Driving from Venice to the Great Dolomite Road?

Hello All,
In late September, we're planning on flying into Venice and staying two nights, and from there, taking a car into the Dolomites. I have heard of the Great Dolomite Road. Is it accessible from Venice? If so, whats the route? We'll be spending 3-4 nights in the Dolomites and would really like to explore the region. Ideally, I would like to base out of a town, any suggestions?
This is our second trip into the Dolomiti, we had previously stayed in Castelrotto. Although we thoroughly enjoyed the town, I would like to experience another town in the Alto Adige. From there, we're driving south into Tuscany and finishing our trip in Rome (yes, I'll drop the car off, and take the train into Rome- good advice).I'm one of those weird people who actually enjoys driving in Italy!!

Posted by Lane
Mansfield, GA
848 posts

Rick has a route laid out in his Italy guide book for this drive. From Venice- drive to: Belluno-Cortina-Pordoi Pass-Sella Pass-Val di Fassa-Bolzano.
This is a stunning drive and since you enjoy driving in Italy you will love this drive. We did this in 2007 and spent two nights along the way. Allow yourself at least 2 nights and if time allows another couple would be great. We stayed one night in Canazei which was a beautiful little town and another in a hotel high in the Alpi di Siusi. Maybe Paul from NJ will weigh in with his preferences on where to stay. He is much more knowledgeable than I about this area and could offer some good insight on where to stay and things to do.
The highway from Venice to Cortina is S51. Take a good map and you will be fine. Our gps served us well and I would recommend taking one if you can. Even with a gps have a map too.

Posted by David
Fremont, Ca, USA
87 posts

Hello Lane,
Thanks for the advice. I agree, driving in Italy requires a GPS, a good selection of maps and an excellent navigator occupying the passenger seat. A sense of adventure is helpful too.
Last year we drove to Passo Pordoi via Canazei and Castelrotto. This whet or appetite for more exploration into the Dolomiti. Magnificent scenery.

Posted by Paul
NYC area
2049 posts

Hi David,

Lane's advice is excellent. I'd base in either Val Gardena or Alta Badia. We have stayed in both but prefered Alta Badia for the better scenery (in our opinion). Neither is a bad choice though.

We loved our stay at the Ciasa Montanara in La Villa, Alta Badia. Not only is it a beautiful place in a beautiful area, it is pretty central to most everything in the Dolomite region.


We can also recommend dinner at the Black Hill in Colfosco (15 minutes away) and the La Tor right in La Villa.

When you reach Cortina D'Ampezzo, head west over the Falzarego Pass and into Alta Badia and La Villa. Great cable car ride (Lagazoui) along this pass. It's also not too far from La Villa.

No need to drive the "Great Dolomite Road" in particular. Drive over some of the many passes and you'll get up close, spectacular Dolomite scenery.
For instance... from La Villa, head over the Gardena Pass, then take the Sella Pass (it branches off the Gardena) to Canazei, then the Pordoi Pass to Arabba and finally the Campolongo Pass back into Alta Badia. You really won't miss anything driving this route compared to the "Great Dolomite Road".

As for old towns in the area, Bruneck/Brunico has a nice old town to visit and Brixen/Bressanone is our favorite old town to visit.

For a recommendation in Val Gardena, we liked the Garni Ariston in St. Christina, Val Gardena.


We've been 3 times in October, so late September should be just as beautiful. We wouldn't go any other time of year.

If interested, we have some photo's at:



For a cable car into the Seiser Alm/Alpe di Siusi, there's an excellent one (Mont Seuc) from Ortisei, Val Gardena.


These sites may be of help:





Posted by Paul
NYC area
2049 posts

Hey Paul,

They were taken in early/mid October. I don't know if they are snow capped all year, but the Dolomites are like nothing else!
We've also been to the Berner Oberland, many years ago. We loved our stay in Wengen. Magical area.
We've been to the Dolomites three times last eight years and can't wait to get back there!

Just my opinion, the Berner Oberland is best by train and the Dolomites are best by car.


Posted by David
Chicago, IL, USA
1 posts

I am planning on roughly the same route from Venice to Cortina, arriving in Venice by traing, then driving to Cortina. Is there any advantage picking up a rental car at the airport vs the train station in Maestre?

Posted by David
Fremont, Ca, USA
87 posts

Hello David,
This will be our second time visiting Venice. I found the car rental drop off/pick-up location at Piazzale Roma almost too easy.
By the way... I errored on my original email, we're going in 2010. David

Posted by Tamara
209 posts

Paul in LA, there were still parts of the Dolomite Road with about 3 feet of snow along side the road this past weekend. We didn't originally intend to take that route through the mountains, but that's another story entirely :) But anyway, with all that snow, thank goodness the road itself was mostly clear. ha! It was quite a sight! I bet there are parts that are snow capped all year long. We only ran in to one road that was closed off on our journey, but I couldn't tell what for, exactly.

To the OP, the drive from Venice up to to Cortina d'Ampezzo will be like cake compared to some of the other nonsense driving you'd encounter on the rest of the Great Dolomite Road route :D The tornanti (loose translation: "darn scary, sharp, steep turns") aren't as intense on that portion yet, and if I'm not mistaken the road feels a bit wider along that portion too. Have fun!