Rachel Corcoran explores the footpaths, bike tracks and gastro highlights of the South Tyrol in Italy
My gears are clunking, my calves are aching and I’m doing my best to enjoy the panoramas glimpsed through the pine trees as I follow my mountain bike guide up into the woods. I’m on a girls’ holiday seeking some action and adventure, taking in two chocolate-box small towns in the heart of the mountains in north-east Italy. It’s an area that’s buzzing with skiers in winter, but becomes a centre for hiking and mountain biking when the snow melts.
Planning a cycle holiday? Follow the cycle training planThe week starts in Selva, with a couple of walks on mountain trails. On our first, we take the new funicular from Ortisei up to Mount Rasciesa, which takes just eight minutes to whizz you to an altitude of 2,150 metres. From here, rocky mountain paths lead all directions but we head to the Rasciesa Peak for glorious views all the way to the Swiss Alps. The Dolomites are in the South Tyrol, which has influences from all its neighbouring countries, including Austria and Germany. It has its own language – Ladin – and locals often wear their traditional dress. Yodelling is a common practice in this neck of the woods, and the lush green fields and cows with their bells and bulging udders are all very Heidi. Another famous local custom is the Hay Bath – a quirky treatment dating back to the late 19th century when the farm workers who cut pure Alpine grass discovered that spending the night sleeping in barns breathing in the herbal vapours given off by new-mown hay had restorative, medicinal properties. I definitely felt very relaxed after mine at the Hotel Adler’s holistic spa, which offers a wide range of beauty and wellbeing treatments.
Check more super-Zesty spa ideas To finish off our trip with a less strenuous day of activity, we head off on a hedonistic hiking trail with The Peaks of Gastronomy. This brilliant set-up combines walking tours with gourmet dishes devised by Michelin star-rated chefs, eaten at mountain huts in Alta Badia at various points along your route. We have our starter of pasta with porcini and speck at La Tabla. Then, an hour’s walk away we tuck into our main course and dessert at the family-run Bioch Refuge overlooking the Marmolada glacier. Absolutely delicious – it was only the call of the last lift down that lured us from our satisfied stupor.
Find out about a twin-centre (four nights in Selva at the Aaritz Hotel, three nights in Corvara, at the Hotel Col Alto) break with Inghams (inghams.co.uk; 020 8780 4454). Half-day mountain-bike guiding costs 90€ (dolomitebiking.com).
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