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Thought the Dolomites were just a winter hotspot? Think again. Savvy travellers know that these peaks have allure long after the snow has melted. Seduced by off-piste spas, boutique hotels and show-stopping scenery, we’re heading to the mountains this summer.
The jagged peaks of the Dolomites (pronounced doh-loh-mee-tee in Italian) have emerged as the secret winter hotspot for insiders looking to avoid crowded pistes, but those even more clued up know that this region is a prime destination even after the snow has melted and the goggle tans have faded. Off-piste you’ll find boutique spas, a burgeoning culinary scene and world-class hotels. Plus, if you’d rather shacking up in a rifugi (the traditional cosy mountain huts dotted across the valleys) there’s plenty of those too.
Go for a leisurely (or not) stroll
Like clockwork, the Dolomites put on a daily sunset show as the mountain range fades from fiery reds to soft pinks and warm oranges. The best way to experience this phenomenon? Al naturale (that is, on foot).
Breathe-it-to-believe-it clean air, mild temperatures and green hills stretching to the horizon make this prime hiking territory – and with over 200 miles of trails that range from easy rambles through flowery fields to multi-day jaunts, there’s plenty of choice whether you’re a gym-once-a-year type of person or of the ultra-marathon brigade.
If you need a little more incentive to don your walking boots, the Peaks of Gastronomy event serves up something more appetising by marrying great scenery with even better food.
During this highlight of the summer season in Alta Badia, eight mountain huts (with four Michelin stars between them) plate up a rainbow of flavours as each kitchen chooses a colour on which to base their menu. Dishes are made with the freshest South Tyrolean produce and paired with a sommelier-selected glass of the region’s wine.
Explore via ferrata
Alternatively, kick things up a notch and channel your inner rock climber. Throughout the range there are numerous via ferratas (protected climbing routes) suitable for all ages and fitness levels, featuring iron cables, steps and ladders that follow the contours of the Dolomites’ walls.
For beginners, Monte Piana ferrata departs from Landro Lake, following a marked track that reaches a short, well-secured, fixed-rope route that leads to the summit cross before descending from the Forcella dei Castrati and traversing the gentle northern slope of the southern crest. Sweaty palms, panoramic views and an inimitable alpine glow are guaranteed.
Bathe in the hay
While some bathe in mud, in the Dolomites hay reigns supreme. For over a century, farmers have been treating achy muscles with a heated bath containing a mixture of Swiss mountain pine, mountain grass, hay and medicinal herbs including arnica, valerian and fescue.
While you may not be tending to cows and plowing the fields, you’ll likely be feeling sore from all that hiking – so do as the farmers do. Hotel Heubad’s Marmot Hut offers a modern version of this tradition during which baths are filled with 40 types of grass and flowers.
To reach the hotel (and utter relaxation), guests must trek for three hours – but with a route that takes you across the Pries meadows and offers views of the formidable Langkofel Mountain, every step is worth it.
Luxury lodging at Rosa Alpina
Continue your foray into traditional country living with a stay at Rosa Alpina, the luxury lodge in the quaint San Cassiano village. Owned and passed down through generations by the Pizzinini family since the 1930s, the building itself dates back to 1850.
Inside, Rosa Alpina’s rich heritage manifests in local antiques, wood carvings, framed vintage photographs, museum-worthy frescoed walls and a convivial family feel that lends itself more to a guest lodge than George Clooney-approved hotel.
Quietly luxurious, the hotel is understated in everything but its gastronomic credentials; the in-house restaurant St Hubertus has three Michelin stars. For a true taste of Italian dolce vita book your stay in Chalet Zero which boasts floor-to-ceiling windows, an open-plan kitchen, private garden, dining room and outdoor jacuzzi – oh and did we mention the Finnish sauna?
Embrace that sedentary lifestyle
If long walks and strenuous climbs aren’t your thing, there’s a way to integrate yourself into the region’s natural splendour that doesn’t involve hiking boots.
Flanked by mountain peaks and enjoying 300 days of sunshine a year, South Tyrol may be cut out for the oh-so strenuous activity of sunbathing poolside before a facial or massage. Wellbeing is built into the Dolomites.
Locals here take relaxation as seriously as they do exercise, hence the mega spa complex in Merano – one of the region’s major towns. While alarms bells may ring at the word ‘spa complex’, Terme Merano assuages any preconceptions of crowded pools and a one-size-fits-all mentality.
Built into the landscape of the town, this haven of wellness blends at once seamlessly and boldly with its surroundings, its stylish linear glass-and-steel cube protruding brilliantly from the mountainscape. Spend the day soaking up rays, good energy and natural minerals in the thermal baths.
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