Close your eyes and imagine your perfect European winter escape. We're betting it includes delicious food, copious amounts of alcohol, and a mountain range resembling the one on the Swiss Miss hot chocolate box. If that's the case (we're mind readers, right?), you need to check out Italy's seriously underrated ski village, Alpe di Siusi. Located on Europe’s largest mountain plateau, Alpe di Siusi is one of five stunning townships that surround the Dolomite mountain range in the country's northeastern reaches.
Admittedly, it's a bit off the beaten path to get there, but it's well worth the effort. The best way to reach Alpe di Siusi is to fly into Bolzano airport then rent a car or take a bus to get to town, otherwise Milan, Bergamo, Verona, Munich and Innsbruck airports are also an easy drive away. But if you’re traveling between December and April, make sure you purchase a pass for the cable car, which will help you scale the mountain (for skiers, cable car access is included in the price of a ski pass.)
But back to this gem of a ski town — it promises both downhill and cross-country skiing, as well as snowboarding and ice-skating. In fact, there's a whopping 220 miles of hiking and cross-country ski trails to be explored. Even better, there are a ton of traditional baitas around (tiny traditional shops) that sell dreamy mugs of hot cocoa.
While the slopes here are generally pretty gentle, that doesn't mean it isn't for active types. While you're not shredding, you can also live out your My Little Pony fantasies by taking riding classes at one of the nearby stables. There's also Santa Cristina just a short cable car ride away, where you can see the town square glow with holidays lights, and gawp at how frickin' cute it all is.
Now for something super important, food. As the best part of any vacation, nothing quite compares with the delicious, hearty European cuisine at Zallinger. The food and wine are excellent, but even they can’t compete with the panoramic views from the restaurant’s terrace – take a picture and wait for the 'likes' to start rolling in. If you’re in the mood for romance, Alpenhotel Panorama is an especially cozy date-night favorite.
Save stomach space for the local farmer's markets though — Alpe di Siusi's is held every Tuesday, while similar bazaars can be found in the cutesy nearby villages of Fie allo Sciliar and Castelrotto. On Saturdays, take an hour-long car ride into Bolzano's city center for its giant farmers market, then spend the rest of the day exploring the city – their factory outlets are amazing (hit up Nike first).
But where to stay in Alpe di Siuisi, you ask? Our pick is Hotel Pragser Wildsee; a family-owned business decorated with gorgeous turn-of-the-century furniture that'll make you feel like you magically teleported to Downton Abbey.
The hotel is situated 4,900 feet above sea level and if that doesn’t take your breath away, wait until you see the view from its lakeside cabin. As you can see, even when it's not snowy it's one heck of a stunner. Given the region is notorious for sunny days (averaging 300 days of sunshine a year), most people tend to see Alpe di Siusi blanked in green grass as opposed to powdery snow.
But when the boots are off (whether they're the snow or hiking variety), relax in style at Alpina Dolomites Gardena Health Lodge & Spa — whatever the crisp mountain air doesn’t cure, a visit to their holistic spa will. Going beyond your standard facials and massages, nearby health resort Fie allo Sciliar also offers a hay bath, a concept that originated in the region that's said to improve energy and vitality. It’s not your traditional roll in the hay, but it gets the job done.
So leave your Seasonal Affective Disorder behind and escape to Alpe di Siuisi this winter. Hot chocolate and Heidi braids not included.