Where to stay in the Dolomites

Sep 21st, 2012, 04:47 PM
  #1  
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Where to stay in the Dolomites

Roughly sketching out a 2-week trip next May. First task is to get airline tickets, probably fly into Verona and fly out of Turin.

Would spend the first 2 or 3 nights in Verona. Or I could shorten it as I've been before. VRN seems to be as good an airport to reach the Dolomites as any, unless someone has a better suggestion. The main constraint is that these would be award airline tickets, so my options are probably Milan, Venice, Verona. Maybe INN if AZ has flights from FCO to INN.

So I would pick up the rental car in Verona and head up towards Bolzano. Searched accommodations in Bolzano and Ortisei. Seems like the hotels/inns in Bolzano are pricey. There are some places north/northwest of Bolzano which are already sold out. They appear to be in the wilderness.

A few are still available, like 5-10 km away. I don't have plans to do any serious hiking. I get enough workout mainly walking miles to see the sights, take pictures. Mainly would be interested in cable cars or funiculars to get to some scenic points.

So the question is, is there less convenience to be away from the bigger towns? Will you be stuck with whatever the hotel offers for meals or is it easy to drive into towns like Bolzano and Ortisei for dinner?

I noticed some of the Bolzano hotels near the center charge a lot for parking, so it sounds like other popular Italian towns which are difficult to drive into, with difficult parking, ZTL, etc.

Some places offer shuttles into Bolzano. I haven't looked extensively at accommodations in Ortisei or some of the other towns but it seems like you'd have similar choices, between really being away from towns to being in more central locations. But I wonder if it's as difficult to stay in these towns in the mountains with a car as it would be in areas like Tuscany.
scrb11 is offline  
Sep 21st, 2012, 05:20 PM
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Bolzano is a very big city with population of over 100,000. Ortisei is a much smaller town with a population of over 4,000. The scenary around Otisei is magnificent - we did not sleep there but passed through this town.

I do not know what your preferences are, but if I were to go once again to the Dolomites I would prefer not to base myself in a big city in Trento. Choose a small town or village that is in a valley, not high up a mountain, so that it will be more easy to access.

We had stayed in accommodation in Oberreggen (it is up a steep mountain, and there is nothing really except to ski and a couple of hotels and houses - I would not really recommend staying there), and in Silandro (or Schlanders), which is about 50km west of Bolzano, a lovely small town with a very German/Austrian feel. As I said, Ortisei (highter in altitude than Silandro) in Val Gardena has some of the most beautiful scenary, If you dont like very steep mountain roads do not pass through the Passo di Stelvio to reach or leave this area, but if you don't mind the high long winding mountain road, you will be rewarded with the most spectacular scenary.

Yes, some hotels are very expensive in this region, but if you look hard, you will find something to suit your budget for sure. If you give me your preferred location (google map destinations you prefer so that you get a better insight to distances, location etc), I would gladly assist you in finding some accommodation within your budget.
Anna_Galea is offline  
Sep 21st, 2012, 05:27 PM
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Mainly would be interested in cable cars or funiculars to get to some scenic points.

Have you checked what is operating in May? For example, in the Val Gardena (where Ortisei is located) very few of the lifts are open in May:
http://www.valgardena.it/en/lifts/page65.html

I like Bolzano (have been a few times) but probably wouldn't pick that as a central point for great scenery, if that is your interest--would look further east to the Val Gardena, Alta Badia or towards Cortina.
ms_go is online now  
Sep 21st, 2012, 07:04 PM
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So the plan was to pick up a car in Verona and drive up. Viamichelin shows the drive from Verona to Bolzano is about 2 hours.

How much further to Ortisei, and it's up steep roads?

very few of the lifts are open in May:
Thanks for the link. I was planning to go the last week of May but looks like the lifts aren't open until the end of June?

I may have to rethink the schedule a bit. I was also thinking of Piedmont, including Aosta and nearby trips to the Alps. But maybe they have a similar schedule for cable cars there too.
scrb11 is offline  
Sep 21st, 2012, 07:18 PM
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Yes, some hotels are very expensive in this region, but if you look hard, you will find something to suit your budget for sure. If you give me your preferred location (google map destinations you prefer so that you get a better insight to distances, location etc), I would gladly assist you in finding some accommodation within your budget.

Near Bolzano, I was looking at this one:

http://www.booking.com/hotel/it/wund...cd67576;dcid=1

The ones in town are 3 times the cost or more. I can afford that but it seems like a lot of these have amenities that I wouldn't necessarily use. If I drive out and return in the evenings just to recover and sleep, I don't see the point in spending more.

Except perhaps the convenience of being in the middle of the city, but also the hassles of parking.


This one is near Ortisei, again very reasonable rate but getting good reviews:

http://www.booking.com/hotel/it/brau...313cace03b6X10

In fact, at least on Booking.com, most of the lodgings closest to Ortisei are sold out for the last couple of days of May already!


I guess it's a matter of whether I can drive from Verona to Ortisei easily in one day. Distance isn't bad but the terrain is what I'm uncertain about.
scrb11 is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2012, 12:07 AM
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On our trip to the Dolomites, we flew into Venice, stayed in Cortina for one night and then here in Castelrotto for a few nights
http://www.garni-silbernagl.com/
We visited in May and found Cortina very quiet. Castelrotto was not busy but not dead either, there were restaurants open but not all of them. We loved the place we stayed and Petra, the owner. She suggested an area we could explore and a lift that was open and we had a wonderful day, walking in the mountains with hardly anyone around. It was sunny and the mountains were spectacular.

We visited Bolzano and wouldn't choose it as a base. A smaller town in the mountains would be nicer.

One thing that surprised us was how much like Austria this part of the world is, most people speak German, the houses look Austrian and while you can get Italian food, you can also get Austrian style food. To us it seemed quite strange but not when you consider history and where borders once were.

Hope this is food for thought.

Kay
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Sep 22nd, 2012, 01:52 AM
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scrb11 - If you like a particular hotel and booking.com shows that they are full up, email them directly through their website, and ask if they have vacancies on the particular days you would be staying there. It can be the case that they leave some rooms to be booked only through their site, or maybe they do not allow bookings any longer through a booking site, or maybe have a cancellation. So do send them an email as soon as possible to check availibility.

About cable cars - To check whether any particular ones are operating, also try and find the website of that particular ski resort or town, and email them and ask. You will find the information you need somewhere for sure by browsing on the net.

Regarding parking - In many cities and towns in Italy, there are restricted entry and/or parking zones in the very centre, so you do have to be careful where to park. Saying that, there are usually parking lots close to the centre, or in the case of medieval towns just outside the city walls, that provide parking. You have to be careful not to enter these restricted zones, as you will get the unpleasant surprise of receiving a fine from the municipal police of the locality through your car hire company. The car hire company even charges processing fees for the fine - often they just withdraw money from your credit card prior to informing you.

Asolutely agree with KayF that the northern area of the Dolomites has a very German feel (does not feel Italian at all) - in fact in the hotels of Oberreggen and Schlanders the receptionists did not even know how to speak Italian, and the cuisine in that area is totally Austrian/German. You certainly can tell the difference from the authentic Italian cuisine. Saying that, it is also very delicious if you dine in good restaurant. Has to do with the fact that some of this territory was taken over by the Italians after World War II, and the locals probably did not intermingle much with Italians, and kept their traditions, customs and kept on speaking German.

Also agree with KayF that a smaller town in the mountains (or maybe in a valley) would be nicer. We only stopped in Bolzano at a Police Station to ask the way to Obereggen, and it looked like a normal northern Italian city, like Trento for example.

You can most certainly arrive in Ortisei from Verona in one day - it is only a 2-hr drive - not too long a distance at all. I would be only slightly worried about that if you arrive in Verona late afternoon or evening - as you would need some time to reclaim baggages, pass through passport control, pick up car from rental office at airport etc. However, I do assume that Verona airport is relatively small compared to say Malpensa airport. In fact my husband is near me right now (he does all the driving), and he certainly agreed with me that you should not fret about that. What time would you be arriving in Verona? Just take a GPS with you and preplan your route (as the GPS does sometimes annoyingly take you through a longer route). So google your directions beforehand, and maybe even set your route on the GPS beforehand if you are going to use your own - my husband likes to do that, but again make sure you take the shortest and easiest route. I remember we had arrived in Bolzano in the evening to ask for directions to Oberreggen - and still arrived safely, and this location is high up a very steep, but not too long winding mountain road. But from Verona to Ortisei you should be fine. Schlanders is also a nice base for that area, but I do think that Ortisei area is even more spectacular. Don't worry, the town is not too small, it has over 4,000 inhabitants, so you will find good restaurants in the town for sure, although usually they do give a very good rate when you book on half board basis - if you find a hotel with good reviews regarding their cuisine, I would book on half board basis, and go to other restaurants for lunch when wandering around in the Dolomites. The apple pie with fresh cream is to die for in this area.

Please inform me if you are unable to find accommodation so that I can search for you also on Tripadvisor (sometimes you find accommodation in one site that is not found in another). Always try and find the hotel's website and email directly for special deals. Often they do give you a special off when asking for it, especially since they do have to pay a commission to a booking agent.
Anna_Galea is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2012, 04:23 AM
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Why don't you pick up your car further north in Trento or Bolzano, and then give yourself a shorter drive? It's a bit more expensive to do it this way (because you are paying for a train ticket and a car rental the same day), but it is a lot less stressful, especially if it is rainy.

You really don't need cable cars to enjoy the very moving beauties of the great valle d'Aosta, although if you were specifically thinking of doing the cable car ride into France over Mont Blanc/Monte Bianco, you would have check their schedule. Most of the walks in the valle d'Aosta are over very pleasant cow trails, unless you seek out serious hiking.

However, I would think it is still definitely cold and spring-weathr in May. (I was there in July.) You might look at hotel rates in the area just to get some sense of what the "season" is. If you are going to end up taking your chances of running into rain, low clouds or even snow falling in May in either place, my recommendation is to pick the Dolomiti, because that's a unique, spectacular sight.

If you can, avoid booking until you are already in Italy and can see what the weather is. There really is no point in going to the high mountains in Italy if all you'll see is fog or the peaks are wrapped in clouds so you get no sense of them. From Verona, you have almost unlimited sights of interest at your fingertips, including the beauties of the lakes, which can be quite sunny and flowery in May while the Alpine regions are drizzly and muddy and chilly.
pizzocchieri is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2012, 05:01 AM
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I was searching more for my own curiosity and future reference and found this link re: the lift network in a different area of the Dolomites, the Alta Badia: http://www.altabadia.org/en-US/lifts...dolomites.html

Most of these also open in June or after.

BTW, both of the sites I posted (valgardena.it and altabadia.org) are good general sources of information about the area, with maps, accommodations, webcams and much more. We used the Val Gardena site extensively when planning our last trip there.

And I agree with the above...if I was going in May I might try to allow some flexibility to adjust plans based on weather.
ms_go is online now  
Sep 22nd, 2012, 05:27 AM
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Stopped in Bolzano on our way to Ortisei. Very nice small city. Had lunch in the main square. Lovely. But, like the others, I wouldn't stay in it as my base for the Dolomites.

We stayed in Ortisei at the Hotel Digon. www.hoteldigon.com

Thought it was wonderful. A small, family run hotel. Comes with breakfast and dinner, which were great. Check it out.

Have no idea about what cable cars are running at the time you are going.
kenav is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2012, 05:32 AM
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If you are interested: I just checked the Hotel Digon's website. I see they give prices per night/per person for a week's stay. However, we didn't stay for a week, so if you're interested in less than a week, I would contact them and give them your dates and see what they say about staying for fewer days.
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Sep 22nd, 2012, 05:46 AM
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I am not sure about booking very very last minute upon arrival - OP said that many hotels are already fully booked end of May. You would find some hotel for sure, but maybe much less choice. End of May is very late Spring, so I would not worry too much about it - but if you do, then may be you can book accommodation a week or so before - you can get 10-day weather forecasts. But I would not start my holiday without booking anywhere. End of May is the start of the tourist season in Italy, and in other countries in Europe.

Anyway, you can never be sure of rainy weather any time of year in mountaineous areas. When we were near the Passo di Stelvio in September of 2005, very very high up the Dolomite mountains (2,757 elevation), locals were telling us that it was snowing in August, and whilst we were there in mid September, it was a nice sunny day (though of course very cold comparable to Silandro, which is still over 720 ft in elevation - we were wearing summer clothing in Silandro that September it was relatively very warm, you could feel the difference on the Stelvio Pass - due to the very very high altitude of this plateau - I believe it is on the highest plateau of the Dolomites. Ortisei is 1,236m above sea level.

We were in Trento and Madonna di Campiglio last December, and we never experienced a drop of rain, or snow, in fact even though there was snow on the slopes up the cable car for the skiers, it was nice sunny (and very cold) in the village of Madonna di Campiglio.

If it would be raining, just stay indoors or in the same town you base yourself in, or do not drive too far, as anyone might do in their own country. Again, Oritisei to Verona or vice versa is merely a two-hour drive, and unless there is a huge storm which went on for days, you just drive slowly, I am certain you will manage to arrive.In the highly unlikely even of a big storm, check into a hotel on your route. Again, even though daylight hours will be longer end of May, I would prefer it if your flight arrived at the very least early afternoon.

About low and high seasons - for these mountaineous regions it is the Wintertime that would be regarded high season rate-wise regarding hotels, because many go to these areas and hotels for skiing vcations. The rates really go up end of December to March when the snow would be very deep for the skiers. Rates will also go higher in July and August as many people are able to do their holidays during these months - even though they are the rainiest months - just googled to check this out. So I must stress again, no predications can ever be made weather-wise.
Anna_Galea is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2012, 06:06 AM
  #13  
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Thanks all for all the suggestions and offers of help.

First, my dates are dictated by the award ticket I could get. So far, my dates would be leaving the US on 5/25. I had planned to stay in Verona for 2 or 3 nights. I had originally conceived this as a Northern Italy tour over 2 weeks. But without Venice or Milan, more focusing on the Dolomites and Piedmont (more Torino, Aosta and Alps than the vineyards and hill towns south of Torino).

But I didn't know about uncertain weather in the mountains in late May, early June.

I may shorten my stay in Verona because I may also go this November as well, for Thanksgiving. Then in the summer I'd dedicate more time to the places which would be new.

Anna, good to know that I could drive to Ortisei from Verona in a couple of hours. But the award flights I would take wouldn't land there until 6:30 PM so I would probably be more inclined to spend at least a night there.
scrb11 is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2012, 06:32 AM
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Very late May is certainly more promising than earlier.

It's possible that the hotels you are looking at are showing unavailability for your specific dates because their computers don't handle bookings more than six months in advance. Some hotels may not be open. But there is nothing but hotels in some of the towns you are considering, and they are of substantial. Lots of rooms.

I don't want get you to do anything you'd be uncomfortable doing, or have you end up in accommodations you are unhappy with, but I wouldn't expect to find everything in a town like Orteisi booked in late May/early June on 24 hours notice.

But you should stay in Verona and get over your jet lag for sure when you arrive, and you do need to book that accommodation well in advance, because Verona is business and tourist town.

The problem with rain in the Dolomiti is not you getting wet or not enough places to stay dry indoors. It is that it isn't worth it to drive there or stay there if you can't see the peaks. Yes, it can rain on any given day of the year, but in summer, you are talking about passing rain. In Spring (which lasts until June 20), you can get a couple of days in a row of driving rain or grey overcast low enough to turn the appearance of the Dolomiti into any typical mountain forest. They are very high up, and many days of the year, they are literally inside the clouds.

I might consider reversing my trip. Landing in Verona but then heading to Piemonte. It's the same 2 hour drive (although again, I would cut the initial part of the drive with a fast train). I might try to put the Dolomiti last. But even then, I would only book a place with a good cancellation policy.
pizzocchieri is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2012, 10:27 AM
  #15  
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Well I could try to see if there's a flight into Turin and then fly out of Verona.

But wouldn't it be a similar weather situation with the Alps and Aosta?
scrb11 is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2012, 02:21 PM
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Since you would be arriving at 6.30pm the earliest, then I would stay the night in Verona, since by the time you pick your baggage, pass through passport control and pick-up your car, it might very well be around 8pm.

If you intend to also visit the Alps and Aosta, hotw about staying on a lakeside town or village on the Lake Maggiore, like Luino, Maccagno or Stresa, and do day trips to the Alps, from there. There are also ferry boats that take you to coastal towns of Lake Maggiore, both those of Italy and Switzerland, like Locarno. If it is a nice day you can do a day trip to Aosta and other towns and villages of the Alps. So, you intend to also visit the Alps (also magnificent in my opinion) I would fly into Turin (or Milan Malpensa airport) and fly out of Verona, or vice versa.
Anna_Galea is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2012, 02:50 PM
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scrb11,

I thought you'd be spending time in Torino before heading elsewhere. Also, I didn't mean to imply you shouldn't spend time in Verona before renting a car. You should. You should book one or 2 nights there, no matter where you are headed next.

But to answer your question directly, not only can the weather be different in each place, you can probably more easily enjoy the valle d'Aosta if the weather is not brilliantly clear, provided it is not absolutely storming. There is still a great deal of beauty in the majestic mountains and glaciers and waterfalls, plus there is the town of Aosta itself with its extremely interesting Roman and medieval sights.

The point of the Dolomiti is to see those incredible coral spires sticking all the way up into the sky. It's one thing to have a few wispy clouds maybe swirling around them. It's another to have such a low cloud cover you really only see 1/3 of their height. Sort of like going to see the Empire State building on a day when you can't see past the 27th floor. Just looks like any other big building.

I guess all I'm trying to convey is that if you are trying to plan a mainly scenic trip in the far north of Italy in that time of year, then it is probably good to decide in advance how you are going to deal with the reality that some kinds of dreary weather can entirely negate your reason for having come there. That includes lakes.

Seems to me your choices are 3:

a) Book the trip and if get bad weather, suck it up and enjoy the book by the fireside.

b) Book hotel reservations you can cancel in less than 24 hours, so if the latest weather forecast tells you it is pointless to go there, you don't and head for the sun

c) Book the trip taking your chances but knowing that if you get to a scenic destination and discover the weather is making you miserable, you will simply get up and go even if you have to eat the cost of a hotel night you are too late too cancel.

Which option you choose depends on your personality and whether you are willing to make sure you have internet the entire time you are traveling.

I might be inclined toward plan C, and book a trip to the Dolomiti with the knowledge that if will bail if need be, even if it costs money to bail.
pizzocchieri is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2012, 04:04 PM
  #18  
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Actually I would have a 5-hour layover in Rome, before taking a flight to either Verona or Turin. Main transatlantic flight would be LAX-FCO. That is unless some Air France awards open up and I go through CDG instead of FCO.

Yes if I reverse it and go to Turin first, then I would definitely spend a couple of nights in Turin (and maybe base there if Aosta and the surrounding mountains can be reached by day trips from Turin).

I'm not sure that reversing is an option though. I may be "stuck" with this itinerary if I want to claim that award ticket. With DL SkyMiles, you may have to take what you can get sometimes, though it's worked out well for me several times as other parts of Italy have been great from mid May into early June.
scrb11 is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2012, 04:10 PM
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Regarding the cable cars and chair lifts, looks like a couple of them may be open in mid or late May:

ORTISEI - ST.ULRICH
Seceda A 09.06 - 14.10 8.30 - 17.30
Fermeda B CLOSED
Rasciesa - Raschötz A 26.05 - 02.06
03.06 - 14.10 09.00 - 12.00
08.30 - 18.00 13.00 - 17.00
Alpe di Siusi
Seiser Alm A 18.05 - 22.06

01.09 - 04.11 08.30 - 17.00

23.06 - 31.08 08.30 - 18.00

Sole B 16.06 - 15.10 09.00 - 12.30
13.30 - 17.00

ALPE DI SIUSI - SEISER ALM
Bullaccia - Puflatsch B 9.00 - 17.00
Panorama B 8.30 - 17.00
8.30 - 18.00
Florian B 9.00 - 17.00
9.00 - 17.30
9.00 - 17.00
Spitzbühl B 8.30 - 17.15
Marinzen B 9.00 - 17.00
9.00 - 17.30
9.00 - 17.00
Seis - Seiser Alm A 26.05 - 09.09
10.09 - 02.11
8.00 - 19.00
8.00 - 18.00


In fact some of them are open for a few weeks rather than throughout the summer, at least going by their 2012 schedule?
scrb11 is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2012, 01:49 AM
  #20  
 
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Glad you are doing some research. Print out all usefule information, and take it with you on your trip, paperclipping them according to locations. I also do this for accommodations, car hire, etc.

If you already have been to Verona, then I would do the Alps and Dolomites. Yes, if you decide to land in Turin first, it is an option that you base yourself close to this city, maybe just a bit to its north (Turin airport is a few kms to the north of Milan city). Maybe if you calculate half an hour's drive or a bit less, you should be ok - unless you plan on visiting the city of Turin itself. Anyway, from Turin city to Aosta is only 1 hr 17 mins drive away on google maps - so you may do it for sure in a day trip. Avoid driving in the very centre of Turin though - unless you are experienced in driving in Italian cities, and are accustomed to their laws and regulations.

I have been once to Turin city, a long long time ago, maybe I was still young, but it did not feel the safest of places in the evenings, and was not impressed by this city. But that is now well over 25 years ago, and at the time I wasn't an experienced traveller. But I am sure that I will visit again with my family during a vacation in these coming years, as my kids and hubby are Juventus football club fans, and car fanatics - there is also a car museum in Turin.

Enjoy your planning - you will experience the most breath-taking mountain scenaries in these areas for sure, and also do maybe some daytrips to nearby surrounding towns and cities.

I would also book the trip and take your chances on the weather - as most tourists do - nobody can give you a guarantee of good whether wherever or whenever you go. If it is a rainy day, just avoid driving around in high altitudes or narrow roads (like the Passo di Stelvio) and relax somewhere nearby.
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