The Dazzling Dolomites
The World's Most Beautiful Architecture
The Italian province of Trento was annexed by Italy in 1919, and maintains many aspects of its former Austrian character. Trentino is geographically stunning: it is almost entirely mountainous with a number of gorgeous valleys that we will explore during our stay. Our first stop is the city of Trento, the regional capital. A very appealing city of about 115,000, Trento ranks number 1 for quality of life in Italy and also boasts the country’s best university.
We will visit the Medieval and Renaissance town center, including the Castello di Buonconsiglio, where the Counsel of Trent occurred in the mid-16th century. We’ll also exploreTridentum (from which “Trento” is derived), the prosperous 2000-year-old city that’s beautifully preserved under the town center. Tridentum used to be a stopping point on the Roman road up to Innsbruck. Trento is just the first of several examples we’ll see of how local governments here exercise their large degree of autonomy (very unusual in Italy) in the areas of health, education and welfare.
From Trento we head about an hour east into the pristine Val di Fiemme for the final four nights of our sojourn. We were lucky enough to discover the Villa Berghofer, our 14-suite paradise, during journeys through the Dolomites last year. The owner/architect has renovated the property into an oasis of light and space, with each suite named for the mountain peak that it overlooks. Amenities include a solar-heated outdoor pool, mountain bikes, scenic hiking out the front door, and a superb cuisine featuring vegetables grown organically on the grounds. Relax in the sauna/steam rooms and treat yourself to spa treatments using locally-produced pine resin products. Evenings will be spent resting in simple yet supremely comfortable surroundings, refreshing our bodies with unpolluted air. We’re awakened in the morning by bells from the local herd of cattle that grazes nearby.
The last few days of our trip are spent tasting wines unlike any we’ve tried before. Vineyards have laced these mountains for over 2000 years and the prickly fresh Sauvignon Blanc and rich Merlot/Cabernet blends are the perfect accompaniment to Chef Massimo’s food. Speaking of Chef, we’ll spend two afternoons learning local culinary specialties from the congenial Massimo, whose vast experience includes top restaurants in London, Milan and Paris.
Day 1 (Friday) – Trento, the Region’s Capital
Arrival in the town of Trento and optional guided afternoon walking tour of this oft-missed jewel. Trento is a pristine, orderly town nestled in a valley that descends from Munich, Germany into northern Italy. It represents a meeting of Italian and Central European cultures, which we will learn more about during our locally-guided walking tour. The city is best known for the “Council of Trent” (1545-1563), during which the Catholic Church rejected many of the reforms spearheaded by Martin Luther, among others. Artistic and architectural treasures abound: the Castel of Buonconsiglio, Falcon Tower, an underground Roman city, and numerous fresco-filled buildings. Welcome dinner and orientation tonight. D
Lodging for the next 2 nights: charming 3-star hotel in city center
Day 2 (Saturday) – Discovering Trento and Environs
This morning we’ll have time to shop the fabulous open air market before moving on to the gorgeous hills surrounding Trento. We’ll visit the nearby Thun Castle (as in the famous figurines), then stop in a local town where you’re free to wander and have a bite on your own. We’ll end the day with some bubbly at the fabulous Lunelli family estate, including a visit to their gorgeous Villa Margon. Free night to explore Trento’s wonderful restaurants, wine bars and nightlife this evening. B
Day 3 (Sunday) – Whisked Away to a World of Nature and Harmony
Today we travel into the mountains east of Trento toward our home for the next several nights, Villa Berghofer. But first a stop at the winery of Emma Clauser. This fascinating woman is dedicated to organic wine-making at her spotless cantina located just above the Adige Valley, far from any source of pollution. She rotates crops and focuses on biological equilibrium rather than pesticides to support her vineyards. Emma leads us in a tasting of her unique wines, accompanied by local cheeses and salamis. Mid-afternoon arrival at our 14-suite villa, nestled in a green oasis over 5000 feet above sea level. Here the only sounds heard are birds and cowbells. Welcome dinner at the Villa. B, light L, D
Lodging for the next 3 nights: http://www.berghofer.it
Day 4 (Monday) – Ambling; Cooking; Drinking
Villa Berghofer’s breakfast is unforgettable: a paradise featuring locally made yogurt, cheese, cakes, marmalade and bread. After breakfast we’ll hike (2-hour hike; optional transfer in the van) through the pine forests to Isehutte, a “rifugio” located far from any source of pollution. Here Isolde demonstrates how local cheeses are made, then prepares a sampling of her products for our pleasure. Hike or ride back to the Villa in time for a visit to the spa or (if you dare!) dip in the pool. Late afternoon finds us in Chef Massimo’s care, enjoying a lesson in the cooking of this region. Massimo creatively interprets the local specialties: think fresh seafood salad with borlotti beans and celery; fresh beet risotto; duck breast with zucchini, mint and pine nuts. And desserts to die for: apricot and cinnamon crisp; panna cotta with fresh cherries. We’ll also learn of some unusual local wines like Gewurtztraminer (named after the nearby village of Traminer) and Lagrein at a sommelier-led wine tasting before dinner in the cozy wood-paneled dining area (the stube — preserved intact for over 500 years!) B, light L, D
Day 5 (Tuesday) – Cavalese and “Speck”
Today we’ll have an amazing opportunity to experience dawn on the Weisshorn, one of the highest peaks in this area. Those who prefer to sleep in can enjoy the rich library of the Villa Berghofer, a lazy breakfast, and/or a visit to the local marmalade maven. We’ll all meet up in the late morning at Maso dello Speck, where we visit a family that has been producing speck, this region’s most famous cold cut, in the same manner for over 50 years. Most locals prefer speck to prosciutto, and it appears in numerous Trentino dishes. The meat is smoked over the wood of the larches and fir trees that surround this pristine location.
Time back at Villa Berghofer in the afternoon to pack for our departure tomorrow and even enjoy a sauna before going back down the mountain to the charming town of Cavalese in late afternoon. We can wander the streets and have an aperitif before a Michelin-starred meal at El Molin. Chef Alessandro is a maestro at using local ingredients in thoughtful, creative ways. B, speck tasting lunch, gourmet. B, speck tasting lunch, gourmet D
Day 6 (Wednesday) – Lago di Garda
Arrivederci to our mountain paradise as we journey south through the Adige Valley to charming Riva del Garda (the northern tip of Lake Garda). Lunch here on your own before catching the ferry for a ride along the glacial lake. Time to enjoy the lakeside towns until late afternoon, when we’ll pick you up and transfer to our beautiful home for the last two nights. Explore the area to find a cozy place for dinner tonight. B
Lodging at a lovely 4-star hotel for the last two nights.
Day 7 (Thursday) – Stunning Verona…and One of Italy’s 100 Most Beautiful Villages
After breakfast we travel to nearby Verona, truly one of Italy’s artistic jewels. Our guide will meander with us through the streets of Shakespeare’s setting for Romeo and Juliet, highlighting in particular the gorgeous Roman theater. Lunch on your own in one of the city’s many cafes, and time to shop the elegant boutiques this afternoon.
This afternoon we’ll visit one of “Italy’s 100 Most Beautiful Villages”. Time to amble through its cobblestone streets, which end at the Villa Arrighi. The gardener will tour us through the lovely grounds (explaining why caper berry plants love to grow on old stone walls and other interesting facts!), ending with a walk along the medieval walls. After a glass of prosecco with the villa’s owner, we’ll return to our hotel, with time to pack for departure tomorrow morning. Dinner tonight pairs a different local wine with each course. B, D
Day 8 (Friday) – Departure
Departure after breakfast for the Verona airport or train station. B
Foods of the Alps
Foods of the Alps tend to be hearty: one thinks of speck(pictured at left), the wonderful pork smoked over local larch and fir that is used so creatively here; buckwheat pasta; apples used in myriad ways (apple strudel done right remains a favorite). But the young chefs of the Alps are creatively lightening and varying the dishes in quite interesting ways. At the Villa Berghofer, Chef Massimo serves such delights as buffalo mozzarella over roasted vegetables grown outside the hotel; smoked trout on celery root remoulade; gnocchi with tomato squid sauce; and buckwheat cake with fresh berries. His talents shine at breakfast as well. The almond cake is particularly wonderful!