Italian Dolomites Travel Guide
The Dolomites are a mountain range in northeastern Italy located in the regions of Trentino Alto Adige, Veneto, and Friuli Venezia Giulia. In 2009, these mountains were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Site consists of 9 mountain ranges covering a total area of 142,000 hectares. Apart from the sheer size of the Dolomites, it’s their astounding beauty that renders onlookers utterly speechless.
The unique coloration of the peaks is perhaps the most striking feature of the Italian Dolomites. The light and time of day reveal different shades of peach, rose, white and violet in the rock. The color is further dramatized by the sculpturesque shapes of the pinnacles. Nestled between the cliffs, you’ll find high alpine pastures and meadows. These meadow-scapes are dotted with huts, cows, and horses. Many huts serve food and drink. So, when you’re hiking in the Dolomites, you don’t need to pack a lunch, as there’s usually a delicious meal waiting for you on the mountain.
When to visit the Italian Dolomites
If you want to hike, the best time to go to the Dolomites is from the end of June to the end of September. That time frame also corresponds to the time when the mountain huts (hütte, rifugio) are open for overnights and food. It’s also when most cable cars are in operation. Many hiking trails begin or end with an aerial tram ride. If your aim is to ski, the season begins in December and ends in April. We visited the Dolomites in May and August. Traveling to the Dolomites in May is hit or miss since the weather is unpredictable. It can still snow, but it’s not “ski season.” Because the region’s many chairlifts aren’t in operation, hiking is limited. Also, many hotels and restaurants are closed, making it difficult to find places to eat. August in the Dolomites is high season. You’ll see lots of people on popular trails. We experienced great weather, with the occasional thunderstorm.
What languages are spoken in the Dolomites
The Dolomites are located in 5 different provinces (within 3 regions) in Northeastern Italy. One province, South Tyrol (in German: Südtirol; in Italian: Alto Adige), was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire prior to World War I. German continues to be the primary language spoken in this region. When traveling and hiking through South Tyrol, every street, advertisement, natural area, mountain hut, etc… is written in both German and Italian. Throughout this guide, we will use both names to avoid any confusion. Another language that you may encounter is Ladin, a romance language spoken in the provinces of South Tyrol, Trentino, and Belluno, by the Ladin people. In Alta Badia, you’ll see signage and names (e.g. towns, mountain huts) in three languages: Ladin, German, and Italian.