Alps and Dolomites
THE ITALIAN ALPS – WHY GO?
Chic celebrity ski hangouts attract winter thrill-seekers, Alpine forests covered in mountain flowers entice summer walkers and crystal clear autumn air makes The Italian Alps a beautiful year-round destination.
MUST SEE, MUST DO
Feudal castles dot the riverbanks and the cobbled streets of the capital Aosta offer great shopping and hospitable hostelries. Admire the ancient town walls that date back to 100 AD and take a trip to the crumbling ruins of the Roman theatre.
Lace up your walking boots for a visit to the Aosta Valley’s awesome Gran Paradiso national park for wildlife spotting. Serious hikers can make the summer ascent to the top of the mountain, which tops 4,000m. For an easier trip take the cable car ride to the Aiguille du Midi – the highest point of Mont Blanc – for stunning views.
This so-called St Tropez of the Italian Alps draws glamorous stars and big spenders, not to mention thrill-seeking heli-skiers, who are ferried to the upper slopes by chopper for the ultimate in off-piste daredevilry.
Ringed by Tyrolean peaks, Merano has all the appeal of a fin-de-siecle spa resort, with lush gardens and semi-tropical plants. The surrounding mountains are a hiker’s haven, or indoor types can visit “Otzi”, the Ice Man said to be 5,300 years old, who resides in the new Messner Mountain Museum.
Diehard adventurers can get a real taste of mountaineering on the Via Ferrata – the Iron Way – constructed by climbers in the late 19th century. This network of ladders, bridges, chains and cables allows keen amateurs – helmeted and harnessed – to tackle awesomely steep slopes.
Food and drink
Try fondues, bagna cauda (a rich warm sauce for dipping), venison stew made with a dash of grappa, white truffles, and brasato al barolo – beef or veal braised in local Barolo wine. Pair your dishes with heady red wines grown in Europe’s highest vineyards – Barbera, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo and Barbaresco.
MAKE A DATE
The thousand-year-old Sant’Orso Wood Fair offers a feast of arts, crafts and woodwork.
THE ITALIAN ALPS ROMANCE
Snuggle up with a warming vino caldo in the fire-lit bar of the Alpine-style Bellevue hotel.
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