The Best of the Italian Alps: A Comprehensive Guide

November 30, 2020

by Rina Bernardo

Dolomites, one of the mountains that make up the Italian Alps

When the term “Alps” is mentioned, people often think about the gorgeous Swiss Alps or the French Alps. But not many know that Italy has its fair share of the popular mountain range. The Italian Alps is one of the country’s best destinations all-year-round. With its snow-capped peaks, jagged cliffs, and lush meadows, it’s a must-visit if you want a change of scenery from the streets of Milan and Rome.


If you’re planning on checking out the Italian Alps but you don’t know where to start, look no further! Continue reading and unravel the beauty of this region on our comprehensive guide.


 


Where Are the Italian Alps?


 


Panoramic views of the Italian Alps in winter
Photo by Gorilla on Adobe Stock


Located in Northern Italy, the Italian Alps span more than a thousand kilometers across eight countries. These Alpine countries include Italy, France, Germany, Monaco, Slovenia, Austria, and Switzerland. There are three main groups of the Italian Alpine region: the Western Alps, Central Alps, and Eastern Alps. 


The Western Alps cover Aosta to Cadibona and boast the highest peaks at the Gran Paradiso at 4,061 meters. On the other hand, the Central Alps run from the Western Alps to the Brenner Pass. Notable mountains in the Western Alps include Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in the Alps, at 4,808 meters, and Matterhorn at 4,478 meters. Lastly, the Eastern Alps cover the area from the Brenner Pass to Trieste. This portion of Italy’s Alps region includes the famous Dolomites.


How to Get to the Italian Alps?


Visiting the Alps in Italy is relatively easy. There are various train and bus routes that pass through the Alps. You can also take a car and head to the nearby Alpine towns. Additionally, many locals and tourists consider the Aiguille du Midi cable car in Chamonix as the best way to enter the Italian Alps.


If you’re coming from Rome, you can take a flight to Milan then take a bus or car to the Alpine region. However, if you plan on taking the train from Rome, travel time may reach up to 9 hours or more, and 12 hours or more if you take the bus.


Nonetheless, the Alps are easily accessible with entry points from different cities and countries.


 


When is the Best Time to Visit the Italian Alpine Region?


 


Lake Braies overlooking the Italian Alps
Photo by ValentinValkov Adobe Stock


The best time to visit Italy’s Alpine region entirely depends on your itinerary and preference. If you want to visit when there are fewer tourists, plan your trip during the low season from November to March. While the weather is too cold for warm weather travelers, you can enjoy winter activities like Nordic skiing, snowboarding, and even snowshoe walking. Another advantage of traveling during the low season is that the prices for accommodation are relatively cheaper. September and October are also good months to visit since hotels are cheaper and you can still enjoy hiking.


On the other hand, if you want the best weather and to enjoy hiking or biking across the green meadows, visit in the summer from June to August. Do keep in mind that lodging may cost more during the high tourist season, especially in spring from March to May. But if you want warm and comfortable weather, plan your trip during these months and make sure to secure your tickets and hotel reservations in advance to avoid overpaying. 


 


Best Places to Stay in the Italian Alps


Relais & Chateaux Villa Crespi


 


Deluxe room at the Relais & Chateaux Villa Crespi
Photo from Relais & Chateaux Villa Crespi Booking.com Page


Address: Via Giuseppe Fava, 18, 28016 Orta San Giulio NO, Italy
Price: Starts at 474 USD for 2 adults


Set in a stunning 19th-century building, the Relais & Chateaux Villa Crespi is the best luxury accommodation near the Italian Alps. The hotel looks over Lake Orta and has a beautiful private garden. Additionally, its rooms are spacious, featuring antique furniture and elaborately designed rooms and suites. After a long day, relax and unwind at the spa and choose from different treatments and massages. But perhaps the crowning glory of this hotel is its Michelin-starred restaurant, offering a fusion of Mediterranean and Italian cuisine. Treat yourself to a five-star getaway and stay at Villa Crespi.


 


Miramonti Boutique Hotel


 


Bed and bathroom at the Penthouse Suite of the Miramonti Boutique Hotel
Photo from Miramonti Boutique Hotel Booking.com Page


Address: Via San Caterina, 14 St. Kathreinstrasse 14 Hafling, 39010 Merano BZ, Italy
Price: Starts at 366 USD for 2 adults


Catch stunning views of the Alps and the mountain views of Meran at Miramonti Boutique Hotel. The boutique hotel boasts rooms with modern furniture that come with a mini bar and spa baths. Take a dip at the infinity pool that gives you the best mountainside views, or relax at the wellness area that also has picture-perfect views of the mountains. If you’re up for winter activities, Miramonti Boutique Hotel is also a few kilometers away from the Meran 2000 ski area. Upon request, you can take the free shuttle to the slopes and enjoy the powdery snow of the Alps.


 


Hotel Garni La Roccia


 


View of one of the rooms in Hotel Garni La Roccia
Photo from Hotel Garni La Roccia Booking.com Page


Address: Via Ponte Lambin, 38010 Andalo TN, Italy
Price: Starts at 190 USD for 2 adults


Andalo’s Hotel Garni La Roccia is the perfect accommodation for all seasons. The family-run hotel is elegant, spacious, and gives you either the best mountain or city views. Its wellness center is also commendable, with different kinds of saunas and steam baths that are guaranteed to keep you relaxed after a day out. In summer, go alpine trekking, swimming, and hiking. On the other hand, in winter, go to the nearby Paganella 2001 ski resort and enjoy the 52 kilometers of ski slopes. For a more relaxing winter activity, head to Adamello-Brenta Nature Park and go snowshoeing instead.


 


Hotel Excelsior Splendide


 


Veiw of the Double Room with Lake View at Hotel Excelsior Splendide
Photo from Hotel Excelsior Splendide Booking.com Page


Address: Via Lungo Lario Manzoni, 28, 22021 Bellagio CO, Italy
Price: Starts at 167 USD for 2 adults


The Hotel Excelsior Splendide is a popular choice for travelers staying at Bellagio near the Italian Alps. Its exterior has an old-world charm, blending harmoniously with the Art Nouveau buildings around town. Meanwhile, its interiors are simple, classic, yet with a hint of elegance and grandeur. There’s also an outdoor pool, a garden, and a restaurant overlooking Lake Como and the Alps. If you want to do some shopping and cafe-hopping, there are plenty of quaint cafes and boutique shops nearby. This is the perfect hotel to stay at if you’ll be visiting during summer or spring.


 


Hotel NH Trento


 


Inside the Junior Suite New Style with Balcony View at Hotel NH
Photo from Hotel NH Trento Booking.com Page


Address: Via Adalberto Libera, 7, 38122 Trento TN, Italy
Price: Starts at 100 USD for 2 adults


Enjoy your vacation at the Hotel NH in Trento, the third-largest city in the Alps after Grenoble and Innsbruck. This eco-friendly hotel has plush rooms complete with modern decor and floor-to-ceiling windows that allow plenty of natural light. For families, XL rooms that fit up to 8 people are available as well. Some of the rooms on the 4th floor also have the best views of the Alps. Taste delicious Italian cuisine and other regional delights at the restaurant or have a drink at the bar. 


 


Best Things to Do in the Italian Alps


1. Trek at Monte Rosa and Matterhorn


 


Snow-covered peak of Matterhorn
Photo by Angelo Burgener on Unsplash


Monte Rosa and Matterhorn are two of the most popular mountains in the Italian Alps. These mountains are a favorite among trekkers because of their glacier views and landscapes. You’ll also find nice accommodations along the way where you can arrange inn-to-inn trips. Although it’s recommended to have a guide when trekking, you can do self-guided hikes since the trails are well-marked. Go in spring or autumn if you want fewer crowds and more chances to see the wildlife. If you want to enjoy the tranquility of trekking without the usual crowds like in the Swiss or French Alps, choose Monte Rosa and Matterhorn instead.


 


2. Camp at South Tyrol


 


RV camper on the way to a campsite in South Tyrol
Photo by EKH-Pictures on Adobe Stock


Get your camping gear ready and go to any of the campsites in South Tyrol. The region borders Italy, Austria, and Switzerland, and includes some parts of the Dolomites range. Apart from its fairytale villages and regional parks, South Tyrol is also popular for its camping sites scattered around. Depending on whether you’re camping in a tent, RV camper, or caravan, you’ll find the perfect campsite for you. Best of all, the views at South Tyrol are just incredible! Camp either at the lakeside, mountain, or in the valley near Merano, Bolzano, or Brunico, and marvel at the views of the Dolomites or the neighboring ski resorts. 


 


3. Ski at Valle d’Aosta


 


View of Courmayeur-Mont Blanc Resort in Aosta Valley
Photo by R Boed on Flickr


Located in Northwestern Italy, the Valle d’Aosta (or Aosta Valley) is famous for its snow-frosted mountain peaks, medieval castles and fortresses, and ski resorts. Thanks to its high elevation, it is a favorite among skiers. Although not as sought-after as Chamonix in France or Aspen in America, the Italian Alps’ Valle d’Aosta also has its share of the best slopes. Courmayeur is one of the best ski resorts in Valle d’Aosta, offering the finest snow-covered slopes and breathtaking views of the mountains. Another ski resort to try is Cervinia Valtournenche, boasting more than 90 miles of ski terrain.


 


4. Hike in The Italian Dolomites


 


Landscape of the Dolomites in Italy
Photo by Michal Kmeť on Unsplash


Italy’s Dolomites mountain range is a World Heritage Site and perhaps the most photographed mountains in the country. The stunning mountain range has over 15 peaks scattered across 141,902 hectares. That being said, it’s a playground for hikers and trekkers, taking adventurers through rich forests, pristine lakes, and towering waterfalls. Hike along Val di Funes if you want an easy yet picturesque trail. Meanwhile, hiking along Lago di Sorapis is better suited for experienced hikers. No matter which trail you choose or if you opt to go on a multi-day hike, you’re sure to have a memorable time hiking in the Italian Alps.


 


5. Join a Wine Tasting Session at Trento Valley


 


People toasting red wine glasses
Photo by Kelsey Knight on Unsplash


Aside from its swoon-worthy landscapes and ski slopes, Trento Valley is also famous for its wine culture. Wine enthusiasts and connoisseurs will love the variety of vineyards in the city and its different cultural events highlighting the alcoholic beverage. Take a break from the ski slopes and sit down for a wine tasting session at Trento Valley. Sip on a variety of wines paired with cheese or the finest selection of cold cuts. The pastel buildings and sun-kissed courtyards provide an atmosphere fit for the event. After the tasting session, why not purchase a bottle or two as a souvenir?


 


6. Ride the Cable Car at Sass Pordoi


 


View from the summit of the Sass Pordoi cable car
Photo by EKH-Pictures on Adobe Stock


Get the best views of the Italian Alps and the Dolomites by taking a cable car ride at Sass Pordoi. From Pordoi Pass, the cable car ride takes only a few minutes before you find yourself almost 3,000 meters high up. You’ll also get a chance to see the diverse landscapes and panoramic views that make the Alps a must-visit destination worldwide. Depending on when you’ll go, find jagged mountaintops covered on snow or vast grassy meadows. Although it isn’t a ski area, it definitely makes up for a worthwhile winter activity. 


 


Must-See Places in the Italian Alps


1. Mount Lussari Village


 


Aerial view of Mount Lussari Village in winter
Photo by Daniele Buso on Unsplash


Located in the northeastern side of Italy, Mount Lussari in Tarvisio is an unmissable sight in the Alps. It’s a quaint village perched on one of the mountaintops with a sanctuary, the Sanctuary of Monte Lussari. Soak up the peaceful atmosphere as you relax at one of the cafes, or go for a walk around the village. Additionally, you can pay a visit to the sanctuary and learn about the history behind it. During the winter months, Mount Lussari transforms into a charming village reminiscent of Whoville, the iconic town as seen in the Grinch films.


 


2. Odle Mountains


 


Odle Mountains at Puez-Odle Nature Park
Photo by Robert J Heath on Flickr


Located in between Val di Funes and the Val Gardena, the Odle Mountains are a group of majestic mountains in the Dolomites area. The best way to see and appreciate these mountains is by visiting the Puez-Odle Nature Park. Take in the breathtaking views of the Italian Alps, the Dolomites, and the vast meadows before you. Apart from its natural landscapes, you’ll also find a diverse species of flora and fauna. In summer, join guided nature hikes and get a deeper insight into the cultural and biological wonders of the Odle Mountains.


 


3. Lake Como


 


View of Lake Como from Varenna
Photo by Ray in Manila on Flickr


Feel like a celebrity as you walk along the streets of Lake Como, deemed a “playground for the elite”, thanks to its dramatic lakeside views, private villas, and posh villages. Join a boat tour and explore the lake, seeing the waterfront mansions, rest houses, and panoramic views of the Italian Alps. Because of its luxurious surroundings, Lake Como has been featured in well-known films like Oceans Twelve, Casino Royale, and Star Wars. In 2014, the American new aggregator The Huffington Post declared it as the world’s most beautiful lake, a telltale sign that you should visit this glamorous lake.


 


4. Val di Funes


 


View of Val di Funes in the Italian Alps
Photo by zm_photo on Adobe Stock


See rolling hills in between mountain peaks at Val di Funes, a favorite among photographers and casual tourists. The valley is a peaceful yet breathtaking sight to behold, with its green fields and thick forests reminiscent of a scene in a fairytale. Take Instagrammable photos at the Church of St. John, explore the Santa Maddalena village, or hike the Panoramaweg Trail. However, the high tourist season may bring in more crowds, some of which snap photos of the fields and leave, and some who stay for hours. While the valley makes a good 30-minute side trip, you can also stay for half a day to make the most out of your trip at Val di Funes.


 


5. Bellagio


 


View of the pastel-colored houses in Bellagio
Photo by Lewis J Goetz on Unsplash


Aside from Lake Como, Bellagio is another must-visit place in the Italian Alps. It’s the perfect summer destination because of its warm weather and artisan boutiques and shops. Getting around the small village is easy and while you can explore the town center on foot, you can also rent a bike. Get a glimpse into the Italian culture as you hop from one store to another, finding local delights, leather goods, and souvenirs. On another note, visit the gardens of Villa Melzi and marvel at the exotic trees and colorful flowers of the glamorous villa.


 


6. Piedmont


 


Piedmont's famous vineyards and rolling hills
Photo by Michael Heintz on Unsplash


Piedmont is the perfect destination if you’re looking for a balance between great food and wine and gorgeous scenery. The region borders between France and Switzerland, giving you a mix of three cultures. Admire the Baroque architectural wonders alongside the hectares of vineyards and hills. Piedmont is also a known wine region, so don’t miss out on the wine tours and perhaps take a bottle or two home. From November to March, the town transforms into a winter wonderland where you can ski to your heart’s content. Otherwise, you can enjoy the local delicacies.


 


Why Visit the Italian Alpine Region?


 


View of the Dolomites in the Italian Alps from a meadow
Photo by Robert J Heath on Flickr


It offers a more laid-back vibe.


As compared to its Swiss, Austrian, and French counterparts, the Italian Alps are less crowded and offer a more laid-back vibe without missing out on the breathtaking scenery and world-famous slopes. The Alpine towns nearby are also must-visit, with their old-fashion villages, cobblestone-laden streets, and hills straight out of a children’s storybook.


It boasts diverse activities both for adventurers and easy-going tourists.


You don’t need to have a high level of fitness to appreciate the beauty of the Alpine region! From skiing, snowboarding, to hiking and biking, you can enjoy different activities here. While skiing first comes to mind when you mention the Alps, there are other fun and exciting activities that you can do here, including sledding, snowshoeing, and trekking. For those who prefer a more easygoing way to spend time, guided nature walks are always available.


It is an ideal destination all year round.


Whether you want to visit at the height of summer or in winter where there are fewer people, you’ll still be able to enjoy your time in the Italian Alpine region. Just keep in mind the advantages and disadvantages of traveling at a certain season and you should be good.


Discover the Beauty of the Italian Alps


With exceptional mountain peaks, stunning rock formations, and awe-inspiring surroundings, the Italian Alps are definitely worth visiting! The Italian Alpine region is a destination fit for any traveler no matter the season and offers a good change of scenery from the high-fashion streets of Milan or the crowded streets of Naples. So if you want a break from the fast-paced city life, head north and visit the Alpine region instead!