Few places in the world call to mind stunning natural landscapes and romantic vistas like The Dolomites. Also known as the Dolomite Mountains, this spectacular mountain range located in northeastern Italy was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009. And as you make the journey toward this magnificent natural wonder, it’s easy to see why. In addition to the beautiful views and innumerable twists and turns up various mountain passes, this epic location is home to incredible restaurants and is a heavenly setting to spend time in nature with your SO as I discovered.
Restaurant in the Sky
At Alpinn Food Space and Restaurant, guests dine (quite literally) among the mountains. Accessed exclusively by ski gondola, the restaurant focuses on locally sourced produce with a backdrop of some of the best views from Kronplatz. Alpinn has a local ‘mountain to plate’ philosophy to their menu, and their signature risotto with wild garlic and wood sorrel is definitely one to order. Enjoy a Mountain Spritz, made only with local ingredients, and check the calendar for exciting pop-ups and special chef dinners. Plan to book at sunset for the ultimate romantic dinner.
A Mountain Museum
Located at the summit of the Kronplatz in South Tyrol (and sharing space with Alpinn), the recently-opened Lumen Museum is dedicated to showcasing mountain photography. Architect Gerhard Mahlknecht has transformed the space to span four floors, with views onto the mountains, including event space. Exhibitions include a permanent display of the work of mountain pioneers and ambassadors for the protection of the Alps by legendary mountaineer Reinhold Messner and an unforgettable immersive mirror room (perfect for a vacation selfie). Lumen showcases historical photos and digital innovations, exciting temporary and special exhibitions. The curated program stands out due to its interdisciplinary character: alpinism, tourism, politics, spirituality, and history. The subject of the surrounding mountains is uniquely examined from different perspectives.
Taste the Mountain at St. Hubertus
If Italy is one of the world’s top culinary destinations, then South Tyrol has to be high up on that list. Not only is it Italy’s most decorated culinary province — it has 26 Michelin stars shared by 19 restaurants — South Tyrol’s cuisine melds together hearty alpine influences of Austria and Germany with centuries-old Italian food traditions to create unique dishes. One of the best examples of this is chef Norbert Niederkofler and his three Michelin star restaurant, St. Hubertus. His approach of ‘taste the mountain’ and immaculately served food has also earned him a coveted Green leaf for his sustainability practices with the Michelin Guide. With global service levels and a cozy, romantic atmosphere, plan to make a reservation in advance.
Stay in Local Luxury
Home to St. Hubertus, Rosa Alpina is located in San Cassiano, one of six villages that make up the South Tyrolean municipality of Alta Badia. The setting includes mountain peaks, pine forests, and streams above rich green pastures and chalets. Winter visitors have 130 km of ski slopes on their doorstep, while summer visitors can enjoy hiking, biking, and climbing in the surrounding Dolomites. Operated as an Aman partner hotel, the 51 luxury rooms and suites are tastefully decorated in traditional Ladino style – with accents of white, cream, and pale wood color schemes and hints of color through textiles and accessories. The basement spa is the perfect antidote to the day’s range of outdoor exercise, and the personal approach of the owners is something to keep returning for.
The Romance of Nature
With its lush nature, centuries-old culture, delicious cuisine, and generosity of its people, the region of Alta Badia is an ideal holiday destination. Trekking in the Dolomites offers imposing peaks, 360-degree panoramas, and green valleys. The Dolomites of Alta Badia are among the most beautiful mountains in South Tyrol but remain uniquely Italian. Relax in a cable car, glide up the hills below, hop out quickly, or start hiking or biking. Alta Badia’s high plateaus can be easily reached using summer lifts, and guests will want to make plans for a cheeky apres ski during the winter season.
Insider Tip: Want to check out another incredible area of Italy? Try Piemonte.
A Gourmet Cheese Bunker
Raw milk cheeses are a passion at Genuss Bunker. The process starts by working with selected Alpine dairies, which ensures mature and unique cheese specialties in the gourmet bunker. Hubert Stockner, master cheesemaker, fromelier, and qualified beer sommelier, provides a unique space to age the cheese. This natural stone bunker is a war relic and serves as a maturing cave for his exquisite South Tyrolean and international cheese specialties. Hubert starts with high-quality raw materials, which mature into an exceptionally high-end product in the natural stone bunker. In addition to the unique setting, the cheese master pays special attention to the cheeses that are made with milk from silo-free feeding to attach great importance to sustainability efforts.
Jump in a Lake
Lago di Braies (“Pragser Wildsee” in German), also known as Lake Braies, is one of the most famous and beautiful lakes in the Dolomites. In recent years, the lake and surrounding area have also gained a lot of attention on social media, which is often widely shared on Instagram. The picturesque mountain backdrop is gorgeous, and the reflections of the mountain in the lake are magical to witness. Even though Braies lake is listed amongst the bathing lakes of South Tyrol, only a few hardy people dare to jump into the calm (and freezing) waters. If you prefer pleasant walks, you can walk around Lake Braies (4 km). For maximum romance, try a rowing boat trip to enjoy the beauty of the fairytale-like scenery.
Stay in Boutique Style
Set at an altitude of 1,230 meters with views over Merano, is the picturesque Miramonti Boutique Hotel. The hotel is located in Avelengo, 4 km from the Meran 2000 ski area. During the winter season, it offers a free ski deposit with boot warmers and a free shuttle to the Merano 2000 slopes. This lush property is home to several luxurious amenities, including a spa, three restaurants, and large, modern rooms with views of the mountains. The wellness area is complete with saunas, an infinity pool that provides spectacular panoramic views, steam baths in natural stone, and an outdoor hot tub. The property also features three restaurants (Panorama, Klassik, Stube) that serve traditional and modern dishes. With an approach to combine discreet, customized service, this is the ultimate romantic getaway.
Enjoy the Open Road
For road trip lovers and mountain fanatics, the high alpine passes of the Dolomites provide plenty of excitement. Plan a playlist for your epic road trip as you wind your way along edge-of-your-seat mountain roads and hairpin turns shadowed by large trees and the looming mountains overlooking the shrinking valleys below. Fortunately, the roads are well maintained, so visitors will be safe and sound while the passes can be adrenaline-inducing and a little intimidating at times.
Need more inspiration for an Italian adventure? Check out this exciting seven-day itinerary.
Meet The Author
Courtney Brandt is an American author and journalist living in Dubai, UAE. Her work has been published in Forbes Middle East, Curiosity Magazine, Elite Daily, The Forward Feed, Food&Wine, Sopexa, A Luxury Travel Blog, Matador Network, JustLuxe, Travelettes, Citizen Femme, and Roads & Kingdoms. Connect with Courtney on Instagram, LinkedIn, or weekly newsletter for more of her foodie and travel adventures.