“Never call it Prosecco! It’s Trentodoc!” Unlike the mass-produced sparkling wine that’s become ubiquitous in the UK, Trentino’s finest fizz is produced using the same method as Champagne. And our guide at the Endrizzi vineyard is keen to impress this upon us.
Set in the valley amongst the Dolomite mountains — 12 miles north of Trento, and just nine miles from our final destination — Endrizzi has been producing wine since 1885. And the quality shows, with familiar varietals such as Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio alongside local grapes including Teroldego and the aforementioned Trentodoc.
Wine tasting at a vineyard isn’t your typical start to a ski trip. But then, as you may know, they do things their own way in Italy. And food and wine are as important to the experience as the slopes.
Here in Trentino you can be on the shores of Lake Garda, sampling wine at source, visiting the capital Trento, and then up on the slopes within a couple of hours. In fact, it’s little more than 30 minutes to the mountain village of Fai della Paganella.
I’ve skied several times on the other side of the Brenta Dolomites, at the slightly more glamorous resort of Madonna di Campiglio; Paganella is a little more ‘ski and be seen’ rather than ‘see and be seen’. With more than 30 miles of slopes, it’s not short of runs. And given the plentiful snow in March, we had little need for the snow cannons, which cover 100% of the pistes in this part of Trentino.
I ask Ingo, our instructor, what people come to Paganella for: “You can cover most runs in two days,” he says. “The appeal is the value and the long slopes.”
There’s one black run and a good range of reds and blues, making it ideal for intermediate skiers and families especially.
The highest point, Cima Paganella, is a relatively low 6,969ft above sea level. The views are spectacular — vineyards, lakes, rivers and towns spread at your feet. And if you want to see the scenery really sparkle, there’s night skiing every Tuesday and Friday. Twice a week in Andalo, on the Altopiano della Paganella, skiers can tackle the floodlit ‘Cacciatori 1’, a generously wide, two-mile run that makes for easy cruising descents under the stars.
Our legs exhausted by moguls, we cut the evening’s ski short and head instead for dinner at nearby Rifugio Dosson, a slick, modern but distinctly Alpine restaurant set at 4,760ft by the Andalo-Doss Pelà cable car. The simple, local menu is a showcase of everything this part of Italy does well — antipasti, polenta, venison, Fiorentina steak and plenty of Teroldego wine.
We take the easy ride home: the cable car to the sizeable village of Andalo, and then one of the regular buses to our comparatively teeny base at Fai della Paganella, home to just 15 hotels to Andalo’s 60.
Ski in, city out
The charming, cobble-stoned university city of Trento is something of a revelation. With a Roman history and an Austrian past — as an important trading point between northern and southern Europe — it’s almost uniformly blessed with medieval, Renaissance and 18th-century architecture, with few modern buildings in its ancient centre.
Famous for the 16th-century Council of Trento, which was established as a reaction to the Protestant Reformation, it became an important general council of the Roman Catholic Church, and the city, despite its appearance and history, has a lively, youthful feel.
The old centre has an alluring mix of shops, bars and restaurants — and a market on Sundays — all naturally blending into its elegant streets and palazzi. There’s plenty to explore — notably the famous Buonconsiglio Castle — but like all destinations that are assured of themselves, it’s a pleasant place just to be.
In contrast, Le Albere is the new neighbourhood in town at the heart of which lies the Museo delle Scienze, or MUSE, designed by Renzo Piano. Opened in 2013, this is a multimedia, interactive, hands-on kind of museum, conceived to be central to the local community.
As we wander back to the old town, the view of the mountain-shaped geometry of MUSE with the Dolomites as a backdrop seems as fitting to Trento as the ancient Palazzo Pretorio, flanked by the Torre Civica Cathedral; Trento’s is a view worth savouring. So, we make time for just one last stop before our departure at Caffe Excelsior in the old town for a glass of Trentodoc. This is the kind of apres I could get used to.
How to do it
In Paganella: Hotel Al Sole, B&B doubles from £118; in Trento: Hotel America, B&B doubles from £81. Book via visittrentino.info
Six-day lift passes cost £208.
Ski hire from £28 per day. sportlifee.com
Published in the Winter Sports supplement, distributed with the November 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)