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Dolomites -

Only just began to read Rick's Italy book and check out TA on where to stay in order to see this lovely area. Which village would most recommend? And where to pick up car if we choose to rent?

I see some are not keen on Castelrotto?

We are toying with the idea of using public transport from Innsbruck, and even into Italy. Bad idea?

Trip will be in mid June 2016.

Posted by
15640 posts

Ortisei is pretty nice. By all means go in late June, since the hiking lifts don't start opening until mid June and more open every weekend to early July. Suedtirol has a very good public transportation system with buses running just about every where. It is pretty easy to get to from Innsbruck on the train, then buses up the valleys to the mountains. http://www.suedtirolmobil.info/en/online-services

Posted by
2671 posts

Hi Ginger,

Unfortunately, Rick Steves barely scratches the surface on the Dolomites. You can train from Innsbruck to either Bozen/Bolzano or maybe Waidbruck/Ponte Gardena. From either take a bus into the Val Gardena and use any of the three towns/villages (Ortisei, St. Christina or Selva) as your base. These three are close enough together (5 minutes or so from one to the next) to be easily accessible from the one you choose as a base. Ortisei is the largest and even has a small pedestrian only zone. St. Christina is the smallest and in the middle between Ortisei and Selva.

www.val-gardena.com

www.valgardena.it

We like having a car, as we love driving the Dolomite Passes, which are spectacular drives and there are many to drive in a relatively small area.

Paul

Posted by
11983 posts

Why don't you rent a car? You will enjoy the area much more. If you rent a car make sure that you pick it up and return it in the same country because international drop off fees are exorbitant

Posted by
3507 posts

If you decide you do want to use public transport, you can take the train to Bolzano and catch a bus into the smaller towns. The last time we were in the Dolomites we stayed in Moena and loved it - wonderful, small village with friendly people and hiking. We also walked over to Vigo di Fassa (took the bus back) to take the cable car. We took the train from Verona up to Trento and caught the bus from there.

We stayed at Hotel Monza - nice, quiet accommodations with a great view, friendly staff.

Posted by
9454 posts

I can recommend threeplaces to stay in Ortisei.

Hotel Garni Walter a small family run place, 5 minute walk up a small hill from center of town. They do have parking although we never drive. The public transportation is terrific!

Villa Aurelia right on main street, again a 5 minute walk from the bus piazza.

Res. Gran Tubla with lovely apartments overlooking the valley. Bit of a hike up the hill, but worth it. There is parking if you indulge in a car.

Posted by
449 posts

Thanks all for the wonderful suggestions.

Was surprised that Rick didn't cover more of the area.

We are planning to fly into Munich, then spend a few days in either garmisch, Berchtesgaden or Muttenwald, then on to somewhere outside of Innsbruck. That's why I thought the train from Innsbruck would be okay to head out to Italy.

Once in Italy, if we get a car, which is good location to pick up and drop off?

Should we fly into Munich and out of Milan? Backtracking through different town in Austria or Bavaria to fly out of Munich not a good idea?

Really appreciate the help. Oh, and suggestions for a guidebook that covers the Dolomite area would be appreciated.

I should add that we enjoy long days of hiking, hence trying not to spend time in cities.

Posted by
2671 posts

Hi again,

If your plan includes just the Dolomite area of Italy and a rental car, get the car in Germany (Munich or Garmisch). Much cheaper than renting in Italy and cheaper than getting it in Austria. Fly round trip Munich so there's no drop off fee for the car (extra, usually steep charge for picking up in one country and returning in another) and Munich is not a long haul to the Dolomites. It's about a 3:30 drive from Munich to the Val Gardena. If you're stopping in either Garmisch or Mittenwald, they would be about halfway to the Dolomites. To stay in Innsbruck between Garmisch or Mittenwald and the Dolomites is really not necessary, as Garmisch to Innsbruck is roughly 1 hour drive. Garmisch to Mittenwald is under 30 minutes.

Paul

Posted by
9454 posts

I've never found a guidebook that covered the area. I use the Internet a lot, but you have to search by area, i.e., Val Gardena, Alta Pusteria, etc. The first time we went on faith to Ortisei and figured it out. We have since visited 3 valleys and come back to the Val Gardena as our favorite every time.

Do you want to hike? I can give you lots of info. If you want scenic drives, others will respond. We do not drive in the Val G. The lifts and buses are sufficient.

Posted by
339 posts

Last year when we were in the dolomites, we picked up a car after Venice and drove to La Villa. It was our first time driving in Europe and we did fine. We rented 3 different cars in one month of traveling, the Dolomites, 10 days in Sicily and Tuscany/Umbria and had no problems. And we are in our 60's.

In the Dolomites we stayed at Garni Tamarindo which was a wonderful place to stay and then did a lot of driving through different passes and towns with lots of advice and suggestions from this forum.

Posted by
11182 posts

"Was surprised that Rick didn't cover more of the area. "

There are two factors with this:

1) Rick doesn't try to cover any country comprehensively. He covers what he considers the prime destinations, for first time visitors from the US, with limited time, and "standard" interests. For instance, a dedicated hiker would need to supplement his Alpine listings, and an art historian would find his museum listings inadequate.

2) For his Italy book, a staff member who posts here has specifically said that his publisher will not enlarge the book any further, so he cannot add more information about Italy, even if he wanted to. If he enlarges the section about one Italian destination, he has to shrink a section somewhere else.

So, I always supplement Rick's books with others. It's interesting that in this case, Laurel says she hasn't found other good books for this area (presumably, living in Italy she could use Italian books, not just English language ones).

Posted by
3308 posts

I have rented a car in Bolzano to tour the Dolomites...it's on the Italy side but is an easy place from the train to pick up a car if you are coming from Italy.
If you go to Amazon and query "Dolomites" you will see loads of guides to the area. Most of them are geared towards hiking since this is what most people go here to do but there are others that highlight the cultural sights as well - it's such an beautiful, interesting area and well worth your time!
If you don't rent a car then the bus system is quite excellent. We have used it on several trips and not rented a car. It takes a little longer to get around, has limited service to some places, and you will be very limited if you are trying to get anywhere on a Sunday since service is very curtailed on that day.
I would recommend renting a car - you can get to places more quickly and the roads are very fun to drive!

Posted by
3507 posts

Hi Ginger, you mentioned some options south of Munich. We stayed in Mittenwald a few weeks ago and really enjoyed the town - beautifully painted homes & shops and some nice hiking in the area. We stopped in Garmisch-P. to switch trains and were glad that we chose Mittenwald, instead.

Posted by
9454 posts

As Anita said, most of the books available are about hiking. In fact, I have several of those. The area is really about natural beauty and sports, whether skiing or hiking. No matter what you do, you can use the extensive system of lifts, gondolas and funiculars to get to high elevations and see the views or hike. You can find out a lot online and at the TI when you arrive.

I think public transportation is ideal in this area. You cannot drive everywhere (the Alpe di Siusi for example) and the driver must pay very close attention to the road so misses a lot of the scenery. The buses are beautiful and comfortable. If you want specifics about getting from Bolzano to the Val Gardena, let me know and I will give you details.

Posted by
1271 posts

Hi, Ginger,
As it happens, I'm in Merano currently - no car - I can attest that the transportation systems are excellent. Merano has a great system of footpaths (promenades, in town, and Waalweg trails, more dispersed into the countryside). I spent my first day on the footpaths in town close to the Passer river - lovely views, pocket gardens, sculpture. The second day, I walked one of the Waalweg trails to the Gardens at Trautmansdorff Castle, which are spectacular. The walk was fairly long, and went through lots of vineyards and apple orchards. Some parts of it do allow cars, but they were sparse. Today, I took a 1 1/2 hour bus ride to Maso Corto (called by its German name Kurzras by the bus co.) through some of the most gorgeous scenery I'd ever seen. The bus stops at several other towns along the way. (You'll also want to scope out where you can go by train rather than bus.) The town is tiny - farms, a tiny church, and a few hotels. There's a funicular to the top, where it's bare and icy, and there's a glacier just the other side of the ridge. I wasn't dressed properly to get out and hike on the glacier, as many were doing, but it was quite something to see. Once back on the ground, I saw that there are trails through woods and fields that go to other small towns. One thing I didn't do for this trip that would have been a good idea would have been to work on some rudimentary German - my rudimentary Italian, which stood me in good stead in Venezia and Verona, just isn't cutting it here.

Posted by
449 posts

Inbsig,

Thanks for the insight on public transportation. My better half does not care too much for driving on vacation, though he has done it before in France and UK.

I'll r ready for the area since I've been studying German at community college here! No Italian knowledge so that's good to know.

Posted by
1160 posts

Well, nominally German is one of the three official languages of Alto Adige/South Tyrol (the other two being Italian and Ladino, this one a neo-Latin language spoken mainly in Ortisei). In the real world, locals speak a sub-Bavarian dialect that most high German speakers would find hard to understand.

There was once a time when old country people in the region could not really understand Italian. But now that the youngest locals born under Austrian rule must have no less than 97 years, almost everybody should be able to understand Italian - if they wish, but this is a political problem that would hardly be a concern with non-Italian tourists.

Posted by
11707 posts

We have been therefor three different hiking trips, one week each. The first two by public transport alone, the last with a car. Both are viable options, you only need to plan more carefully if depending on public transport. You lose a bit of flexibility because you are dependent upon the bus schedules, but the local service is very good.

As for the language--- where we have been ( Val Gardena, Alta Badia, and Alpe di Siusi), my hoch -Deutsch German served very well. I could read all the written signs, menus, etc., and I understood the spoken language very well ( much better than I fared in Bayern where I cannot understand the dialect at all). Just be aware that when you are out hiking, the trail signs may be in a mix of languages including Ladin, so be careful.

Posted by
11707 posts

Also -- if you decide to rent a car for the Dolomites and wish to minimize driving, you can rent at Bolzano. That is what we did last trip.

Posted by
449 posts

Lola, rent in Bolzano and return there?

We may get a car for two or there days. And the depend on public transport afterwards.

I had hoped you would chime in because of the hiking. Where would you suggest if that's our main focus?

Posted by
6 posts

Does anyone have any experience with motorcycle rentals or motorcycle travel in the Dolomites? Know of a good source of motorcycle road maps?

Posted by
15640 posts

Motorcycle maps are the same as road maps. Have lots of insurance.

Posted by
11707 posts

You should be able to rent in Bolzano and return somewhere else with no drop fee. We rented from Hertz, picked up the car at Bolzano ( airport), drove in the Dolomites for a week, then drove to Venice and returned the car at Piazzale Roma. We took a cab from Bolzano train station to the airport for about €12.

Favorite hiking areas--- it's all good! We have hiked (and biked) up on Alpe di Siusi, and hiked from the villages of Corvara in Alta Badia and Ortesei and Santa Cristina in Val Gardena, plus Tires which is farther south.

For a 3-day visit one of the Val Gardena villages should work well for you. There are lifts going up both sides of the valley so you can access different areas for hiking.

Posted by
6 posts

Any suggestions on where to find good, detailed road maps for the Dolomites and/or Aosta?

Posted by
31076 posts

"I see some are not keen on Castelrotto? "

Actually, I quite enjoy staying in Castelrotto. It's a convenient base for touring Alpi di Siusi or other sites in the area, and there are lots of hiking opportunities, so those that are so inclined. I haven't stayed in Ortisei yet, but hope to get there on a future visit.

Posted by
1406 posts

You need maps? You need Michelin.

I've also started researching the Dolomites and have found that the 2 "F" guides (cmon you can figure it out) have a lot more info than Rick. Rick will be the first to tell you his guides are not intended to be all-inclusive, encyclopedic and comprehensive. He picks and chooses. For instance, nothing on Geneva in his Switzerland book. I thought I had a misprint!

Posted by
449 posts

Phred, you made me laugh with the two F's! It was also surprising to me to not see anything on Geneva, also. I guess Rick wants to leave this areas for the other guys.

I've been reading a lot online and sometimes get a little sidetracked, but have decided that the Val Gardena sounds like somewhere we would love, so Lola, I'll spend 7 nights there!!

Posted by
9454 posts

Good for you, Ginger! You will get to explore a lot of the area in 7 days!