The Dolomites is one of the best areas in Italy for snow sports, pulling in thousands of salopette-clad skiers and snowboarders every winter. But this mountainous region isn’t just for the wintertime – it’s also a fantastic place for a summer holiday. The snow melts to reveal hillside meadows, glacial lakes and wildflowers, while in towns like Merano and Bolzano, al fresco diners spill out onto the pavements to enjoy the sunshine. We tried to whittle our reasons for loving summer holidays in the Dolomites to five, but there were so many, we only managed to get it down to seven! Look out for our colleague Hollie’s top tips along the way – she’s a passionate advocate for summertime stays in the mountains.
The scenery during the summer here is breathtaking. From the peaks you can feel on top of the world, with clouds and planes below you and alpine flowers, waterfalls and mountaintop lakes all around. One of our favourite ways to enjoy the scenery is on the historic railway in Renon, which takes you from the centre of Bolzano up to the plateau of Renon. You can hop on and off along the way and do short walks through the woods and meadows. There’s also a cable car up to the pretty mountain village of Colle, set within a nature reserve.
Perfect walking weather
There are walks and hikes for all ages and abilities here. Take the summer lifts and do a short stroll, follow some of the Wanderwegs (famous walking routes), try Nordic walking, or follow the trails down some of the gorges and check out the caves at the bottom. Our new six-night South Tyrolean walking holiday follows the renowned wine trail, passing fairytale-like castles and palaces as you hike a circular route from Merano to Bolzano and back again.
“If you just fancy strolling around some of the lovely towns and villages, you’ll find plenty to choose from – I love Ortisei (45 minutes from Bolzano), famous for its wood carvings. From there, it’s a scenic 10-kilometre walk to Selva Val Gardena, another lovely mountain village. There are some great promenades in Merano you can walk along, too – 18 kilometres’ worth!” Hollie
Outdoor activities and scenic lakes
Sure, you can ski and snowboard in the winter, but in the summer you’ll find stacks of outdoor activities in the Dolomites. The region’s picture-pretty lakes are ideal for swimming, boating or windsurfing, and there are also some great outdoor activity centres – they’re perfect if you’re bringing children or teens, but you’ll find plenty of options for adults as well. You could try out rock climbing, do the high wire parks, scoot down mountainsides on a toboggan, or even explore the towns on a Segway. If you’re into running or mountain biking, there are some brilliant routes you can follow (the Marmolada mountain range features on the Giro d’Italia route, so is a great option for more experienced cyclists).
“Lake Carezza (Lago di Carezza) is absolutely stunning, with clear waters, pine trees all around and a mountain backdrop. It’s around half an hour’s drive from Bolzano. Durnholzer See (40 minutes’ drive) is another really beautiful location – look out for the quaint church on the south-eastern shore.” Hollie
Music festival on the mountains
During July and August, the Sounds of the Dolomites festival takes place, with concerts held in scenic mountainside spots throughout the region. There’s a real mix of music, from classical to jazz, and some concerts are even held at dawn so you can watch the sun rise over the mountains as you listen. For some of the locations, you can arrive by car and walk the final bit to the stage, with the option of signing up for a guided walk the whole way up if you prefer (some of the guided walks cover tricky terrain, but all the details are on the website). There are also summer concerts at the Trauttmansdorff Castle, which leads nicely on to our next reason for visiting the Dolomites in the summer…
Gorgeous flowers & al fresco music at Trauttmansdorff Castle
The famous gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle in Merano are a joy in the summer, with thousands of flowers in bloom including lavender, sunflowers and water lilies. Walking paths snake all around the gardens, while panoramic trails lead higher into the hills, offering wide-angle views of Merano and the surrounding area. During the summer there are all sorts of brilliant events that take place. On selected evenings, open-air concerts are held on a floating stage over the lily pond; every Sunday in June and July there’s a buffet brunch accompanied by live music on the Sissi Terrace; and Friday nights from June ‘til the end of August see late-night openings with twilight tours, cocktail hours and live music.
Delicious cuisine & mountainside picnics
The cuisine in South Tyrol is quite different to the rest of Italy, with more Germanic and Austrian influences. In the summer you can visit local farms and orchards and try fresh produce, and there are vineyards where you can sample good-quality local wines. The warm weather is also ideal for picnics, and you’ll find plenty of meadows and pastures for settling down with local cheeses, breads and slices of speck.
“Traditional specialities to look out for include apple strudel and goulash; you can often find these on the menu at mountainside restaurants, so they’re great for refuelling after a walk.” Hollie
Afternoon spa sessions in Merano
During the summer months, the 52,000-square-metre spa park opens at Merano’s thermal baths. Scattered among well-kept lawns and rose gardens you’ll find 10 different pools, including a solar-heated lap pool, a bathing trail, a children’s pool and a spring bath thermally heated to a toasty 34 degrees. It’s the perfect place to while away a sunny afternoon, flitting between pools and enjoying the mountain views.