46 Best Sights in The Dolomites, Italy

Castel Trauttmansdorff

Fodor's choice

This Gothic castle was restored in the 19th century and now serves as a museum that celebrates more than 250 years of tourism in South Tyrol. But the real draw is the expansive garden, where exotic flora is organized by country of origin. The castle is about 2 km (1 mile) southeast of town on the Sentiero di Sissi; you can walk in about 45 minutes from the center of Merano on Sissi's Path, or take Bus No. 4 or 1B from the Merano train station.

Castello del Buonconsiglio

Fodor's choice
Castello del Buonconsiglio, Italy
Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH / Shutterstock

The position and size of this stronghold of the prince-bishops made it easier to defend than the Palazzo Pretorio. Look for the evolution of architectural styles: the medieval fortifications of the Castelvecchio section (on the far left) were built in the 13th century; the fancier Renaissance Magno Palazzo section (on the far right) wasn't completed until 300 years later. The 13th-century Torre dell'Aquila (Eagle's Tower) is home to the castle's artistic highlight, a 15th-century ciclo dei mesi (cycle of the months). The four-wall fresco is full of charming and detailed scenes of medieval life in both court and countryside.

Col Rodella

Fodor's choice

An excursion from Campitello di Fassa, about 4 km (2½ miles) west of Canazei, to the vantage point at Col Rodella has unmissable views. A cable car rises some 3,000 feet to a full-circle vista of the Heart of the Dolomites, including the Sasso Lungo and the rest of the Sella range.

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Elena Walch

Fodor's choice

This sustainably farmed 148-acre property produces some of the region's most renowned wines, in paricular Gewürztraminer and Pinot Nero. It's overseen by Elena herself along with her daughters Julia and Karoline. Stop by their gorgeous Castel Ringberg site for tastings in their wine shop, a tour that includes a short vineyard hike (May through October, by reservation), or lunch at their Ostaria al Castello, which has panoramic views over the vines and down to Lake Caldaro. A second vineyard site closer to Tramin, with a wine shop and a bistro, is open daily year-round.

San Giuseppe al Lago 1, Caldaro, 39052, Italy
0471-860172
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Castel Ringberg wine shop and osteria closed Tues. and Nov.–Mar., €25 for 2-hr vineyard tour with wine tasting

Lumen Museum

Fodor's choice

Take a cable car to the top of Kronplatz to reach this 19,375-square-foot museum dedicated to mountain photography (actually, you have your choice of eight different cable cars, two from the town of Brunico). Once inside, you’ll find pictures from alpine photography’s early days all the way to the present, taken by photographers from mountainous regions throughout the world and displayed across four floors. Lumen also houses AlpiNN, a casual restaurant from critically acclaimed chef Norbert Niederkofler of St. Hubertus fame. Note that the museum can be difficult to access in winter if you’re not a skier; it's down a slight, rather terrifying incline from the top of the mountain. Be aware that the museum closes at 4 pm (last admission at 3:30), so that you won't miss the last cable car back down.

Messner Mountain Museum Firmian

Fodor's choice

Perched on a peak overlooking Bolzano, the 10th-century Castle Sigmundskron is home to one of six mountain museums established by Reinhold Messner—the first climber to conquer Everest solo and the first to reach its summit without oxygen. The Tibetan tradition of kora, a circular pilgrimage around a sacred site, is an inspiration for the museum, where visitors contemplate the relationship between human and mountain, guided by images and objects Messner collected during his adventures. The museum is 3 km (2 miles) southwest of Bolzano, just off the Appiano exit on the highway to Merano.

Messner Mountain Museum Juval

Fodor's choice

Since 1983 this 13th-century castle in the hills above the hamlet of Stava has been the summer home of the South Tyrolese climber and polar adventurer Reinhold Messner—the first climber to conquer Everest solo. Part of the castle has been turned into one of six in Messner's chain of mountain museums, where visitors can view his collection of Tibetan art and masks from around the world. You can download an app to use as a self-guided tour. It's a 10-minute shuttle ride from the parking lot below, plus a 15-minute walk up to the castle, or a 60- to 90-minute hike on local trails; wear sturdy shoes, even if you take the shuttle, as the paths are uneven.

Messner Mountain Museum Ripa

Fodor's choice
This fascinating, comprehensive museum within the 13th-century Bruneck Castle looks at the lives of mountain-dwelling people from Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America through artifacts, tools, statues, paintings, living spaces, and more. Part of the experience is reaching the castle itself: it's a 15-minute hike up to it on a path accessed just off Brunico's pedestrian area.

MUSE – Museo delle Scienze di Trento

Fodor's choice

Extending over six floors, in a 41,000-foot space, this interactive science museum, designed by Renzo Piano, encourages families of all ages to explore science and nature. As befits the region, mountain imagery plays a big part in the displays and is used to investigate the Dolomites’ history and even life on earth. There’s also a sensory experience room for younger kids up to five years old.

Museo Archeologico dell'Alto Adige

Fodor's choice

This museum has gained international fame for Ötzi, its 5,300-year-old iceman, discovered in 1991 and the world's oldest naturally preserved body. In 1998 Italy acquired it from Austria after it was determined that the body lay 100 yards inside Italian territory. The iceman's leathery remains are displayed in a freezer vault, preserved along with his longbow, ax, and clothing. The rest of the museum relies on models and artifacts from nearby archaeological sites, and exhibitions change regularly. An English audio guide leads you not only through Ötzi's Copper Age, but also into the preceding Mesolithic and Neolithic eras, and the Bronze and Iron Ages that followed.

Via Museo 43, Bolzano, 39100, Italy
0471-320100
Sight Details
Rate Includes: €13, Closed Mon. Jan.–June and Oct. and Nov., Online reservations recommended up to 3 days in advance

Promenades

Fodor's choice

A stroll along one of Merano's well-marked, impossibly pleasant promenades may yield even better relaxation than time in its famous spa. Passeggiata Tappeiner (Tappeiner's Promenade) is a 3-km (2-mile) path with panoramic views from the hills north of the Duomo and diverse botanical pleasures along the way. Passeggiata d'Estate (Summer Promenade) runs along the shaded south bank of the Passirio River, and the Passeggiata d'Inverno (Winter Promenade), on the exposed north bank, provides more warmth and the Wandelhalle—a sunny area decorated with idyllic paintings of surrounding villages. The popular Austrian empress Sissi (Elisabeth of Wittelsbach, 1837–98) put Merano on the map as a spa destination; a trail named in her honor, the Sentiero di Sissi (Sissi's Walk), follows a path from Castel Trauttmansdorff to the heart of Merano.

Renon (Ritten) Plateau

Fodor's choice

The earth pyramids of Renon Plateau are a bizarre geological formation where erosion has left a forest of tall, thin, needlelike spires of rock, each topped with a boulder. To get here, take the Soprabolzano cable car from Via Renon, about 300 yards left of the Bolzano train station. At the top, switch to the electric train that takes you to the plateau, which is in Collalbo, just above Bolzano. The cable car takes about 12 minutes and the train takes around 18 minutes. The final 30-minute hike along gentle Trail No. 24 is free.

South Tyrolean Wine Museum

Fodor's choice

Head here to learn how local wine has historically been made, stored, served, and worshipped, through a series of entertaining exhibits.

Tre Cime di Lavaredo

Fodor's choice

Without a doubt, the Three Peaks—Cima Piccola (9,373 feet), Cima Grande (9,839 feet), and Cima Ovest (9,753 feet)—are the symbols of the Dolomite UNESCO World Heritage site. From the town of Misurina, only two of the Tre Cime are visible. In order to get up close and personal, drive or take a bus along the dedicated toll road (usually open June through October; car parking €30). Once at the top, follow Footpath 101 from Rifugio Auronzo to Forcella Laveredo (easy) for about an hour. There are many other footpaths and vie ferrate which allow you to climb the cime and access the base. Rifugi offer hot meals without a reservation, as well as dorm-style lodging, which is best reserved in advance.

Abbazia di Novacella

Novacella Monastery, Varna, Bolzano, Terntino, Alto Adige, Italy
gab90 / Shutterstock

This Augustinian abbey founded in 1142 has been producing wine for at least nine centuries and is most famous for the delicate stone-fruit character of its dry white Sylvaner. As you wander the delightful grounds, note the progression of Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque building styles. Guided tours of the abbey, in various languages, depart daily, except Sunday. Guided tours of the vineyard are also available, in English, by reservation.

Via Abbazia 1, Varna, 39040, Italy
0472-836189
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Abbey visit €10; wine tastings with vineyard tour €20, Closed Sun.

Alpe di Siusi Cable Car

Cable Car, Alpe di Suisi, South Tirol, Italy
fritz16 / Shutterstock

First opened in 1935, the cable car from Ortisei to Alpe di Siusi climbs more than 6,100 feet to the widest plateau in Europe. There are more than 57 square km (22 square miles) of Alpine pastures lined with summertime hiking trails. In the winter, 20 ski lifts and cross-country ski paths keep active visitors happy. There is a restaurant at the top of the Mt. Seuc ski lift, or you can pick up a map at the tourist office in Ortisei listing the mountain huts and restaurants that can be reached on foot. Opening days and times depend on the season and daily weather conditions; check the website or call ahead to avoid disappointment.

Assumption of Our Lady Cathedral

A lacy spire looks down on the mosaic-like roof tiles of the city's Gothic cathedral, built between the 12th and 14th centuries. Inside are 14th- and 15th-century frescoes and an intricately carved stone pulpit dating from 1514. Outside, don't miss the Porta del Vino (Wine Gate) on the northeast side facing the square; decorative carvings of grapes and harvest workers attest to the long-standing importance of wine to this region.

Piazza della Parrocchia 27, Bolzano, 39100, Italy
0471-978676
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free

Belvedere di Sardagna

Take the Funivia Trento–Sardagna cable car up to the Belvedere di Sardagna, a lookout point 1,200 feet above medieval Trento. This is open year-round, but can close due to inclement weather.

Boè Cable Car

This cable car takes hikers and skiers from Corvara up Piz Boè, the highest mountain of the Sella group, at 10,341 feet. Once at the first station, you can hike the Sella Ronda, ski back down, or ride a chairlift farther up to the Vallon Peak for more challenging skiing or hiking in the warmer months. Paragliding is also popular from the Vallon area.

Campo Carlo Magno

The stunning pass at Campo Carlo Magno (5,500 feet) is 3 km (2 miles) north of Madonna di Campiglio. This is where Charlemagne is said to have stopped in AD 800 on his way to Rome to be crowned emperor. You, too, can stop here to gaze upon the whole of northern Italy. If you continue north, take the descent with caution—in the space of a mile or so, hairpin turns and switchbacks deliver you down more than 2,000 feet.

3 km (2 miles) north of Madonna di Campiglio, Madonna di Campiglio, Italy

Castel Roncolo

Green hills and farmhouses north of town surround this meticulously kept castle (also called Runkelstein Castle, or Schloss Runkelstein in German) with a tiled roof. It was built in 1237, destroyed half a century later, and then rebuilt soon thereafter. The world's largest cycle of secular medieval frescoes, beautifully preserved, is inside. A tavern in the courtyard serves excellent local food and wines. To get here from Piazza Walther, take Bus No. 12 or 14; there's also a free shuttle bus that runs from June to October and late November to early January. Alternatively, it's a 45-minute walk from Piazza delle Erbe: head north along Via Francescani, continue through Piazza Madonna, connecting to Via Castel Roncolo. If you drive or take the bus, be advised that you'll still have a 5- to 10-minute walk up to the castle.

Chiesa dei Domenicani

The 13th-century Dominican Church is renowned for its Cappella di San Giovanni, where frescoes from the Giotto school show the birth of a pre-Renaissance sense of depth and individuality.

Chiesa di San Nicolò

The 14th-century Gothic cathedral, with a crenellated facade and an ornate campanile, sits in the heart of the old town. The Capella di Santa Barbara, just behind the Duomo, is an octagonal church containing a 15th-century pietà.  Mass is held in German only.

Col Alto Cable Car

The site of Italy's first chairlift in 1946 now has modern yellow eight-seater cable cars that ascend to a height of 6,562 feet. From there you have access to ski lifts that take you all over the Alta Badia region and, in summer, to trails that include a 10-km (6-mile) route to the Rifugio Pralongià. You can rent skis and snowboards at the Ski Service Colalto, located at the bottom of the lift.

Duomo

This massive Romanesque church, also known as the Cathedral of San Vigilio (St. Vigilius), forms the southern edge of the Piazza del Duomo. Locals refer to this square as the city's salotto (sitting room), as in fine weather it's always filled with students and residents drinking coffee, sipping an aperitif, or reading the newspaper. The Baroque Fontana del Nettuno presides over it all. When skies are clear, pause here to savor the view of the mountaintops enveloping the city.

Within the Duomo, unusual arcaded stone stairways border the austere nave. Ahead is the baldacchino (altar canopy), a copy of Bernini's masterpiece in St. Peter's in Rome. To the left of the altar is a mournful 16th-century crucifixion, flanked by the Virgin Mary and John the Apostle. This crucifix, by German artist Sisto Frey, was a focal point of the Council of Trent: each decree agreed on during the two decades of deliberations was solemnly read out in front of it. Stairs on the left side of the altar lead down to the 4th-century Paleo-Christian burial vault (Early Christian Basilica). Outside, check out the bronze scale model of the city on the south side of the cathedral, then walk around to the back to see an exquisite display of 14th-century stonemason artistry, from the small porch to the intriguing knotted columns on the graceful apse.

Piazza del Duomo, Trento, 38122, Italy
0461-231293
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free. Early Christian Basilica €3, Early Christian Basilica closed Sun. morning and Tues.

Duomo di Bressanone

The imposing town cathedral was built in the 13th century but acquired a Baroque facade 500 years later; its 14th-century cloister is decorated with medieval frescoes.

Piazza Duomo 1, Bressanone, 39042, Italy
0472-834034
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free

FORST Brewery

The source of the full-flavor beer served throughout the region is the striking FORST Brewery, on the road connecting Naturno and Merano. Tours can be arranged if you call ahead, but you can also just turn up between late May and September to sample the product line. In high season, cross a flower-lined covered wooden bridge to reach the delightful beer garden (Braugarten Forst), which then becomes a festive Christmas forest from December to early January.

Via Venosta 10, Lagundo, 39022, Italy
0473-221887
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free, Beer garden closed late Sept.–late Apr.

Mart Rovereto

Most of the 20,000 works of contemporary and modern art in this collection are from the 20th century. Rotating exhibitions and special events throughout the year highlight still more contemporary art.

Corso Bettini 43, Rovereto, 38068, Italy
0464-438887
Sight Details
Rate Includes: €15, Closed Mon.

Messner Mountain Museum Corones

High atop the Mountain Station Kronplatz–Plan de Corones, almost 7,500 feet above Brunico, the newest museum from mountaineer Reinhold Messner displays climbing equipment and other alpine paraphernalia from the 1800s until now. It also examines all facets of mountaineering through painting, sculpture, and other media. Equally interesting is the museum's Zaha Hadid–designed concrete building: its sloped roof makes it seem like a miniature mountain, and its outdoor lookout point affords magnificent vistas. Note that the museum closes at 4 pm (last admission at 3:30), so that you won't miss the last cable car back down.
Kronplatz–Plan de Corones Mountain Station, Brunico, Italy
0474-501350
Sight Details
Rate Includes: €14, Closed late Apr.–May and early–late Nov.

Museo Agricolo di Brunnenburg

Overlooking the town, atop Mt. Tappeinerweg, is Castel Fontana, which was the home of poet Ezra Pound from 1958 to 1964. Still in the Pound family, the castle now houses the Museo Agricolo di Brunnenburg, devoted to Tyrolean country life. Among its exhibits are a smithy and a room with Pound memorabilia.