Residents of Italy’s most northerly province — nestled against the Austrian border — speak German and Italian, as well as the third language, Ladin. Some hotel staff dress in the traditional Lederhosen, while at traditional dining rooms (Stube), German and Italian cooking styles collide to create fusion menus showcasing local, seasonal produce with an emphasis on sustainability.
This autonomous Italian province is home to the highest density of decorated chefs in the country. Culinary standards here are as high as the surrounding mountains, with 20 restaurants together boasting 27 Michelin stars (four stars can be found in an area of under six square miles in Alta Badia), with chef Norbert Niederkofler, earning a third star last year for his restaurant at the Hotel Rosa Alpina in San Cassiano.
But you don’t have to eat in a restaurant to enjoy innovative food. A new initiative in Alta Badia gives visitors the chance to wine and dine in the great outdoors. Choose from cooking sessions and wine tasting with a sommelier in mountain huts, to dinner under the twinkling stars, or sample dumplings and other local delicacies in the forest to the sounds of live music. There’s also the opportunity to eat in farmhouses — known locally as ‘viles’ — where guests can try delicious Ladin recipes passed down through generations. Some of the most popular farmhouse where guests can dine include Runch, Alfarëi and Survisc.
With 300 days of sunshine, working up an appetite is easy with ample opportunity to explore the great outdoors. Enjoying UNESCO World Heritage Site status, the Dolomites has thousands of square miles of hiking and cycle trails to explore, ranging from easy strolls to more challenging routes, with many offering opportunities to stop at cosy mountain huts (rifugio), inns and wineries.
Adrenalin junkies will also want to check out the numerous via ferrata and climbing opportunities — and if you can’t face the steep ascent, there are plenty of chairlifts to whisk you to the top.
Three activities to try in Alta Badia
During the summer, the region’s ‘Bike Friendly’ initiative offers road and mountain bikers detailed maps with recommended routes, cable-cars transport bicycles free of charge, and ‘Bike Friendly’ hotels go out their way to cater for cyclists. Daily guided excursions are plentiful, with free tours three times a week from May to July, and roads close for several non-competitive cycle events in June. The most notorious race, the Maratona dles Dolomites, takes place on 7 July this year and sees some 9,000 cyclists race three different routes, the longest covering 85 miles and including a 13,880ft climb. Passionate cyclists also meet on the scenic Dolomites pass roads for two non-competitive bicycle events, the Dolomites Bike Day in mid-June and the Sellaronda Bike Day at the end of June. For the occasion, several pass roads are closed for motorised traffic and reserved only for cyclists.
Situated in the heart of the Dolomites, Alta Badia has a plethora of hiking routes, many carpeted in wild flowers and including panoramic views. When the sun sinks, the mountains of Alta Badia are among the places in which to see the famous Alpenglow (the phenomenon when the majestic mountains are illuminated in magnificent shades of red, pink and orange).
This summer, visitors can join the Dolomites Yoga Days with Egon Castlunger, an instructor from La Villa in Alta Badia. The lessons and workshops cater for all levels and focus on positions, correct breathing and the meditative aspect of hatha yoga. Where better to learn how to breathe deeply and make the most of the mountain air?