The Dolomites with Kids
The Dolomites! We’ve been to Italy more than 30 times, with and without kids, but had never before traveled to Trentino and Italy’s northern mountains. Given that we’re more a summer adventure family than a ski family, we chose to visit in August.
We flew from Los Angeles to Brussels, Belgium, connecting in Chicago, and spent a few days in Bruges. Then we flew from Brussels to Verona, Italy on Lufthansa, connecting in Munich. In Verona we rented a car and drove to Molina di Fiemme – roughly two and a half hours. A note: our car was a Citroen Picasso and it worked great for five people and luggage, without being too large to easily park. Maybe the best rental car we’ve ever had in Europe?
In Molina we checked into Hotel Italia. There were plenty of things that we could have done our first day if we had gotten in earlier, like rafting, hiking around nearby Lago di Tesero, or visiting Geolabs: the Geological Museum of the Dolomites. But as we arrived around 4pm, the kids opted for downtime and the hotel’s pool. Never one to pack too much into a vacation, I was fine with that. We had a lot planned the next two days anyway. We ate dinner at the hotel (we had booked their half board plan).
After Bruges and our city-based exploration there, we were ready for some nature! We met up with Livio, a mountain bike guide, at the base of Alpe Cermis gondola – maybe five minutes from our hotel, where we rented ebikes from Local Motion. I had never been on an ebike before and thought the concept was a little silly – a mountain bike with a small motor. However, I loved it! The extra boost from the motor made the hills a lot easier – especially for the kids – and it didn’t take away from the cycling at all. If you haven’t tried an ebike, I highly recommend it.
We don’t do a lot of bike riding at home, given that we live on a hill and have a gravel driveway, and even though the 15km path through Val di Fiemme looked easy, my 8-year-old wasn’t confident enough to go by herself and opted to ride in a trailer attached to my bike. It was a great choice. The path was a little challenging, with a few small hills and a decent ascent to Predazzo, and she would have struggled. My 10-year-old so and 12-year-old daughter were great on their own bikes.
When we made it Predazzo, my wife and daughters headed to the playground while Livio and I continued on our bikes to the ski jumps at the bottom of the Latemar tram and then came back – an extra 20 minutes or so to see a little more. Then it was straight uphill to Ristorante Miola. Livio put my son and youngest daughter on his waiting motorbike (good pre-planning) and zipped them to the restaurant – which they loved! My wife, 12-year-old and I rode. It was tough, even with the ebikes’ power, but we made it, and it was a good sense of accomplishment for my daughter.
It was worth the journey! Ristorante Miola is now on our short list of favorite restaurants in the world. Lunch was amazing – basically the best of Italian with local mountain touches like pine – with an incredible view over Val di Fiemme. Among the dishes we ordered: spätzle; tagliatelle with deer; polenta with deer; polenta with goulash; farro/kamut pasta with stinging nettles and river shrimp; and a semifreddo with pine sap for dessert. Seriously, so good! And Livio, my wife and I started with Hugos, made with white wine, sparkling water, elderflower and mint, and then had Lagrein over lunch – a local red. I promise we’ll be back for another meal within a few years, with or without kids!
After lunch we biked back to Alpe Cermis and took the gondola up the mountain. At the top of the gondola there’s an adventure park with a zip-line, swings and slides, and the kids had a great time playing for an hour. Then I got them to reluctantly hop on another lift since I wanted to see the view from the top. I was planning on taking a few photos and heading back down, but there were cows! So many cows! And the sound from all of their bells was wonderful. So we spent a while at the top enjoying the scene before heading down the lift and gondola to our car. Such a fun day. FYI, there’s a Story in my Instagram Highlights with the cows if you want to hear what we heard.
We went back to the hotel and then decided to head to nearby Cavalese for dinner since we had heard great things about Costa Salici. So glad we went! The pasta and risotto with mountain touches were just as good as our meals at Miola, and the goat cheese and zucchini blossoms with pepper sauce were amazing – a new favorite dish.
Our second day in Val di Fiemme was all about Latemar Montagnanimata. What a cool program! At the base of the Latemar tram in Predazzo, we received kid packs containing interactive booklets, pencils and buffs. We then took the tram up the mountain and had three themed paths to choose from: the Dragon Forest; the Path of the Distracted Shepherd; and Geotrail Dos Capèl. Each is designed to get kids into nature, entertain and educate, and each takes a minimum of an hour. Our kids chose the Path of the Distracted Shepherd and we set off.
We all loved the walk. The forest and scenery were gorgeous, the kids had fun looking for all of the scenes from the book, and they really enjoyed the interactive areas, like sensory walks where they had to remove their shoes, and a water wheel where water could be diverted to lift wooden panels. Plus there were wild raspberries and strawberries everywhere! Pretty sure we were allowed to eat them?
After the walk, which we did in a leisurely hour and a half, we took a lift to the top of the mountain for lunch at Rifugio Passo Feudo – another amazing lunch! This is a major difference between the US and Europe. In the US I associate restaurants at the top of ski lifts with waiting in line, hamburgers, and chili. In Europe though these are excellent restaurants with table service and creative menus. We had dumplings, various pastas, and several excellent desserts – most with subtle forest ingredients. And the view was incredible.
And then we made a mistake. The lift was shut down after lunch. We even saw some tools out. There was no sign, and we saw people starting to walk down the slope to the middle of the mountain. So we assumed the lift was broken and we hiked down. It was a beautiful walk, with lots of cows (of course), but it was hard – at times the slope felt like 30 degrees and it worked our legs. We were most of the way down the mountain when the lift started again. Apparently there’s a lunch break and it opens at 2:30! I had never heard of a lift shutting down in the middle of the day before, and we obviously didn’t pay attention to the lift hours on the way up. Live and learn. Our legs were sore for a day.
The reward when we made it back to mid-mountain: The Alpine Coaster Gardoné, an alpine slide / toboggan-style ride that’s unlike other mountain slides I’ve been on. I’m used to taking a lift up with a sled, getting off and riding down. On this, though, you simply board the sled at mid-mountain and you’re pulled to the top of the track. Then you control your speed on the way down. Kids under 14 need to ride with an adult, so I went with my 12-year-old daughter. I didn’t take any photos once the ride started, but it was fun, and we went fast! The line was roughly 20 minutes long, or we would have gone again.
And then it was on to Val di Fassa – the next valley over – which I cover in my next blog post.
Summary and Finance
We were hosted by Visit Trentino and Val di Fiemme. At Hotel Italia we had a family suite, perfect for the five of us, which is €546 for two nights in the summer with half-board (breakfast and dinner). With the tourist tax that we paid at the hotel we received a Trentino Guest Card, covering all ski lifts and public transportation in the valley.
Our ebikes through Local Motion were €39 per person per day (or €20 for two hours / €30 for three hours). Livio is €90 for half a day or €130 for a full day. Lunch at Miola averages €30/person. Dinner at Costa Salici averages €40/person. Both are worth every Euro! The Latemar Montagnanimata exploration is free if you just hop on the paths, or €5 for the activity booklets/canvas bag/buff. Lunch at the top averages €30/person. Our five-day rental car, picking it up in Verona and leaving it in Trento (following Val di Fassa) was €730.
We loved Val di Fiemme! We were expecting mountains, which of course we got, but we were blown away by the food. Miola, Costa Salici and Rifugio Passo Feudo were all excellent. And they were long, leisurely Italian meals, all about food (multiple courses) and family. No need to eat and run. Our bike ride was excellent, and our older two kids are now even more confident riding. And we loved the Latemar Montagnanimata shepherd hike and wish we had planned another day to do the other two kid-friendly hikes.
Shanna Schultz says
This looks like an amazing family travel destination. It reminds me a lot of the scenery in Switzerland that we loved so much (but probably a LOT less expensive). It even has beautiful mountain cows! Thanks for including details and specifics about your visit – it is always appreciated in the land of generic travel writing.
Eric Stoen says
Thanks Shanna! Last summer we spent a couple weeks in Cernobbio, Italy and did a day trip to Lugano, Switzerland. That really put the prices into perspective. Lunch was twice what we would have paid in Italy for the same thing. And gelato that was €1.30 in Italy was €5 in Switzerland! Switzerland is great, but the Italian Dolomites are a great alternative.
Through your photos you can experience the beauty of these places and feel like going to visit all the places you have touched with your hands! The Dolomites are wonderful and it’s a pity we didn’t meet, I was there with my children until the end of July 2018 !!!
I would like to give my children the pleasure and beauty of being able to travel as much as you can with yours because I know they would be indelible memories in their hearts and in their minds for the rest of their life.
You are a great inspiration Eric !!!
Eric Stoen says
Thank you so much Angela!