Here’s Why You Should Add the Dolomites to Your Summer Travel Itinerary

Majestic mountains.

Majestic limestone peaks, verdant meadows, and emerald lakes—the Dolomites have some of Italy’s most spectacular natural scenery. Located between Venice and Austria, the mountains have long been a favourite ski destination for Italians, who flock there during the Christmas holidays, but the region is also becoming popular in the summer for hiking and other outdoor activities. If you’re going to the Venice Biennale, which runs from April 23 through November 27, it’s easy to add on a few days in the Dolomites.



If you only visit one town, make it Cortina d’Ampezzo, nicknamed the Pearl of the Dolomites. With its pastel pink and yellow buildings, the historic centre looks like the set of a Wes Anderson film. The place to stay is Cristallo, a Luxury Collection Hotel, which opened in 1901 and has hosted celebrities and aristocrats including Frank Sinatra and Brigitte Bardot. In 1956, the U.S. Olympic team used the hotel’s ice-skating rink to practice and the 1963 film The Pink Panther was filmed there. The spa, with its Roman-style indoor pool that looks out over the mountains, is the perfect place to unwind after a strenuous hike.



“Cortina is the perfect place for whoever wants to spend a few days immersed in nature, surrounded by mountains, breathing in the fresh air,” says Andrea Ronchetti, Cristallo’s general manager, who moved to Cortina d’Ampezzo from Rome. “There’s a multitude of activities in the mountains in both the winter and summer, from strolls to skiing, from cycling to shopping, from eating well to relaxing in Cristallo’s marvelous spa.”


Hikers can take the Tofana cable car up the mountain, where there’s a network of trails. Restaurant Col Druscié 1778 serves Alpine specialties like apple strudel and farther up the mountain, you’ll find one of the highest-elevation pizzerias in Italy, Ra Valles. But for a true gastronomic delight, splurge on a meal at the SanBrite or stop by El Brite de Larieto, which makes incredible cheese and yogurt, for fondue and house-made charcuterie.



It’s about a 40-minute drive to Instagram-famous emerald lake Lago di Braies from Cortina d’Ampezzo. Get there early to rent a little wooden rowboat and paddle around the lake. Or grab a bite at the kiosk near the hotel and find a spot to picnic along the trail that winds around the lake’s perimeter.


If you have a bit more time, you might want to drive an hour west through the mountains to Corvara in Badia and check into Hotel La Perla. A member of Leading Hotels of the World, this family-run hotel is the epitome of Alpine chic, with cozy wood-panelled rooms, a Michelin-starred restaurant, and a fantastic spa. Don’t miss the wine cellar tour and a peek at owner Ernesto Costa’s impressive collection of vintage motorcycles.



The area has also welcomed some sleek new hotels, like Hotel de Len in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Forestis, and Manna Resort near Bolzano, that are bringing fresh, modern alternatives to the region’s traditional Alpine-style accommodations.