Lying about 75 miles north of Venice, the Dolomites comprise an astonishing range of jagged limestone peaks. The area’s main town, Cortina d’Ampezzo, is a renowned ski resort, but the most spectacular part of the Dolomites is arguably the Alta Badia, immediately to the west. This unspoiled region is dotted with charming Alpine villages such as Corvara and San Cassiano. Although territorially part of Italy, the Dolomites still possess a strong independent streak, one that is reflected in the distinctive gastronomy — far more German than it is Italian. Menus feature canederli (bread dumplings), spätzle (egg noodles), and gulasch (a stew of beef, venison or wild boar). The most celebrated local product is speck, a ham that is dry-cured by salt, smoke and fresh air. Numerous high-altitude footpaths traverse the region, such as the trail across the Alpe di Siusi, Europe’s largest high-alpine meadow.
Alois Lageder Winery
Some of the region’s best wines are made by Alois Lageder, run by a sixth generation of winemakers. For tastings and purchases, visit the Vineria Paradeis ( Piazza Santa Geltrude 10) in the village of Magrè. I particularly enjoyed the refined Pinot Bianco Dolomiti and Pinot Grigio Dolomiti.
Chef Herbert Hintner's zur Rose
One restaurant not to miss is zur Rose (Via Josef Innerhofer 2) in San Michele, 10 miles southwest of Bolzano, where chef Herbert Hintner has presided over a distinguished kitchen since 1985. Signature dishes include mint risotto with pike perch, and chestnut pancakes with vanilla ice cream. Tel. (39) 0471-662-249.
Restore Your Health
Renowned for its ancient grape cure, the spa town of Merano is the kind of place that promises to restore you to rosy good health. Exquisite paths wind through town to the 11th-century Castel Tirolo, which houses a museum dedicated to the history of Südtirol.
Explore Scenic Mountaintops
The Dolomites are spectacular from the ground, but they are even more dramatic from the air. I cannot recommend a scenic flight too highly. And if you are feeling intrepid, the excellent Ski & Snowboard School San Cassiano can arrange for you to be airlifted to the top of the 10,968-foot Marmolada, the region’s highest peak.