David and I first fell in love with the Dolomites while aboard the Orient Express in 2017, watching their dazzling peaks flick past our cabin window on our ride from Venice to London. So in October, on the tails of a work trip to Vigevano and Rome, we returned the Dolomites to celebrate my birthday and get a closer look.
The region is a beautiful blend of German and Italian Influences, and most locals speak both languages. We stayed at the charming Berghotel Ladinia, which was the first hotel to open in the area in 1930. Ladinia is also a sister property to La Perla Corvara (a member of Leading Hotels of the World) and has the world-class service and incredible food you’d expect from a LHW property with a homier, more intimate vibe. With only a handful of snug hotel rooms (each with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains) every corner is full of alpine charm, from the vintage key rack that welcomes you in the lobby to the pine chairs with hearts cut out of the backs in the dining room. Though small and unassuming, Ladinia had an incredible sense of place and looked after every detail. We booked their half board option which included fabulous breakfasts and three course dinners, which were a wonderful way to begin and end each day’s adventures.
During our quick 3 day trip we spent most of our time just driving the mountain passes taking in the views. We had low hanging fog for most of our trip, which both obscured and revealed stunning vistas in turn. On our first day we drove through Via Gardena, which winds through the mountains passing small hotels and ski resorts quietly waiting for their next season. We made it all the way to Val di Funes and St Johann in Ranui Church before looping back for a late lunch at Lafogl on the way back.
On day two we visited Lago di Braies, a spectacular alpine lake with cliffs plunging straight into the aqua waters. You can (and should!) rent a little rowboat to explore the water, and I would pack a picnic lunch if you have the chance to enjoy a meal while in the middle of the lake. That afternoon we continued on to Tre Cime di Lavaredo, and had very bad luck with the fog, which you can see in the image below where I’m standing with a wall of white behind me. We didn’t end up hiking as much as we hoped to because the trails have few markings and we didn’t want to get lost – a very real possibility! On our drive back down from the mountaintop, we tried pulling off onto a small peninsula where the fog had cleared to reveal a beautiful panoramic view of the valley below. Unfortunately, the ground was unstable and gave way under our front left wheel! We found ourselves teetering on two wheels and leaning off the edge of a cliff when an Italian family appeared at our car to assist, the husband urging us to get out of a back door and pull the car back as he threw the vehicle into reverse, backing the car out of harms way. After likely saving our lives he offered to take our picture with the view, and we returned the favor.
Our visit was a wonderful taste of this beautiful region and I’d love to return to ski in the future. If you plan a longer trip I highly recommend checking out Bon Traveler’s guide to the region which came in handy when planning our visit.