The Dolomites with Kids
When we were planning our visit to Trentino, Italy, we decided to split out time between two areas: Val di Fiemme and neighboring Val di Fassa. We technically could have based out of one place, but there’s decent traffic in the summer and we didn’t want to be in the car any more than necessary. We’d rather be enjoying the mountains!
We loved our two days in Val di Fiemme. My blog post is here. And then it was on to Val di Fassa.
We based out of the village of Canazei. We loved the town – lots of parks, plenty of gelato, gorgeous scenery, and a huge football pitch! And several of our adventures started in Canazei or very close by. We stayed at the Hotel Astoria. It was in a great location, the restaurant was excellent, and our two-room family suite was perfect for the five of us. The only downside was parking. Several times we had to park a block away and wait for a space at the hotel to open up. But then parking isn’t easy anywhere in Italy.
We arrived from Predazzo in the late afternoon, checked in and had dinner at the hotel (we booked their half board package). We then walked over to the nearby park where the kids played at the playground until dark. Then gelato and bed.
The kids weren’t happy when I told them we were waking up at 5:30am for a 5:40 departure to Vigo di Fassa and Soreie Farm, but the farm has a 6am farm walk that looked great. I’m happy to report that they came around quickly once we got to the farm! We met up with Stephanie and Sebastian right at 6:00, jumped into their cars with them, and drove around to several of their nearby fields. We helped pick flowers, berries and vegetables, we met their chickens (we have chickens at home), and we thoroughly enjoyed watching the sun come up, lighting up the nearby peaks.
After exploring the fields, we came back to the farmhouse B&B for an excellent breakfast, and then met their sheep and goats – which roam around the nearby valley and hills every day with a shepherd – before driving back to Canazei around 9am.
Around 11:15am we hopped back in the car to return to Vigo di Fassa – this time parking in town and walking to the tram, where we rode up to the top of the mountain.
So where I used the word “stunning” in the title of the blog post? This is why. Stepping off the tram, we were looking directly at the Dolomites – the same peaks we had seen light up at sunrise, but all the more impressive since we were now several thousand feet higher.
They could basically just have a field at the top for sitting and gazing at the mountains. The marketing campaign would be: “Take a tram and sit on a blanket and let your kids run around and stare at the mountains!” And we totally would have gone and sat while the kids ran around. But, because it’s Italy and Val di Fassa, there’s lots more. There’s a Fly Line – basically a moderately slow zip line that twists and turns for six minutes down to the valley. There are restaurants. There’s a playground. And there’s a lot of hiking. We didn’t have time for a day of hiking, but we did everything else.
My 12-year-old, 10-year-old and I started with the Fly Line. We strapped in, rode to the bottom (all separately), and then took a chairlift back to the top. My daughter was in the chair behind my son and me and, looking back at her, I was mesmerized by the scenery. The most amazing chairlift view ever!
Back at the top we went to Baita Checco for an amazing two-hour lunch of homemade pastas, local wine and grappa, and excellent strudel and panna cotta for dessert. It’s how all lunches should be! The kids played on the playground between courses and after lunch for a little while, and then we walked down the hiking trail a few minutes to take pictures.
Back at the top my 8-year-old decided she now wanted to do the Fly Line (she was apprehensive the first time), so she, my son and my wife waited in line and then zipped down to the bottom. All three kids loved the experience. And even if you don’t like zip-lining, you may enjoy the Fly Line – it’s far more controlled than a zipline.
And then we changed up our schedule a little. We had had a rock climbing session booked in the afternoon back towards Canazei, but we cancelled it at the last minute since we were having so much fun at the top of the mountain. And then, once we got back to Canazei, we realized that we were still so full from lunch that we skipped the multi-course meal at our hotel and headed to the nearby park instead. We let the kids play at the playground and at the town’s football/soccer pitch for two hours, eventually getting two pizzas at the park café, followed by gelato in town.
A few days earlier, in Val di Fiemme, we had rented ebikes and cycled through the valley. We enjoyed it so much that we decided to do it again in Val di Fassa – except with standard mountain bikes this time. We slept in a little and then met Eric the mountain bike guide at Bikeasy, just a five-minute walk from our hotel, where we picked up bikes and helmets.
We set off down the valley, starting through the forest before merging with the bike path, and eventually reached Adventure Park Piciocaa where we got espresso and ice cream and the kids played for a while. Then we rode back to Canazei on the path and through the forest again. For the most part it was an easy ride, and my two older kids did fine (my 8-year-old rode in a trailer attached to my bike). The challenge was in zipping safely around pedestrians and other cyclists. We didn’t have any close calls, but witnessed a few of the younger kids along the path in tears, so if your kids aren’t confident riders, they probably won’t enjoy this. We all did though.
We ate a quick lunch at the café near Bikeasy (ham and cheese panini mainly), regrouped at the hotel, and then drove five minutes over to Campitello di Fassa and met up with alpine guide Licia (vastly underutilized with us) who took us up the tram to the top. Again, wow! It’s one thing to look up at the Dolomites, but it’s completely different being level with them. We spent some time enjoying the view before wandering slowly down to Rifugio Friedrich August where we had a strudel making lesson. So fun! We didn’t get to participate, but we followed closely as Isabella went through every step, and then finished with several large plates of strudel. And the timing was perfect, as a thunderstorm moved through when we were inside for the lesson. Otherwise our hike was dry heading to the restaurant, and dry again when we were walking back up to the tram. Amazing that all of this is just minutes from Canazei!
We then went back to Canazei, shopped, played a lot more football, and had dinner back at the hotel. Then more football over at the pitch (two minutes from the hotel) until it was dark.
Off to Trento
We had arrived in Val di Fassa from Val di Fiemme, which we reached by flying into Verona. The drive from Verona to Molina (in Val di Fiemme) was 2.5 hours, and then it was another 45 minutes to reach Canazei. We didn’t feel like driving all the way back to Verona, so instead we drove an hour and a half to Trento, returned our rental car there, and then took a train directly to Florence. When we return to the Dolomites, we’ll probably travel in via Trento – closer than Verona.
Summary and Finance
We were hosted by Visit Trentino and the Tourist Board Val di Fassa. Our awesome five-day rental car (a Citroën Picasso) was €730. Three nights at Hotel Astoria cost €1400. Our farm breakfast experience was €10 per adult. The Fly Line is €10 for adults and €8 for kids under 14. Lunch at Baita Checco was €140, and worth it!
The mountain bike rentals through Bikeasy cost €70. Eric the guide was an additional €100 for three hours or so. The strudel making experience cost €10 per adult.
Did I mention that Val di Fassa is stunning? We wanted to visit Trentino and Val di Fassa for the mountains, and it didn’t disappoint. These are some of my all-time favorite kid photos! The kids loved it too. And no offense to my fellow Americans, but it was nice not seeing other American tourists for a few days. It seems like tourists coming over from the US concentrate on Venice, Florence and Rome, and leave the Dolomites to the Europeans. That’s a mistake! Head north next time you visit Italy and enjoy the scenery and mountain lifestyle for a few days – plus the food is as good as everywhere else in Italy, and unique since pine and other mountain/forest ingredients are integrated into the dishes. We’ll come back and explore more in future summers.