THE DOLOMITES: OUR FAVORITE TRAVEL SECRET!
Welcome back to the blog! We are thrilled to be traveling again and to be making bigger decisions than whether to wear our day-time or night-time pajamas.
One of our favorite new travel obsessions is The Dolomites -and no one is more surprised than me that we are now planning our third trip there!
Where and What is a Dolomite, You May Ask?
The Dolomites are like Colorado... on steroids. They are a mountain region located in Northern Italy, on the border of Austria and Heaven -and one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places on Earth. This area was actually part of Austria before the war -so it has all the pristine mountain beauty of the Alps, with the life-changing food of Northern Italy.
THE DOLOMITES ARE LOCATED AT THE TOP, NORTHEAST CORNER OF ITALY
Not surprisingly it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, otherwise known as “The Official Bucket List of Places to See Before You Die”.
Normally alpine trips aren’t my thing, as they’re a little to “crunchy” for me. The elegant boutique hotels of Tuscany or the Palace Hotels of Paris are usually my natural habitat. But the Dolomites are so much more than just another granola-laden mountain resort.
In fact, I’m not sure I should be sharing this travel secret at all. After all, I don’t want you snagging the best chaise in the spa or complaining to management when I’m inspired to belt out yet another tone deaf version of “The Hills are Alive”, while twirling through the lobby.
But since most of my readers are probably from my pickle-ball team (and used to my excessive twirling & poor singing skills) I feel safe sharing my best Dolomite tips and secrets…
The Adler Lodge Alpe is one of our favorite hotels in the Dolomites (located at red pin on above map)…
Although I wouldn’t call The Adler a “luxury hotel”, it would definitely fall into the category of “modern alpine chic” - or Heidi meets the 21st century.
The Lodge is designed with simple, clean lines and copious amounts of beautiful local wood.
The best part of it’s design is the large floor to ceiling windows, which reveal such spectacular mountain scenery, you’ll swear it’s part of an elaborate movie set - where woodland animals sing, dance and braid your hair.
For the record, views are my jam: hotels with a view, restaurants with a view, hikes with a view. You get the idea. I’m a view junkie. Which is why I am obsessed with this place. There really is no bad view. It’s like God spent an extra week here when she created the world.
This probably won’t be a 5 star hotel in the way you’d expect; there are no bell boys -the hotel handyman seamlessly delivers you bags from the car before you get to your room.
There is no room service, although all the delicious food you could ever want to eat is included (yes, included, in the price of the room!) So a short walk over to the dining room seems like a fair exchange.
This also gives you more “steps” to off-set any possible weight gain from the magnificent farm-to-table breakfast and lunch spreads - not to mention the gourmet 4 course Michelin-Star-worthy dinners.
There is no valet, because cars are verboten (except to drive to/from your hotel). Since the Lodge is located in a nature preserve, you’ll spend most of your time hiking, biking, skiing (during winter months), or brushing up on your yodeling -so a car isn’t necessary.
While you won’t find The Adler Lodge Alpe on a Palace Hotel list, there is something so magical about the place, you wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to have your fairy godmother show up for a glass slipper fitting.
You’ll agree that you’re somewhere exceptional and forgive any missing amenities once you enter your chalet and pull back the drapes, or sit down for a dinner Gordon Ramsay would applaud, or… melt away your 2020-22 PTSD in the spa.
Adler has a total of 30 rooms, with two room types: Junior Suites (18) and Chalets (12)…
Jr Suites (All Located in Main Building):
The name Jr. Suite is a bit of a misnomer, as these are really just regular sized rooms (approx 500 sq ft). Usually “Junior” implies to me that there are different levels of suites, or larger rooms with a separate living room areas. Maybe the marketing team thought it sounded fancier? I don’t know, but the good news is all of these regular rooms (aka Junior Suites) have unobstructed views of the Dolomite’s glorious mountain peaks and the picturesque valleys below.
It is worth mentioning that all of the Jr. Suites are located in the Main Building, over the outdoor restaurant terrace, which can get a bit of traffic on a warm afternoon. Nothing to worry about, but I prefer total peace and quiet.
Also, the perfectionist in me would like to point out that the balcony railings are in your view line when you’re lying on the bed; but that’s because I’m very picky (and an admitted view addict) - Which is why I always splurge on a chalet…
The Adler Chalets are charming, free standing, two-story houses that would make Hansel and Gretel jealous (despite the missing candy cane roof).
On the lower floor is a living room, with a TV (that you’ll never watch), a cozy daybed, a dining area and a refrigerator filled with complimentary local juices and waters. If you want anything stronger you can head down to the lobby/dining area, where you will find a liquor store worth of libations that are yours at any time during your stay. Did I mention this is all included in the room cost??
Back to the chalet tour… The upstairs has a modern, pristine bathroom and even your own sauna! There is a good sized (but dark) dressing/luggage area, and a lovely bedroom, with views to die for. Or at least maybe quarantine for. (Sorry, too soon?)
But wait- there’s more!… You have not one, but two lovely outdoor balconies to contemplate your navel from.
The Chalets really are a little peace of heaven.
However, there is no such thing as “perfect” - despite the presence of woodland animals and fairy-godmothers. And because I’m always 100% honest with you guys AND because I NEVER get paid to write these reviews (I’m just another anonymous tourist, paying the same room rate as everyone else) I will share a couple little pet peeves of mine…
I do find the rooms to be a bit dark - especially the bathroom and dressing area.
I realize all hotels are into this trend, and I don’t understand it.
Are the architects/designers all part of the same Emu gang that stared you down in high-school hallways (only me?) or did everyone just forget to take off their sunglasses during the planning meetings?
Either way… I hope this trend goes the way of leg-warmers and rotary phones and we can move on from this dark chapter in hotel design.
Until then I’ll be packing a miners helmet to ensure I don’t look like a streetwalker after applying my pre-dinner makeup.
My only other item on the “Don’t Love List” is that not all chalets have unobstructed views. In fact, only the ones on the ends (Chalets 1 & 2, 11 & 12) have full views of the mountains. The other chalets are positioned behind the Lodge, so you have a view of the hotel and then the mountains beyond. To some this wouldn’t matter, but to us view connoisseurs this could be a thing.
If you are like my easy-going, low-maintenance husband, you may not even notice this at all. In which case feel free to roll your eyes, mumble something about first-world problems, and head on to the next section.
However, the designer in me can’t let it go, so I am always sure to ask for Chalet #2, which is one of the four free-standing cottages with totally unobstructed views.
The other three Chalets with the best views are: 1, 11 & 12. However, they are “family” chalets, which are slightly bigger and reserved only for, well, families. So Chalet #2 is probably the best kept secret at Adler, which means it will never be offered to me again since all of you will now be there. But, if those tone deaf solos at the pool don’t get me booted from the top of the list, getting caught trying to stuff my luggage full of their homemade bread might.
Sorry, where was I before I was so rudely interrupted by my need to right?
Ah yes…Adler’s glorious food…
Food to Rival The Best Restaurants in Europe
I’m a foodie, so I’m equally ecstatic about a great meal as I am about a great view… and this magical little Lodge has some of the best food we’ve ever eaten.
On our first trip to the Adler, circa 2019 B.C. (Before Covid), we stopped for a very long, and very expensive, lunch at the famous Osteria Francescana, which was voted #1 restaurant in the world at the time. It was fun and interesting- in an emperors-new-clothes kind of way. But I can say with all sincerity that every dinner we had at The Adler far surpassed anything we had at the 3 Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana. (Sacrilege! I know, I know. Please stop throwing baguettes at the screen and hear me out.)
When I shared this with Adler’s stellar chef, Denny Mair, he turned the color of a beet and responded in Italian, which I didn’t understand. He probably said something to the effect that I was clueless.
However, even though I admittedly have no formal training for reviewing gourmet restaurants, I have watched an entire season of Chopped with my Chef/son -so I feel pretty qualified to rate this a 12 out of 10 stars. Yes, I’m a fan.
Amazingly, the chef is only in his 20’s - which is as old as some of my sweaters. But he is truly a genius in the kitchen. Every night is like a Michelin Star dining experience. (It’s not starred but it should be). The food is not only beautiful (after all you eat with your eyes first), but the quality of ingredients and the taste will blow your mind.
Nico Capurso, Adler’s Maitre d’ extraordinaire runs the best restaurant in the Dolomites with ease and charm. The service is next level and Nico always has time to stop by your table for a chat and to make sure all is well in the kingdom.
Normally food this good is so expensive they include a financing option on the menu, but all the food at Adler is included in the cost of the room (other than perhaps a 5 Euro tip we would leave on the table -because we are Americans and can’t stand the thought of not over-tipping).
Usually an “all-inclusive” resort conjures up images of cruise line buffets, but this is definitely not the case in this part of the world. In fact, many of the hotels in the Dolomites include the food in the price of the room; probably a hold-over from simpler times.
Did I mention all alcohol is included, as well? And no, this isn’t alcohol a la your Florida college spring break trip. There are more high-quality local wines, beers and international liquors than you could shake an AA Handbook at.
Most of the wines are locally sourced and are amazingly tasty. Every night you will find new wines that are paired with each course of your delectable dinner. We’re not big drinkers, so by the end of the 4 course meal- let alone the end of the week- we are ready for a de-tox program - but oh so worth it!!
The breakfast spread has just about anything you’d like to start your day. And if you don’t see what your looking for, the wait staff will head back to the kitchen to make your day.
We are usually soooo full from breakfast- not to mention dinner from the night before- that we rarely eat lunch. But some days, out of curiosity - and a lack of self control, I’ll stop by the restaurant for some luscious risotto or an organic salad, seated at one of the outside tables- where I overlook paradise and wave to the dancing, animated woodland creatures.
Another interesting thing they do in this part of the world is assign you your very own table at the hotel restaurant. This is your table every night for dinner. (However, breakfast and lunch are open seating inside the restaurant or on the outside deck). So if you like the location of your table this is fantastic news. However, all tables are not created equal, especially for us View-Addicts.
When you reserve your room, I would ask for a table near the window and avoid the back corner of the restaurant, as the chairs, spacing, lighting and view become decidedly less opulent as you get closer to the kitchen. My low maintenance husband didn’t seem to mind when we spent our first night in said back corner, but it really made the meal less special for me.
Of course skiing is the main activity during the winter months (approx. November to March)
Since we’re from Southern California, where we refer to 60 degrees as a deep freeze, we stick to the warmer months in the Dolomites. The end of May, or anytime during June and September is our favorite time here.
During these warmer months there’s lots to do:
-Hike the many miles of picturesque mountain or valley trails. They range from super easy hikes (us) to all day alpine treks, that require you to share the DNA of a mountain goat.
-Tours/Guided Hikes: Another thing that Adler so generously provides for free(!) is daily guided tours/hikes of the area. The day’s outings are posted daily on the blackboard in the Lobby (see below photo) where you can sign up for them if you’d like. Activities vary from short, serene photo hikes, to all-day treks through the alpine terrain (see mountain goat reference).
-Bike: The Adler Lodge provides free e-bikes and helmets to all guests. You can turn off the e-part if you’re feeling guilty about the many over indulgences in the restaurant or you can glide up the steep hills with the ease of a Tour de France winner by using the electronic option (also us).
-Take the ski lift down to the charming town of Ortisei for some shopping and sightseeing. Note that the lift down to town is approx. $20 round trip, but it makes for an enjoyable afternoon.
-Free morning Yoga/fitness classes.
After all that exercise, everyone heads to the beautiful Adler Pool and Spa…
Truth be told, we have played hookie from the above activities and instead spent entire days at the spa. It’s not a big facility, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in peace and beauty.
Also, the spa treatments are fairly reasonable, compared to most hotels so it’s a bit more fun to indulge.
On of our favorites is the Couples Massage with Hay Bath. Yes, a real bath with real hay in it. Supposedly it is very healing, and I must say -other than removing fibers from various body parts for the rest of the day, we did find it quite relaxing.
The other surprisingly wonderful treatment was the 75 minute hot oil stone massage. Years ago this would have been the ingredients for some type of medieval torture but it was heavenly and I forgot about the barbarians at the gate for over an hour.
For massage ask for Francesca or Ariana. If you need anything done with your hair, makeup or nails then Jasmine is your gal.
All hotel guests are welcome to use the Spa Relaxation Room at any time. If you’ve seen a more jaw-dropping spa view anywhere in the world, please let me know in the comment section below and I’ll start packing my bags.
There’s also a heated indoor/outdoor pool with cool automatic doors that you can swim through to access the outdoors. The interior and the exterior portion of the pool is kept very warm- even during the winter months.
2 Saunas, including a Hay Spa (more of that healing hay energy!) with glass windows overlooking this enchanted land)
(Next week we’ll post… Dolomite’s FORESTIS HOTEL Review, with a very important European Spa Etiquette 101)!
The Best Part…
One of the best parts about The Adler Lodge Alpe is that it’s priced so reasonably for a high-end hotel that you get to keep all your organs at checkout.
What’s the catch? The reservation process is rather involved… Upon checkout guests have the option of reserving the same dates for a stay the following year. So if, like us, you get hooked and become Adler Groupies, it makes getting a reservation a bit harder for the newbies who have yet to break into the reservation loop.
Also, there is a rather limited online reservation process (it’s usually easier to email them your possible dates) and there are only certain checkin/checkout days of the week. So if you’d like to book, I would suggest starting your planning a year in advance (yeah I know, but good things come to those that stalk).
If you are coming here to ski you might have more flexibility as the booking window is much wider. If, like us, you spend most of your time on skis trying to avoid face plants into trees, visiting late May to September might be more your speed.
However, please note that going anywhere in Europe during the hot and uber busy months of July/August is a rookie mistake -and not the least of which there is little to no air-conditioning in this part of the world at that time.
Checkout at The Adler Lodge Alpe is relatively painless. I won’t go as far to say it’s cheap (I’d get mail from my Peeps), but it definitely provides excellent value -since just about everything from food to high-quality alcohol and classes/activities are included in the price.
Depending on the time of year and room type, the cost is approx. $600-850/night for 2 people, including everything except spa treatments- which are quite reasonable. Another huge plus is there are no hidden costs - that’s right!… no negotiating your first born to cover the extra taxes and fees American hotels seem to add with glee on your departure bill. (celebration emoji).
So please raise your hand if you love great views. Raise your other hand if you adore a good meal and super friendly service. If you are now in the “roller-coaster” position then you will love The Adler Lodge Alpe as much as we do (but please don’t even think about stealing my favorite chaise lounge in the Spa).