Italy’s Val Gardena is a spectacular choice for a vacation in the snow. When it comes to skiing, hiking and exploring nature, it is unparalleled. Nestled in the UNESCO-protected Dolomite mountains, it’s one of the most famous places in Italy and Europe as a winter resort. This lovely alpine valley is the perfect place to get moving in the snow or relax at some of the amazing hotels.
Getting to know Val Gardena
Located in the northeast corner of Italy, this valley is in the autonomous province of South Tyrol. It is one of 2 provinces that then make up the autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. The capital of the region and biggest city is pretty Bolzano.
The valley’s main river is the rio Gardena. It cuts and weaves its way through the spectacular Dolomite mountain range of the valley. The Val Gardena is composed of three towns – Ortisei, Santa Christina, and Selva. Ortisei is the center of life in the Val Gardena. It’s downtown pedestrian zone is a great stop for shopping or a stroll. Don’t miss taking home some of the area’s famous wood carvings!
A trip to the Val Gardena is best with a rental car. Trains to arrive into Bolzano, but to explore all this area has to offer, having your own wheels makes it much easier!
Winter activities in the Val Gardena
This is one of the most famous places in the world for those who love snow sports. Little kids here learn to ski almost before they learn to walk! You can explore 750 miles of pristine slopes across the Val Gardena, Alpi di Suisi, Sella Ronda and Dolomites superski.
The Dolomite mountains and snowy hills around the valley make a postcard perfect setting for your winter holiday. There is also a state of the art lift system in the valley that brings you to miles and miles of new slopes.
For those who don’t ski or snowboard, you can try your hand at snowshoeing or sledding. Or even a simple, breathtaking hike through the fresh snow. Those traveling with little ones will even find trails available with strollers!
And for those who really want to relax, there are a huge variety of rifugi and mountain huts to fill up with local food (and a grappa or two!) when you get off the slopes. Still not enough? Let us show you the best places for an après-ski! This Italian tradition is a bit like a happy hour aperitivo when the sun starts to go down and the slopes close. Live music, dancing and drinks in the snow makes an unforgettable experience!
It’s also spectacular in the summer, with fields of green and animals in pastures. It’s never too hot so it’s a great stop for families looking to be active but avoid the beach!
Unique culture and cuisine
What makes this area of Italy so special is the unique culture of South Tyrol. Val Gardena is one of five valleys with a majority of Ladin speakers. Ladin (or ladino in Italian) isn’t a dialect but a separate language. The majority of people in the Val Gardena speak ladin as their mother language, adding german and then italian as their second and third. It’s a pretty, lilting language that sounds familiar but foreign. It is taught and spoken in schools and government offices. Though you are still in Italy, it’s the first sign that you are in a very special and unique part of the country!
On your first visit to Val Gardena, you may be surprised at a menu if you expect stereotypical “italian” cuisine. Italy’s regions are vastly different, and this also applies to the table. Dishes you find in the Val Gardena are historically closer to Austro-Hungaric cuisine than Italian! Butter takes the place of olive oil, and sauerkraut is a frequent guest at the table. The food you want to eat to fuel up for the snow!
Some of our favorites are Crafuncins – little pasta bites are filled with spinach and ricotta cheese. They are boiled and served with molten butter and grated parmesan cheese. Goulash (Gulasch) is a another dish you cannot miss. It is a hearty meat stew that is common in the Alps. Here in the Val Gardena, they eat it with a local pasta called spätzle.
Trekking or hiking you will also see lots of farms with cows. You can stop and get fresh milk, butter and cheeses from these small producers at their homes. It’s special experience in the valley and one that kids and adults love!
Accommodations for every type of traveler
One of the best hotels for families in the world is the unparalleled Cavallino Bianco. Here at Bella Vita Travels, we do travel solo or in couples – but we all also have children of different ages. Organizing a tailor made holiday for all types of client or family means that we have tried just about everything!
Located in Ortisei, Cavallino Bianco is a 5-star hotel that is completely geared towards families and sharing time together. From ski classes with the tiniest ones to an adult only spa, it’s the perfect spot for a family.
Another great choice is the 5-star Adler spa resort. This ski-in/ski-out hotel is located in the center of Ortisei and a 5-minute walk of Dolomites and Val Gardena. It boasts a great spa and wellness centre and the biggest Water World of the Dolomites. It also has all year daily guided outdoor programs like skiing, snowshoeing, trekking, and e-biking.
These are just a few of our favorite spots, but throughout the Val Gardena there are so many wonderful options!
Winter wanderlust in the mountains
We hope that these itinerary ideas provided some travel inspiration for a dream Italian winter vacation. Please check out our website or contact us directly for other ideas in the Dolomites and also our other destinations.
As always, its our mission and promise to make your travel dreams come true!