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Dolomite questions???

Planning a trip.. no set date yet since we don't know when the Italy will permit US citizens..
I was always fascinated by Italian Dolomites.
Anybody with good advice on itinerary? Renting a car?? which season? (Spring, Summer or Fall? not sure about winter).
Which airport to use?
Logistic issues like car vs. train?? How cold does it get in Spring? or summer??
Best place for a base hotel??

thank you..

Posted by
18102 posts

If you want to spend a fair amount of time in the Dolomites and range rather widely, I think a car would be helpful. However, I spent about a week in that area in 2015 and got around quite a bit by public transportation. I stayed in Bressanone/Brixen and Bolzano (valley cities; most folks prefer to stay up in the mountains in a place like Ortisei). There's a train line running from Verona up that valley, stopping in such places as Merano and Chiusa/Klausen. Then there are buses running from the major towns up into the mountains, plus of course alpine lifts to get even higher.

I think the Dolomites are a great place to go on a summer trip because once you get up to the mountain villages, the temperature is usually relatively pleasant; the temperature may spike briefly in the middle of the day (see link below), but it is a lot cooler early and late. On the other hand, down in the valley it can be oppressively hot at that time of year, and air-conditioned lodgings are highly recommended.

Many people go to the Dolomites to hike. There are lots of options, including high-meadow strolls that anyone can manage. If your focus would be on such activities, I'd recommend spending at least some of your nights up in the mountains. Of the valley cities Bolzano is the largest and has the most traditional sights, including the museum holding Otzi, the Iceman. It also has a really beautiful historic center. Brixen is smaller and also has an attractive historic area, but it's more of a walk from the train station and perhaps not as convenient for side trips.

As of 2015 a lot of the lodgings in the area (not as far south as Verona) were giving their guests transportation passes that covered local buses and trains; that's something to check on when you evaluate the rates at different hotels, etc. But with a car you work out some sort of loop trip, I assume, rather than being focuses on one area.

I can't address off-season weather, but you can review actual, historical, day-by-day weather statistics on the website The data goes back about ten years and is much more informative than monthly averages. The link goes to Ortisei's weather chart for July 2020. Note the sharp mid-day spikes. It wasn't that hot on my June 2015 day in Ortisei; perhaps I was lucky. That is why anecdotal comments about weather experiences are potentially misleading. It's really much better to look at 3 to 5 years' worth of actual data.

It's also critical to factor in the impact of altitude on temperature. This website explains the situation and says on a day without precipitation, the temperature will drop an estimated 5.4 degrees (F) for every 1000 feet of elevation. Ortisei is at 4000 feet.

Posted by
15750 posts

Lifts begin to gradually open in May and all are not fully operational until mid June. July and especially August are prime time for summer family vacations in Europe. Early September is a sweet spot for less crowds, lower lodging prices and more availability, still good weather, and all lifts still operating. Winter? Great if you're a skier. That's when I go.

If you can get a direct flight to Milan, that's the way to go. Otherwise, Venice works good.

Posted by
69 posts

Thank you for the replies.

Somebody mentioned Innsbruck Austria as a better airport to travel to is shorter distance than Milan, but i am not sure if renting a car in Austria is better than in Italy.
Also are there lot of ZTL zones in Dolomites villages like Bolzano, Val Gardena or Ortisei or other mountain areas? My biggest fear in driving in Italy is the dreaded ZTL zones. ....LOL...

Posted by
18102 posts

My first thought about flying into Innsbruck rather than Milan is that the airfare might be a lot higher. Airfares are extremely origin-dependent, but I'd do a bit of exploring on that topic before considering other aspects of looping from Innsbruck.

I can't help on the ZTL question, but it's a good one to ask.

Posted by
826 posts

Hi, Gene. I am also from PA and love the Dolomites. I have not travelled there extensively and most of my travel has been by train. Bus and train would be my options in the future, too - and a couple of South Tyrol locations are on the top of my Visit Next list, depending on circumstances. I am not a big hiker, more of a stroller - I just want to be there.

What I can contribute is a recommendation to look at the Innsbruck airport website and check out where the arriving planes are coming from. I have flown into Innsbruck twice, once from London and once I was rerouted through Frankfurt. I like flying into Innsbruck. It is a small airport, however, and it depends on whether you want lots of arrival options or if you are willing to work around what is on offer.

I also like the train through the Brenner Pass. Direct (with side options) from Munich to Verona - or the opposite direction. What is not to like?

Time of year? I have been in winter at Christmas market time on my way from Venice to Munich - visits to Bolzano and Innsbruck. I have been in Innsbruck late September when the cow parades occur (in the surrounding areas, not Innsbruck central). I have been in Bolzano in July, and it was sweltering. Check the Search function at the top of this website's pages and look for previous posts. There are opening and closing times of the year for lifts, so check that out.

Happy planning.

Posted by
7084 posts

How cold does it get in Spring?

March 30th and June 15th are both 'in Spring', but will have decidedly different weather.

Just want a day or two to see them and do a 2-3 hour walk, or are you planning hours long day hikes for several days?

If you can provide a few more details, you would help get more useful answers/suggestions.

Posted by
690 posts

I have spent a week in the first weeks of June both in Sexton/Sesto (Pustertal, Drei Zinnen) and Seis (Seiser Alm, Schlern). We rented apartments (balcony with a view is a must for us) and I have my own car. Both were fantastic! As mentioned, high season generally does not kick-in until the third week in June, so some lifts, hotels etc. are not open until then from the winter pause. A car gives you great freedom of mobility and allows you to roam, like to Bruneck, Sterzing, St Ulrich, castles, lakes and mountain passes etc. We did a lot of easy hiking. Weather wise in June it can get a little cool in the high altitudes, but a sweater or rain parka does the trick. Love the Trollblume, Enzian and all the other wild flowers. The Lienzer Dolomiten near Lienz, AT is also a great area.

Posted by
9518 posts

You might want to use the search bar above and seek info by searching “Val Gardena,” “Alpe di Siusi,” or even “Dolomites” for a broader view. Lots has been posted about lodging, transportation, locations, recommended hikes, etc.

Innsbruck to Bolzano is an easy train trip. You do NOT need a car in most of the area. We go to the Val Gardena every year and never have a vehicle as the local transportation is excellent. You can take a comfortable bus from Bolzano to the Val G, for example, and bus transportation is free (get a pass from your lodging establishment) while there. OTOH, Milano to Bolzano is easy enough with one change of trains required, You can also get a private taxi pick up in Bolzano, which we do now when we arrive with luggage. That is far cheaper and less stressful than renting a car, worrying about mountain roads and parking problems.

Before mid-June is off-season, as is after mid-Sept unless you are going for ski season, which is early December until Easter.

Posted by
60 posts

For tourists / hikers fans of the Dolomites they basically are spread East to West. Our last trip was 3 weeks of hiking via ferreta and exploring with a split of staying in the West around Ortesi as a base for that geographic area putting most everything of interest within basically a 1 hour car ride, and then in the East staying around Cortina d'Ampezzo with basically everything within a 1 hour car ride from that base area.

I would have found it extremely difficult to explore the area as much as we did without a car, way too hard to get to trail heads on our schedule with public transport if it could have even gotten us there at all. Some places are very busy and you need to arrive very early to have more pleasant experiences.(Tre Cime di Lavaredo)

I will say we found Alpe di Siusi /Seiser Alm to be the most over-hyped area we explored and we explored a lot of the Dolomites, this place gets a lot of hype, a lot of attention for some reason, we found the nearby Seceda far, far, far more spectacular.

The lesser hyped Viel del Pan Marmolada hike taking the bus back to Canazei to the start was by far on the top 10 list of the best hidden gem hiking experiences we found there, but there were many.

Season- spring will be iffy and difficult with conditions being difficult up high and things not opened yet. Summer and Fall would be my preference. We were there for most of Sept and had great weather and even snow toward the end of Sept that dusted everything high up and just made the scenery even that much more spectacular.

We flew into Milan and spent another week exploring from Milan to Trieste and then up to the Dolomites.

Posted by
1724 posts

Would fly into Venice ; you could fly into Innsbruck, Austria but that is small airport in comparison so don't think you will have as many flight options.
Compare both ; either would be an easy drive.

Definitely rent a car. Public transit is not great in the area and train is non-existent in the mountain area itself.
Zero ZTL concerns in the Dolomites. Some of the small villages, they have pedestrian areas but it is obvious you cannot drive into them. Not like the ZTL zones in other cities you read about which can require some advance knowledge about.
Driving in Austria you need a Vignette ; but a rental probably comes with one or easy to buy along the border areas if coming from Italy.

Summer or Early Fall type place. Spring things will be closed and probably muddy. Winter is for skiing. Fall ends quick, things close down end of Sept.

Main two areas: Val Gardena & Cortina (they are far enough away you may want to have a base in both places for a few days to see both sides). Val Gardena has a few villages, I stayed in and loved Ortisei but you have a few choices of villages. Cortina is a village/town and nearby there are not really other village options.

Type into google maps the drive between say Ortisei and Cortina and you will have a better idea of the region. You mostly would stay within that range, a little north of both as well.

Posted by
11230 posts

While you're in the area, plan on at least a day in Bolzano, to see the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology. That's the one with the Iceman, and the exhibit is fascinating. At least when I went (years ago, so it may have changed), they have lots of information on the various Ages (Stone, Copper, Bronze) and really place what you're seeing in context. That's not to mention the fascinating stuff about the Iceman himself. For instance, he dressed in layers, each made of different material, and they explain it all.

Bolzano is also just a nice place to visit. Acraven has warned, however, that being in the lower elevations, it can get very hot in the summer.

Posted by
1098 posts

Gene, during one September we stayed a few nights in Vipiteno, technically just outside the Dolomites. We never made it to Bolzano or Trento but took two nice long drives. One day we went to Castelrotto, then drove along the main road heading east to about half way to Cortina. It is stunning.

The best day, and a town I'd really like to return to, was the trip to Merano. It's a fabulous place, the drive to it southeast from Vipiteno also stunning, with lots of bends.

Nowadays I don't like to drive too far when on holiday. Merano and the Dolomites have always been a touch out of range from where I fly into, but I'd like to go back one day.