The Dolomites—a 750-mile section of the Italian Alps that runs east to west above Venice and Milan—wows year-round. From the spring to the fall, rolling farmland and sunny meadows make it one of Europe’s more bucolic settings, while in winter its Bavarian-style castles and white-tipped mountains look like a real-life snow globe. The word is spreading about the Dolomites’ charms: spas offering time-honored treatments in cutting-edge buildings; a mountain-to-table cuisine served in both Alpine huts and Michelin-starred restaurants; and a distinctive culture shaped by the area’s history of passing hands between Austria and Italy (even today you’re more likely to find apfelstrudel over gelato). A handful of its villages gracefully reflect these dichotomies and are well worth exploring.
Cortina d’Ampezzo and San Vito di Cadore
If you have heard of only one of the Dolomites’ towns, it’s likely Cortina d’Ampezzo. It served as the backdrop for films such as the James Bond installment For Your Eyes Only and the original Pink Panther. In the ’50s and ’60s, the town became a winter playground for the international jet set and well-heeled Italians, who enjoyed its après-ski scene and shops as much as its slopes.
To partake in Cortina’s pleasures, join the daily routine of locals. That means sipping cappuccinos and eating krapfen, a kind of cream-filled doughnut, at Pasticceria Lovat (65 Corso Italia; 011-39-0436-3307; breakfast for two, $10*), or window-shopping alongside Milanese fashionistas. You can find big-name labels such as Louboutin at Le Noir (4/C Via Cavour Camillo Benso; 011-39-0436-345-82). Afterward, pairing an Aperol spritz with prosciutto at Dok Dall’Ava LP 26 (26 Largo Delle Poste; 011-39-0436-862-284; drinks for two, $10) is an affordable way to feel part of it all.
For a treat, make a reservation at the Michelin-starred Tivoli (34 Via Località Lacedel; 011-39-0436-866-400; dinner for two, $220), which plates unusual combinations, such as a radicchio and gorgonzola fondue. In the neighboring village of San Vito di Cadore, the husband-and-wife team Oliver Piras and Alessandra Del Favero at Aga (6 Via Trieste; 011-39-0436-890-134; dinner for two, $92) turn ingredients foraged on the nearby slopes into gourmet fare. Piras used to work at Copenhagen’s famous Noma restaurant.
Even the region’s simple mountain huts, known as rifugi, show a dedication to food far beyond that of most ski lodges by serving tasty stews, homemade pastas, and salads using herbs and flowers from the surrounding meadows. Two that stand out are Rifugio Averau (Forcella Nuvolau; 011-39-0436-4660; lunch for two, $49) and Rifugio Scoiattoli (Loc. 5 Torri; 011-39-0436-867-939; lunch for two, $74).
San Cassiano and Brunico
Set near the middle of the Dolomites, the town of San Cassiano is a convenient launch point for Dolomiti Superski (adult day passes, $58)—a vast network of ski and hiking trails—and is itself an appealing spot. In town, the Museum Ladin Ciastel de Tor (65 Strada Tor; 011-39-0474-524-020; admission, $10) describes how the people here once spoke a kind of Latin (known as Ladin) inherited from the Roman soldiers who settled the area.
Once you’ve brushed up on your history, turn to the food. San Cassiano is home to one of just nine three-Michelin-starred restaurants in Italy, St. Hubertus (20 Strada Micurá de Rü; 011-39-0471-849-500; tasting menu and grill priced according to the number of courses). Over the past few years, the menu has moved away from international dishes to focus on food that speaks to how diverse and bountiful the ingredients are in the Dolomites. The kitchen stocks hundreds of types of vegetables, herbs and salads, plus organic and sustainable meats and cheeses, from area farms.
About 20 miles north is pretty Brunico, a town whose churches and shops show off Italy’s famous craftsmanship. Kitchenware store Schönhuber (52 Via J.G. Mahl; 011-39-0474-571-000) is a chef’s dream come to life, while Moessmer (6 Via Walther von der Vogelweide Str.; 011-39-0474-533-111), a textile producer that’s been around since 1894, sells hand-sewn capes, tweeds and more. Brunico hosts a photo-worthy annual Christmas market that starts at the end of November; you can sip on mulled wine while strolling past its stalls.
Merano and Avelango
Natural thermal springs and indigenous herbal treatments have long been a staple of Alpine health. In recent years, architects have designed spectacular buildings to offset such offerings. Take Matteo Thun, an architect from Bolzano, who dreamed up Terme Merano (9 Piazza Terme; 011-39-0473-252-000; day passes, from $23), in the resort town of Merano. The spa complex is centered around indoor and outdoor pools; and spa treatments use regional ingredients, such as South Tyrol apples and grapes. Thun was also the mastermind behind the glassed-in Vigilius Mountain Spa (3 Via Villa, Lana; 011-39-0473-556-600; signature massages, $145) and its restaurants: Stube Ida (lunch for two, $40) and Restaurant 1500 (four-course lunch tasting menu for two, $160). The building housing them both is reached only by cable car. After exploring the facilities, consider taking the time to walk to the local chapel and among the gentle hills.
North of Merano, in Avelango, Miramonti Spa (14 Via S. Caterina; 011-39-0473-279-335; day passes, $62) is also set within a building that combines traditional materials with fresh touches. The spa’s infinity pool overlooks Merano and seems to hang suspended in the sky. You can eat lunch or dinner at on-site Panorama (dinner for two, $170), if you’re feeling fancy, or Stube (dinner for two, $60), a publike restaurant with traditional recipes that date back to 1887. Here, old mingles with modern; high-end coexists with low-key; and natural wonders are complemented by indoor pleasures—proving again that this region’s allure lies in its contradictions.
RCI® affiliated resorts in the Dolomites include:
Those looking to relax can turn to the health center, which offers a full-service spa, thermal baths, heated beds and more. Piazzale Stazione, 10, Montegrotto Terme
Member Review: “Close to everything.”
While away the evening at the resort restaurant’s expansive outdoor patio overlooking Mount Laugenspitze. 39010 Prissiano, Bolzano
Member Review: “Excellent service. Our stay wasn’t long enough.”
Guests can soak in the quiet and peaceful surroundings on their private deck. Strada Boscdaplan 198, La Villa in Badia, Bolzano
Member Review: “There are beautiful views in all directions.”
Less than two miles from Corvara, where charming tearooms and chocolate shops are set against a pretty mountainside. Strada Ninz 60, La Villa in Badia, Bolzano
Member Review: “Spacious rooms.”
You may not see Dolomites availability right away, so it’s important to plan now for travel in 2019.** We’re here to help you find your dream-come-true vacation with Ongoing Search. Just choose what you are looking for, and we’ll search 24/7, alerting you via email when a match becomes available!***
For complete member reviews (as member reviews have been condensed) and additional resort listings, visit RCI.com or call 800-338-7777 (Weeks) or 877-968-7476 (Points). Club Members, please call your specific Club or RCI telephone number.
Non-RCI affiliated resorts in the Dolomites include:
Miramonti Boutique Hotel
This intimate property sitting above Merano offers exceptional views, a lovely spa, a heated outdoor pool, stylish but comfortable bedrooms and delicious food. 14 Via S. Caterina, Avelango; 011-39-0473-279-335; hotel-miramonti.com; doubles from $256 a night
Three generations of the same Ladin family have owned and run this famed hotel in the heart of the Dolomites. The on-site restaurant, St. Hubertus, is worth the splurge. 20 Strada Micurá de Rü; 011-39-0471-849-500; rosalpina.it; doubles from $456 a night, including breakfast
- *Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars. Estimated meal prices do not include drinks, tax, or tip.
- **These vacations are limited and subject to availability.
- ***The current RCI Exchange Fee is required to set up an Ongoing Search. The Exchange Fee may be refundable if no match is found, provided the member is otherwise in full compliance with all applicable exchange program requirements.
- NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
- Published: Fall 2018