The Spectacular Dolomites

The Dolomites, at the top of Italy, with jagged peaks, sheer cliffs and a landscape that looks like rock castles and cathedrals, are often referred to as one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in the world. The beautiful Italian mountains are located in the northeast part of the country just south of the Austrian border. They are a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 18 peaks that are more than 10,000 feet.

The Spectacular Dolomites

The most famous town in this section of Italy is Cortina d”Ampezzo, known as one of the worlds oldest and most stylish Alpine ski resorts. Since this trip is in the early fall, my husband and I headed to a vastly different town in the Val Gardena, called Ortisei, about 20 minutes off the Brenner Autostrada.

Ortisei, also called St. Ulrich or Urtijei, is the biggest village in the valley. When I think of valley, I tend to think of low laying land with gentle slopes between hills or mountainsides.  Ortisei is in a valley that lies at 4055 feet with dramatic peaks rising high above its green meadows.

Arriving in the Village of Ortisei in the Dolomites

Our hotel for this area was the Hotel Gardena Grodnerhof.

Hotel Gardena

Hotel Gardena Grounds

We have stayed at many famous and fine hotels but I have to say that this hotel was exceptional. The 5 star, family run hotel had impeccable service, excellent food, beautiful rooms and spa but it was the friendliness of the owners, Hugo and Cinzia Brernardi and their staff that made it special.

The hotel is located just across the river from the pedestrian center of town.

View from the River

The always upward streets are lined with pastel colored hotels, shops and restaurants, four churches and a museum.

Colorful Hotels Lining the Street

On the main square is the pretty little church of St. Antonio with a charming fountain nearby.

Parish Church on the Square

While the area is known for its winter skiing, this time of the year most people are here to enjoy the mountain experience either by hiking, biking, rock climbing or hang gliding. Many of my readers thought that I was very brave when I flew in an open cockpit biplane in Maine. Well…I am not so brave and I can let you know that I did none of the above. Instead, my husband and I drove a portion of the Great Dolomite Road.

Dolomites look like rock castles

Let me see if I can describe this adventure for you. The road is narrow and winding with hairpin bends, and no shoulder or guard rails most of the way. I’m always on the side of the car that is next to the plunging drop offs. Many would think this is thrilling…myself, I thought it was heart pounding. Reaching the 7000 foot pass at the halfway point was beautiful. Reaching that pass without being scraped off the road by a large bus was priceless.

Arriving back at the hotel, we celebrated the day with a cocktail on our terrace before dinner.

Cocktails on the Terrace

I am getting so spoiled with the wonderful little munchies that always come when you order something to drink.

Dinner was delicious. We started with a marinated chicken breast with fresh fennel and orange salad.

Marinated Chicken Breast with Fennel and Orange Salad

Next was Garganelli with octopus, pesto and Borlotti beans.

Garganelli with Octopus, Pesto and Borlotti Beans

The main course was roasted rabbit leg with potato-chanterelles “Grostel” on chervil sauce.

Roasted Rabbit Leg with Potato-Chanterelles Grostei on Chervil Sauce

This was all accompanied with a wonderful bottle of white wine from the area. Tomorrow we will be accompanying the sommelier to the vineyards in the area to learn more about the wine that we just enjoyed.

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About Karen

I travel the back roads of New England and beyond, sharing great food and interesting places.
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26 Responses to The Spectacular Dolomites

  1. Kristy says:

    I love my mid-day vacation when I get your posts. Fabulous! Keep ‘em coming. :)

  2. You have an artists eye for photography Karen!
    Thank you for sharing those pictures
    I agree with Kristy..they are like a mini vacation

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sawsan, Thank you so much for your nice comment. Coming from someone who has such lovely photos…that is a real compliment. I’m happy that you and Kristy think of my posts as a mini vacation.

  3. ceciliag says:

    How wonderful. Simply grand,, and that gorgeous hotel and those houses in the village.. wow.. c

    • Karen says:

      Hi Celi, Thank you for you comment. The village of Ortisei is beautiful, especially with all of the flowers cascading down the buildings. You are right…simply grand.

  4. ChgoJohn says:

    Such a truly beautiful village and valley! And it looks like the weather has been very cooperative for your trip so far. May it continue. I’m very much looking forward to your next post(s).

    • Karen says:

      Hi John, Thank you for your comment. You are right, the weather has been fantastic so far. It certainly is good for taking photos of this lovely area. I am so happy that you are enjoying the posts. More to come.

  5. Tandy says:

    Hope you have a super time in the vineyard! The dolomites look impressive and I would have loved the car ride :)

  6. So pretty – looks like you are getting closer to the Alps:-). I love the idea of the snacks with your cocktails…that would be a great concept back here in the states!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Becki, Thank you for your comment. You are right…the Dolomites are part of the Italian Alps. They got their name from the man who was studying the type of rocks the mountains consist of. I wish they would serve little snacks with your cocktails at home also. You are lucky if you get a nut or a pretzel. We have had little bites of fancy sandwiches, etc. everywhere we go.

  7. Charles says:

    Wow, another place I’d never heard of and am now insanely jealous of you for! I love it. That mountain is incredible – it’s like everything around it is green and foresty and then suddenly this giant rock “stump” just rises out of the hills. Incredible… I wonder how it formed.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Charles, I really enjoyed your comment. The Dolomites are so different from other mountains…either they are extremely pointed or have rather flat tops. I think that is why so may hikers and climbers love them. You are so lucky to be in Europe …you don’t have to spend hours on a plane to travel to our favorite places.

  8. Just gorgeous. Now I really want pistachios!

  9. Zoe says:

    All that I can say when I read your posts is … WOW.
    The locations, the food and the photos are amazing. I do so envy you. :)

  10. spicegirlfla says:

    Beautiful view from the river! You certainly have a good eye for photography! I love that you get little nibbles with drink orders!! It may seem like I consume alot of alcohol with my recipes, but I’m a lightweight and like to have something to nibble on when I drink!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Linda, Thank you for your lovely compliment. I do love the little nibbles and wish we would get them with cocktails at home. Most all of them are little hors d’oeuvres that not only taste good but are so pretty.

  11. cabinet stew says:

    Wow!…wait!..hang on a minute.. I gotta go call that hotel and book a trip!!!! ;-)
    Fantastic scenery and what a car trip – good there was steady hand at the wheel!!

    • Karen says:

      Love the comment! If anyone goes to this area and doesn’t stay at Hotel Gardena, they will really be missing a wonderful hotel. It will go down as one of my top ten ever. You are right…a steady hand at the wheel on the roads is extremely important.

  12. fuzziepotato says:

    Hi there! All I have to say is WOW…I need to go there!! The village is just so unbelievably picturesque–heh, makes me feel relaxed just looking at the photos. I’m looking forward to reading your other posts from Italy!

  13. niasunset says:

    Flowers, flowers, fascinated me! What a wonderful photographs. Thanks and Love, nia

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nia, Thank you so much for your nice compliment. The Dolomite region of Italy is so beautiful this time of the year with all the flowers in bloom.

  14. Pingback: Time Flies | Back Road Journal

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