Making the Most of Your Time

For a brief stay, your best choice for a base is vibrant Bolzano, where you can get a sense of the region's contrasts—Italian and German, medieval and modern. After a day or two in town, venture an hour south to history-laden Trento, north to the lovely spa town of Merano, or southwest to Caldaro and its Strada di Vino; all are viable day trips from Bolzano, and Trento and Merano make good places to spend the night as well.

If you have more time, you'll want to get up into the mountains, which are the region's main attraction. The trip on the Grande Strada delle Dolomiti (Great Dolomites Road) through the Heart of the Dolomites from Bolzano to Cortina d'Ampezzo is one of Italy's most spectacular drives. Summer or winter, this is a great destination for mountain sports, with scores of trails for world-class hiking and skiing.

Be sure to look into the Südtirol Museumobil Card when planning your visit. Besides entry to more than 90 museums, the card allows you free use of the regional train system from Brennero to Trento, and the use of all public buses in Südtirol. The card is available for three days (€30) or seven days (€34). The Museumobil Card can be purchased at train stations, tourist offices, some museums, and hotels (www.mobilcard.info). The Brixen Card (free with paid lodging in Bressanone) offers free transportation throughout Südtirol (South Tyrol) and Trentino, and entrance to more than 80 museums, plus free guided tours and discounts at partner venues. See www.brixencard.info for a list of participating hotels and bed-and-breakfasts. Detailed information about Vie Ferrate in the eastern Dolomites can be found at www.dolomiti.org. Capable tour organizers include the Scuola di Alpinismo (Mountaineering School) in Madonna di Campiglio (0465/442634 www.guidealpinecampiglio.it) and Cortina d'Ampezzo (0436/868505 www.guidecortina.com).

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