TRAVEL WEEKLY - In any season, the Dolomites deliver
The Dolomites, an Alpine mountain range and Unesco World Heritage Site in northeastern Italy, have long been a favorite among winter sports enthusiasts, thanks to its dozen or so big-name ski resorts. But now that winter is receding in the rearview mirror, is there any reason to send clients to the mountains?
In fact, summer is just as popular among clients of Dolomite Mountains, an Italy-based tour company that offers upscale adventure vacations in both seasons. Options include group itineraries, increasingly popular with solo women travelers, as well as bespoke itineraries for families, couples and small groups of friends.
"In the summer, most [Dolomite Mountains] clients are looking for hiking and biking, and families want to spend time outside with their kids," said Jill Taylor, a travel advisor with Chicago-based Jetset World Travel, who books clients with the company.
Taylor, who made the 2019 Wendy Perrin WOW List as a trusted travel expert for multicountry Europe, likes the Dolomites because the locals do. "I tend to push our clients to go to places where locals travel," she said. "A lot of Italians holiday in the Dolomites, and we are getting more interest from Americans."
As to who goes there, Taylor said the region draws a wide range.
"I have sent a lot of couples to the area as well as families and groups of friends who want to be active together," she said. "It is really a destination for everyone. The scenery is stunning, and many hotels focus on wellness, so for those that want to relax and enjoy the views, it is ideal."
Since her specialty is luxury and cultural travel, the destination also works for clients who want to incorporate wine experiences and Michelin-starred restaurants into their vacations, although meals at rifugios (mountain huts accessible by foot) are popular, too.
Chad Clark, owner of Chad Clark Travel Ventures in Phoenix, also books clients in summer and winter with Dolomite Mountains, especially groups of about 10 to 14 people.
"We specifically deal with the bespoke, luxury market," he said, adding that his clients prefer family-owned, five-star properties and "cozy, authentic mountain inns."
Clark's clients are attracted to the destination because they want to engage in fitness activities by day, including skiing, biking, hiking and mountain climbing, but also indulge in upscale Italian cuisine and local wine by night.
From early June to late September, activities in the region include hiking, cycling, electric biking, climbing via ferratas (protected mountain routes) and multisport trips that incorporate all or some of these activities.
In winter, Dolomite Mountains specializes in ski safaris that go from village to village, stopping at rifugios along the way, and itineraries can be led by an experienced guide. Terrain can be on- or off-piste, depending on the desires and skill level of the participants.
The Dolomites feature some of the top ski resorts in Europe, including Cortina D'Ampezzo, which hosted 1956 Winter Olympics, and Plan de Corones, one of the region's largest.
At any time of year, the culture and cuisine of the Dolomites is part of any trip, which can include three- to five-star hotels, such as the posh Adler Lodge Alpe, mountaintop rifugios and everything from family-style restaurants to three-star Michelin dining.
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