I’m obsessed with everything alpine. I live in mountainous Telluride, CO, but when given the chance I choose travel adventures in mountain ranges around the world….
This September I went on my dream trip. It combined active alpine trekking, outstanding accommodations & the tastiest food ever! Who did I tour with? My favorite outdoor adventure guides Ryder-Walker. This team of travel pros have an awesome assortment of guided & self-guided hiking & walking tours in some of my favorite locations. Northern Italy has always been on my dream list & it was everything I ever could have dreamed of & then some! Looking for eye candy? I’ve got it right here wanderlusters!
This was my third Ryder-Walker adventure this year. I was in Davos & Klosters, Switzerland on a back country ski tour in February & a Southwest Red Rocks Adventure trek in June. I’m hooked on their authentic travel style, itineraries and overall fabulousness. You will see me on many RW trips over time. When I find something I love I stick to it.
The Dolomites is an epic place for those looking for the ultimate eye candy. Huge limestone towers loom over quaint towns, creating an atmosphere like I’ve never seen before. There is an Northern Italian vibe mixed with South Tyrollean culture. The region was the front line in WW1. Attributes of Italian & Austrian cultures are seen everywhere. There is formal Alpine feel mixed with Italian joie-de-vivre! The Dolomites region is an UNESCO world heritage site and the cobblestone villages are rich with history. Everywhere you turn are relics from the past mixed with modern touches. I like to step back in time to take a step forward in my life story.
There are celebrations of nature everywhere you look…
This blend of old meets new creates a captivating presence of unique culture, food & lifestyle elements. The languages vary depending on what village you visit. We traversed German, Ladin & Italian on our journey. Wondering about the food?! It was everything this girl could ever dream of! Italiano flair mixed with traditional Tyrolean comfort cuisine. This made for a mouthwatering surprise at every turn. It was as if every ingredient was on stage for us to gawk. The simplest ingredients like eggs….were the brightest yellow & tastiest versions I had ever seen.
Every bite of pizza & pasta was memorable. There’s no time for low carb here folks. Dig in & enjoy!!
The markets were a technicolor dreamscape!
At least one meal per day for me, was fueled with the regional specialty: Knödels These are are big, fat dumplings filled with all kinds of flavors including speck, veggies & more! I will share some Knödel recipes with you soon. They can be served in soup, or served smothered in butter & cheese. I preferred the latter. Why not take in the extra calories when you get the chance to burn them up in the hills?! Another regional specialty was wienerschnitzel, this was also prepared in many exciting ways. My favorite was served with a hearty, fresh salad.
Our treks each day were picturesque & included plenty espresso & apfelstrudel (apple strudel) breaks whenever the opportunity presented itself! The Ryder-Walker routes are mapped out to include the ultimate hiking experiences that expertly linked us from town to town. Some places we stayed 2 nights (Vols & Corvara) others just one. RW makes sure that all of your luggage is carefully transferred while you enjoy the alpine sunshine! It’s a super amazing & low maintenance way to experience new towns.
Hikes taste way better with frequent espresso & hazelnut cake. Make time for these stops when you hike the Dolomites!!
So where did we go? I started with a few days sipping Aperol Spritzes & shopping up a storm in Bolzano, Italy. A girl has to acclimate to a new culture, right?! After a few days of spritzing I met the group to begin our tour in in this chic Italiano village. It’s always fun to see what personalities will be spending such an intimate week together. The person who cracks the first joke always sets the pace for the adventures ahead. In this case there was no shortage of banter, everyone was so excited for the journey ahead!
Our first stop was Vols am Schlern. This charming village is located at the foot of the Schlern mountain. We were greeted with the most dramatic weather, with the clouds hanging low & the light a photographers dream. A mini photography tour was essential the moment I checked in.
One of the things I love the most in the Alps is how the animals roam freely. It’s their domain & we simply walk upon it next to them. If you trek with me, you will learn quickly that I stop often for animal photo ops. My first encounter was these sweet little goats grazing around the old church. Their bells ringing harmoniously with the natural setting…
In Vols, we stayed at the charming & unforgettable Hotel Turm. What a way to start an epic trekking trip. I felt like a princess in this well appointed, historic hotel/spa. Ripe apples were begging to be tasted around the property. The private art collection was enough to entice the most curious eyes. I felt like I was living in a painting everywhere I turned.
Hotel Turn is a place of contrasts: modern design set in historic walls dating back to the 13th century. It’s an comfortable, yet elegant refuge that feels far away from any reality.
One of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen….after our first dinner there we were invited down to the Strudel & Grappa Bar. A winding staircase brought us into a whole other land! Tiny rooms were filled with food & drink celebrations! Did we indulge? You betcha!!! Another winding staircase took us down to the cheese room. I mean seriously, can I just move there!
With plenty in our bellies it was time to sleep & prepare for the journeys ahead. After a low altitude warm up lap in Vols, it was time to start some more difficult hiking. Sky high views & plenty of miles were to be covered! Our second day out was a point to point hike from Vols over to the Sciliar. The largest “alp” in the alps.
Each day we went to the local markets to fuel up for the long & scenic hikes. This was always a treat. The markets in this region are amazing!!! Bursting with the finest local cheeses, charcuterie, fresh pasta & produce. A foodies dream come true! It was an anticipated cultural journey to fill our packs with these daily offerings.
Sometimes I bought silly things just because I fell in love with the packaging!
After we left the comfortable Hotel Turm it was time to get some more miles underfoot. It was also time for me to learn the meaning of Rifugio (an Italian high camp hut.) I’m not a camper, but certainly a Glamper. Once we left our luggage behind in capable hands it was time to rough it! I use that term loosely. Ryder Walker made sure that our overnight was still within my glamper limits.
Our goal was to hike from Alpe di Siusi, the largest meadow, or alp, to the Sciliar. The views were epic…they extended out to the Austrian Alps. We passed many friendly alpine farm animals along the way…
Each step was breathtaking & the final stop at Rifugio Alpe di Tires was very welcoming! Everyone couldn’t wait to change out of trail shoes & into cozy hut slippers. When we saw the red roof in the distance we got super excited for a sweet sip of wine & comfy bed to round out the journey!
The Rifugio had a wonderful restaurant & a well-stocked bar with wine, beer and espresso. It was very clean & comfortable….all this glamper girl could possibly want when in the middle of nowhere! Would I go back? You betcha!
After a night in the wilds it was time to make our way to the quaint ski town Selva di Val Gardena. Our hike was between the Sassopiatto and Sassolungo peaks (this one also known as the Langkofel.) This is one of the most majestic mountain peaks in the entire Italian Dolomites!
Trails around Italy are marked with a red & white stripe. A comforting sign to remind you to stay on course!
We had lunch at Rifugio Vicenza, which was also the home to adorable baby goats that I smothered with LOVE!
I treated myself to a Jägertee, a regional specialty. This Austrian drink is an alcoholic beverage made by mixing overproof rum (yum) with black tea, red wine, plum brandy, orange juice and various spices, It’s sweet & warming on chilly days.
You can see that the scenery was the best eye candy ever!!
We had gorgeous bluebird days that will stay in my memory forever. I will go back time & time again…
Selva di Val Gardena is a super fun village. I will head back there to ski in the next few years. A charming town with great shopping, easy ski access, impeccable views & delish food! The Val Gardena is connected to the Dolomiti Superski system with over 500km of terrain. Their slogan is “wonderful times” and I’m a believer! I’ve heard it’s an EPIC ski experience both on & off piste.
We stayed at the lovely Hotel Condor. A quaint, family run hotel. The hospitality was warm & we enjoyed a formal dinner, where we shared stories of all the fun so far!
We were at the tail end of summer & the flower boxes were still in full bloom….
After Selva we hiked on over to Corvara in the Alta Badia, this was my favorite village in the Dolomites. We started with an ascent to a ridge separating the Puez and Sella Dolomites groups. We gazed upon the Marmolada to the west, this is the highest peak in the Dolomites at 10,692 feet. The towering Tofane and Della Croce groups are to the east.
For me, Corvara is the perfect blend of South Tyrol charm, chic Italian style, brilliant shopping & excellent food. They say that they have a “Privileged position on the Sella Ronda” and I’ll definitely concur with this!
This lovely lady was standing guard as we hiked our way into the village. I got as close as I could to her…
We thankfully had two nights at the GORGEOUS Hotel La Perla. If I could move in there I would. This is by far one of the most elegant hotels I have ever stayed at. Each room was decorated thoughtfully with antiques and a mix of modern amenities. This is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, so standards are set at the highest rank. I enjoyed a massage at their spa & I would highly recommend you make this a part of your stay too. Dine there as much as you can. The food was locally sourced & fantastic! We celebrated my birthday there, which was an unforgettable treat!
This garden is on the property where fresh herbs & produce are gathered daily…
We hiked around Corvara…but I snuck away to do some shopping. The fashion there is amazing! I’ve all ready booked a trip back there this winter. I want to sink into the local scene. Cook, play & ski…really live it!
Out final stop was Cortina D’Ampezzo. We took a snowy winter (yes plenty of snow in September!) hike in the heart of the Tofane Range to get there…along the way we learned about the network of tunnels that the Austrians & Italians built beneath Mount Lagazuoi. The snow was deep & thank goodness for trekking poles…they were really needed on the slippery steeps! Cortina brought us out of the South Tyrol & back into the Italiano vibe. I want to ski here some day…a chic place for jet setters! We stayed conveniently at the center of town at the 4 star Hotel Cortina.
Thank you to Ken Fuhrer & Dave Gruss (Telluride locals & intrepid RW guides) for leading us on this brilliant tour of the Dolomiti! They answered my gazillions of questions & without them I would have been lost on the first turn!
If you are looking for an authentic travel experience in beautiful locations around the world head over to the Ryder-Walker website to check out destinations. These guys will take great care of you from the moment you inquire about a trip, during the planning process & on your epic journey! Call them at 888-586-8365 Also be sure to follow them on Facebook & Twitter
Disclosure: Ryder-Walker is a travel partner. I’m thrilled to share them with you. All opinions are my own. Thanks for reading!