The Dolomites, or Dolomiti, is the most recent UNESCO World Heritage inscription in Italy. With eighteen mountain summits that extend beyond 3,000 m, the foremost section of the Alps is home to some of the most inimitable landscapes in Europe. From majestic snowy peaks to long, deep valleys, the Dolomites attract scores of intrepid, adventure travelers every year. The sublime natural beauty of the range in Belluno, Bolzano-Bozen and Trento provinces feels quite far from the indelible landmarks of Venice, Milan, Florence and Naples.
From a cultural standpoint, the Dolomites is quite distinct. In fact, one is more likely to hear Austro-Bavarian, German and Ladin dialects than Italian in many a comune. While the rocky steeples of the Dolomites may present a challenge or two for some, the spectacular portion of northeast Italy is must-see. Check out ten worthwhile points of interest in the area.
10. Cortina d’Ampezzo
The most famous ski resort in Italy is a posh hive of activity in winter and summer. Cortina d’Ampezzo, host of the 1956 Winter Olympics, has a confident air of aristocracy and still lures Euro elites to the best après-ski scene this side of Gstaad. The notable backdrop of The Pink Panther and For Your Eyes Only has several heritage landmarks but is popular, first and foremost, as the upscale winter sports hub of the Dolomites.
Comelico is a beautiful 280 km2 area of dramatic mountains, valleys and meadows. Close to the border of Austria, Comelico is part of the mountain community of Cadore. A tight-knit hub of traditional culture, Comelico contains many wonderful hamlets to explore, such as Santo Stefano, San Pietro, Comelico Superiore and Danta.
8. Alta Badia
Alta Badia is another famous ski resort and perpetual Alpine World Cup host. The mountain town has become one of the most popular four seasons resorts in Europe and makes for a superb holiday destination no matter what time of year. Aside from powder slopes and beautiful natural scenery, Alta Badia has a superb après-ski, culinary and nightlife scene.
Brunico, or Bruneck, is at the confluence of two major rivers and is the principal town in the Puster Valley of Bolzano-Bozen province. German is the mother tongue in Bruneck and the town has a cool cultural vibe. A pretty pedestrian promenade and stellar cathedral church as well.
Lana is a Bolzano-Bozen province gem, with a population of 10,000 people and a reputation as a pre-eminent hub of recreation. The town also has several world class mountain spa resorts that take great advantage of the spectacular scenery.
The Dolomites is home to a portion of the historic region of Tyrol, which now spans parts of Germany, Switzerland and Austria as well. The village of Tirol, or Tirolo, contains the original namesake castle that gave rise to the area we now know, again, as Tyrol. Built in the 11th century, the remarkable Castle Tirolo is a venerable monument and home to the South Tyrolean Museum of History. The village and gorge area that encircles the castle is a great bet as well.
The famous home of the Council of Trent is the capital of Trento province and the main city in the Dolomites. A major economic, political and cultural hub in Italy, Trento is a marvelous city of 115,000 people. The affluent and eminently livable birthplace of European Union father Alcide De Gasperi has a gorgeous cityscape and many wonderful museums and heritage landmarks to discover.
3. Stelvio National Park
Stelvio National Park borders Swiss National Park and is the traditional home for a brilliant array of wildlife, from Chamois and rare Lammergeier Old World vultures, to Alpine Ibex and Eagle Owls.
Merano, or Meran, is a spectacular small city of less than 40,000 people in Bolzano-Bozen province. Perhaps the best spa resort town in Italy, Merano was a prominent refuge for the likes of Ezra Pound and Franz Kafka.
Bressanone, or Brixen, is the arts and culture capital of the bucolic Bolzano-Bozen valley. From ski resorts and vineyards, to Reifenstein Castle and Rodeneck Castle, the town and immediate area reign supreme in the Dolomites.