The Dolomites are a precious gift from the Earth. As I'm gearing up to head back out on the road my mind has started wandering back to the mountains and I realized I still had some amazing content from my trip to this unique part of the world. On our last leg of our Northern Italy/Austria adventure we trekked deeper into the mountains to get to the Alta Badia region of the Dolomites. In this area is a precious little town called San Cassiano which took many, many twisty roads to get to, made even more treacherous by a hoard of bikers in town for one of the biggest cycling races in the world that very same weekend. So here we are in our little Opal rental car with white knuckles trying to A) Not hit anyone and B) Not fall off the cliff ourselves. The adventure was worth it because when we pulled up to this tiny mountain town we instantly fell in love. What's amazing and so unique about this part of the world is the mixture of cultural influences and also the simplicity of life that the people still value after hundreds of years of tradition. We learned first hand what tradition is really like here as guests of a gorgeous family run hotel property right in the center of town called Rosa Alpina.
We were very weary travelers when we showed up on their doorstep but I promise you I've never felt such a warm, genuine welcome. There's something special about family businesses, especially in hospitality. There's a generational responsibility to uphold, and in this part of the world, family and tradition are everything. One of the first things they did was offer us spa services (I soaked in mountain flowers followed by an ayurvedic massage) and then we were whisked off to one of the most incredible dinners of my life.
Rosa Alpina is not only a beautiful hotel but it's also home to one of the most exquisite Michelin Star restaurants in the world (they have 2!). We dined on twelve (YES, TWELVE!) courses and was invited to go into the kitchen to meet Chef Norbert Niederkofler. The kitchen prides itself on foraging in the mountains for most of the ingredients. He had an incredible way of serving edible freeze-dried mountain flowers along with bread that is served at the table while it's still leavening.
The next morning they planned a yoga excursion for us and set out mats in a secret spot near a waterfall. After, one of the owners of the hotel took us hiking on a local trail led to what was promised as one of the best polenta spots in all of Europe. We spotted Edelweiss and climbed and meandered around the changing terrain. If you really want to be rugged, you can hike your way through the mountains and sleep at these Rifugios, which is something on my bucket list!
Rifugio Scotoni really does have some of the best polenta I've ever had and that's me speaking from my Italian heritage belly. They actually bottle their own water from the stream that runs next to the hut.
I'm planning another trip back for next Spring/Summer because there's so much to explore, but the area is also one of the most incredible ski locations in the world. Many of our American ski towns were modeled after tiny little Alpine towns like San Cassiano. Definitely an area worth exploring and a great way to enjoy Europe in the winter.