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 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.
Our hotel for this area was the Hotel Gardena Grodnerhof.
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.
The always upward streets are lined with pastel colored hotels, shops and restaurants, four churches and a museum.
On the main square is the pretty little church of St. Antonio with a charming fountain nearby.
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.
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.
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.
Next was Garganelli with octopus, pesto and Borlotti beans.
The main course was roasted rabbit leg with potato-chanterelles “Grostel” 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.