s in the Dolomites that you’ll find it. Tucked within the mountain folds is a blossoming food scene and an ever-growing number of boutique chalets and spas, that are just as charming in summer as they are in winter; you’ll quickly realise that the Dolomites are far more than a ski destination. Get your high-altitude thrills on its iron paths (via ferrata) that have turned the mountain range into one giant vertical adventure park; treat your tastebuds to Michelin-level apéritivos on terraces of mountain huts that have helped the region earn its nickname ‘gourmet valley’; and feel the benefits of its crisp alpine air as you while away afternoons bouncing between hot tubs and massage tables. Read on for our guide to summer in the Dolomites…
To really enjoy the Dolomites, you have to walk. Adrenaline junkies will head straight for the hills’ 170 via ferrata (iron paths); a network of cables, rungs and ladders fixed to mountain range’s rockface. The even more intrepid will make a beeline for Giro del Sorapiss, a longer, wilder route that takes two days to complete, or the mighty Punta Anna, which rises to a hair raising 10,643ft. But summer in the Dolomites doesn’t just have to be about high-altitude adventure. In fact, it can be quite a luxurious affair. In a trend we’ve dubbed Bootiquing, you can have your cake and eat it too on multi-day jaunts that pass through some of the region’s most spectacular trails and end at some of its equally spectacular hotels and rifugios. If, however, like us, you need the promise of good food before venturing on a lung busting hike, you’ll love Alta Badia’s Peaks of Gastronomy event. Amble between its four Michelin star restaurants and 10 mountain huts – all revered for their fresh takes on traditional Ladin recipes – and sample South Tyrolean wines during al fresco tastings nestled between the peaks.
Speaking of food, no summer in the Dolomites would be complete without a taste of its country-chic foodie fare. And at Hotel Ciasa Salares, you’ll realise just how grand an affair it is. From its glimmering Michelin-star restaurant and three themed menus to its chocolate room and candle-lit wine cellar which houses some 24,000 bottles, you’ll quickly realise the Dolomites don’t fool around when it comes to food. And given that it’s a region sandwiched between European heavyweights Germany and Austria, it’s no surprise that the food is more than classic pasta and pizza. But it isn’t just inside the Dolomites’ smattering of haute hotels where its gastronomy reigns supreme. Make the most of the long Italian summer evenings and enjoy a picnic on alpine pastures surrounded by yellow poppies – complete with sommelier-chosen wines of course – or have a go at creating your own traditional Ladin (neo-Latin language and culture) lunch in a storybook mountain hut.
When you’re ready to call it a night, you won’t be short of places to bed down. At Hotel Del Len indulge in true luxury with summer spa treatments (ice massage anyone?) and swanky pine-clad rooms. If you’re after a more bucolic alpine experience, there’s nowhere quite like Sonnwies. Nestled in the charming mountain town of Lüsen, you can spend mornings bathing in its spring-fed lake and afternoons rafting along the Eisack River. The star attraction of this family-owned hotel, however, is the view that surrounds it. With a deliberate neutral palette and floor to ceiling windows throughout, it’s the views of knife-edge mountains and verdant valleys that take centre stage here.
If you’re spending summer in the Dolomites with children in tow, it’s likely that long walks won’t be topping your list of things to do (unless you like the choral sound of ‘are we nearly there yet?’). But hiking is just the tip of the iceberg in this neck of the woods. Hop on two wheels for a morning of biking fun, speeding along trails through green pastures to chocolate box towns like Pieve di Cadore, or delve into the fascinating history of the Ladin people at one of the region’s Ladin museums. See the sights of Cortina d’Ampezzo (and beyond) from horseback. Navigate narrow paths and sinuous slopes to breathtaking vistas with lunch stops en route. And if the region’s via ferrata feel too perilous for the little ones, hit Cortina’s Adrenaline Centre instead, where the highest course is just 52ft off the ground.