The Dolomites are a mountain range renown for exceptional, distinctive beauty. In Val Gardena, the pale limestone spires, pinnacles and sheer-faced crags of the Sella and Sassolungo massifs tower above lush forests and rolling meadows. Mountain enthusiasts come from all corners of the world to explore this realm of action, nature and pure well-being – by bicycle, on foot, in climbing gear, on skis and even by parasail wing. Down in the valley, life centers around three lively villages, Ortisei, Santa Cristina and Selva Gardena. Ladin, a language spoken only here, seduces the ear. Church bells chime the hour. Diners eat crafuncins (oversized, hand-crafted Tyrolean ravioli) then watch carvers craft their signature 400-year-old Ladin art in town squares. Summer brings colorful window boxes to pastel-colored buildings. Meanwhile, mountain bikers adventure on hundreds of kilometers of trails. Families walk alpine paths blooming with wildflowers then return to the comforts of amenity-rich “sport hotels.” In winter, when chalet rooftops are stacked with snow, a modern network of lifts whisks visitors off the valley floor into the vast, interconnected ski web of Dolomiti Superski. A day might be spent skiing the Sella Ronda circuit – circumnavigating the big massif – with descents on the way into three Italian provinces and four different valleys, lunch at a gourmet Mediterranean mountain refuge (including dessert of true tiramisu and espresso graced with grappa), après-ski at a cozy, convivial Ladin bar and a pampered evening at a plush Tyrolean spa hotel.
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