From Canazei, Beverley Watts steps out on an Inghams hiking holiday and enjoys some sweet sounds
Standing on a mountainside in my cerulean blue Italian walking boots is my idea of heaven. Most of my travel wardrobe is turquoise, a hue associated with serenity. I just like the colour, it makes me happy. As does being in the Dolomites for the tranquil vistas, vivid skies, ancient culture and terrific food.
Canazei is part of the Dolomiti Superski area in Italy but I don’t get any buzz from hurtling down a snow-covered slope. Instead, I love the area for walking in summer when the charming ski instructors double up as hiking and mountain biking guides.
The Dolomites were formed over 280 million years ago when parts of Europe and Africa were merged in the supercontinent Pangaea and the peaks are spectacular. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a dramatic playground for nature lovers with a landscape that’s simply phenomenal with 18 jutting pinnacles and sweeping wild flower-covered valleys.
Trentino Alto Adige, an autonomous region which once belonged to Austria, became part of Italy in 1918. The resort of Canazei sits in the hollow between the Marmolada and Sella mountains and the Tyrolean citizens speak Italian, German and the local language, Ladin. Derived from Latin, Ladin arrived in the Dolomites in the 1st century BC when the Romans conquered the Alps.
Two thousand years later, the Great War hurled a peaceful agricultural and pastoral community into turmoil and the area of the southern Tyrol was annexed to the King of Italy. The Museo della Guerra 1915-1918, at the base of the cable car for Pian dei Fiacconi (Marmolada), is a mini museum with a display of artefacts left in the mountains after WW1 and collected by the De Bernardin family. It’s a poignant display of binoculars, helmets, uniforms, medals, coins and food tins found in the former battlefields which are now majestic and calm.
Concerts in the open air have a spiritual quality and every summer you can sit on a blanket in the grass for the Sounds of the Dolomites festival. Performances by international musicians take place in secluded meadows, cupped by forests which create unique acoustics at 2,000 metres above sea level. In the distance there’s the gentle clanking of cow bells as violins soar and owners shush pet dogs – startled by the music – who begin to whine.
The Carta per Trasporto Pubblico Trentino gives free use of public buses and it can be worth investing in a PanoramaPass Val di Fassa. This travel card allows unlimited use of cable cars, chair lifts and cabin lifts during the summer to explore Marmolada to Pordoi, Sassolungo, Catinaccio, Costabella, Alpe Lusia and Monzoni. During our stay we travelled to Moena to hike to Canvere, headed up to Ciampac, ate cheese and salami with guide Nicolo on the vertiginous Lino Pederiva walkway, passed caramel-coloured horses contentedly grazing and were stunned by the views at the Pordoi Pass.
As the sun goes down, watch out for the bewitching vivenes, mythical female creatures believed in Ladin legends to dwell in rocky crevasses and by courses of water. Worn out, it was a pleasure to return each evening to the friendly family-run Hotel Cesa Tyrol in Canazei. Below sloping orchards, it’s a comfortable base close to the pretty town centre and next to the enchanting Chiesetta della Madonna della Neve, a 1595 church. From the Hotel Cesa Tyrol’s terrace, the onion-domed bell tower looks magical in the extraordinary indigo light at dusk.
Hot water soothes aching bodies and the QC Terme Dolomiti, a wellness complex in Pozza di Fassa, is a popular spot. Fed by the thermal Alloch natural spring, it’s rich in mineral salts, sulphur, sulphate, calcium and magnesium. The Thunderstorm Room – with simulated lightning and timed torrential downpours – is definitely invigorating. A buffet with wine is available in the dining room and you can eat it in the flip-flops and bathrobe you are handed at the entrance, before heading to the steamy hammam.
Canazei has plenty to offer for a relaxed day without your boots. A tour of the restored watermill Molin de Pesol, in action from 1800 until the 1960s, is fascinating and the Ladin Museum is a must. The Ladin Carnival runs from January to March to celebrate the end of winter and on display are some of the truly terrifying wooden costumes used in parades. The mix of beautiful and ugly masks represent positive and negative aspects of life and the grotesque has a visceral appeal.
I was mesmerised by a video showing villagers making crauti in barrels and wanted to have a go. The sour cabbage dish, fermented in brine, is known in Germany as sauerkraut and is a very healthy food, rich in probiotics. There are plenty of small shops offering local produce and I went in search of ‘mostarda di pere piccante’, the Northern Italian sweet ‘n’ spicy pear condiment.
The food in Italy is consistently such a treat. An alpaca looked on approvingly as I ate tagliatelle with chanterelle mushrooms at Agritur Agua Biencia in Pozza di Fassa and the mountain hut restaurants are always a welcome sight on a hike. Stop for coffee at Rifugio Larezila or a hearty lunch at Rifugio Ciampac.
For a special evening out, the char fish followed by octopus at El Pael restaurant in Canazei is superb and owner Roberto Anesi, named Best Italian Sommelier 2017, most attentive. He recommends the Trento Ferrari sparkling wine, a Trentodoc produced from 100% Chardonnay grapes with the crisp aroma of Golden Delicious apples, and it’s delectable.
Travel with Inghams to the Hotel Cesa Tyrol from 6 June to 12 September 2020 for 7 -14 nights from £1,049pp (based on sharing a twin room) including flights and half board. See options on inghams.co.uk or call 01483 938 175.
For updates on the Sounds of the Dolomites, visittrentino.info