The Italian Alps are an enticing wonderland of jagged mountain scenery, lush alpine meadows, charming villages and glistening lakes. Here are 12 reasons why you should visit.
Covering a glorious mountain-filled arc sweeping across the top of the country, the Italian Alps are a scenic wonderland; an area of natural rugged beauty bursting with wonderful places to visit.
High up in the Italian mountains walk along high-alpine trails under razor-sharp vertical peaks; enjoy the tranquillity of emerald lakes glistening with a glacial glow; or savour the beauty of flower-filled alpine meadows.
At the lower altitudes unwind in beautiful Italian villages, sail on lakes lined with mansions, explore one of the most stylish cities in the world or sip wine in ancient surrounds.
There are so many places to visit in the Italian Alps and with hiking in summer, skiing in winter and plenty in between, there’s never a bad time to visit.
Here are 12 reasons for making the Italian Alps your next holiday destination.
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WHERE ARE THE ITALIAN ALPS
The Italian Alps sweep in an arc from Monaco in the west to Trieste in the east, covering the northern tip of Italy.
They are made up of 3 main areas. The western side is the southern end of the high Alps: a dramatic playground of snowcapped mountains bordering France and Switzerland. The central section is the Italian Lakes where large lakes are framed by smaller hills and beautiful villages. While the eastern section is the Dolomites – jagged rocky peaks framed by lush alpine meadows.
The entire region of the Italian Alps is most easily accessible from Milan. But if you want to explore the eastern section, then the best things to do in the Dolomites are only a short journey from Venice or Verona in the south or Innsbruck (Austria) in the north. All of which are great spots to begin an Italian Alps Road Trip.
BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN THE ITALIAN ALPS
With glistening glacial lakes, flower-covered meadows, vibrant Italian towns and some of the best hiking in Italy, here are our suggestions for the top places to visit in the Italian Alps.
1 – TRE CIME DI LAVAREDO
There are few more dramatic mountains in the world than Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Three towering peaks, standing side by side, rise above a sea of boulders. Their near-vertical sides soaring to pointy peaks.
The most iconic views of these Italian mountains can only be seen hiking the Tre Cime loop. The paths are easy and the rewards are breath-taking. Various perfectly positioned rifugios offer a refreshing lager, a warm coffee and delicious Italian food throughout the hike. Tre Cime is a popular location for Dolomites photography and a perfect half-day out in the mountains.
TRE CIME HIGHLIGHTS
On the Tre Cime walk, make sure you stop off at Rifugio Locatelli (Dreizinnenhütte) for a coffee break with one of the best views in the Alps. More information is available in our guide to hiking Tre Cime.
2 – LAGO DI BRAIES
High up in the mountains and surrounded by jagged peaks, the Italian Alps are packed with stunning green-blue lakes. Best viewed in the early morning or late afternoon (when the wind is low), the shimmering dramatic alpine scenery is reflected in cool rippling water.
The dazzling colour is created from water that flows down the valleys carrying white particles collected from glaciers scraping against mountains.
Perhaps the most impressive of these lakes is Lago di Braies, the picture-perfect lake surrounded by the mighty rock face of Seekofel.
LAGO DI BRAIES HIGHLIGHTS
Leave the popular lake behind and visit the high alpine panorama of Prato Piazza. The views from the Monte Specie hike are simply stunning. All the information is in our guide to Lago di Braies.
3 – SECEDA RIDGELINE
The Puez-Odle mountains are like a mangled saw. Bent and twisted pointy teeth form a jagged ridge of mountains. Nowhere else in the Italian Alps can you see such a mish-mash of soaring peaks fighting for your attention.
The best view of these jagged peaks is at the Seceda Ridgeline. Just a short stroll from the Furnes-Seceda cable car summit, a line of towering mountains form a spectacular photography location in the Italian Alps. The grassy ridge with a narrow pathway leading up to the ridgeline is the perfect vantage point from which to take in the spectacle.
After collecting the stunning views of Seceda, take the easy downhill hike past several excellent rifugios to the town of St Christina. More information on how to do this walk is available in our top hikes in the Dolomites article.
4 – COMO
As the mountains of the Italian Alps drop into foothills and rushing rivers carry more and more water they finally form great lakes. The greatest and most beautiful of these is Lake Como. As the main centre on the lake, the town of Como is one of the best places to visit in the Italian Alps.
Stroll the old town complete with beautiful squares, charming churches and a host of interesting and quirky museums. The cathedral is one of the most impressive buildings in the city and the funicular to Brunate provides a staggeringly impressive view of the lakes.
Organise a boat trip to the beautiful village of Varenna, an idyllic Italian Alps village ideally situated on a promontory where the three legs of the Lake Como meet. Read more in our guide to hiring a boat on Lake Como.
5 – VAL DI FUNES
Instagram has brought fame to Val di Funes. This once quiet valley, tucked into the northern Italian mountains, now sees hundreds of travellers arrive to capture the iconic views of its two churches.
San Giovanni and Santa Maddalena sit in rolling hay meadows still farmed in the traditional fashion. But it’s not just the bucolic country scene that makes them special. Rising almost vertically behind them are the jagged peaks of the Puez-Odle massif.
Head here at sunrise or sunset and the churches with their imposing backdrops are beautifully lit. A photographer’s dream, an unforgettable vista and a favourite on our Instagram channel.
VAL DI FUNES HIGHLIGHTS
Take a sunset stroll along the beautiful Panoramaweg, an easy hiking path high above the valley floor. It provides one of the best vantage points to view the villages set amongst working farms. All the details for the hike are in our guide to Val di Funes.
6 – BELLAGIO
Is there anything more picture-perfect than an Italian town on a lake? And if so surely the most beautiful is Bellagio. Known as the pearl of Lake Como, it is strategically located where the junction of the Y shaped lake divides into two branches.
Peering out from its perch on the lakeshore, the facades of its golden villas, houses and churches reflect in the rippling blue waters.
Hidden behind these buildings lies a cute and intriguing village. Narrow laneways and twisty staircases conceal designer boutiques and local artisan shops selling the best silk in Europe. It’s one of the most beautiful towns in the Italian Alps.
There’s no better way to spend your time in Bellagio than by finding a seat by the lake and watching the sun go down with an Aperol Spritz in hand. Read more in our guide to visiting Lake Como.
7 – TRENTINO VALLEY
The Trentino valley is impressive. Fortresses peer over the steep-sided walls and little villages with cute churches perch on ledges or hide in crevasses. But the real joy of coming here is to sample the wine.
Vineyards spread all along the valley floor produce some of the finest wine in Italy. Surrounded by beautiful pastel-coloured buildings, little gardens provide the ideal setting to sample the local drop.
Our favourite is Alois Lageder in the village of Magré, a family vineyard run on biodynamic principles. They serve a delicious take on modern Italian cooking in a beautiful sunny courtyard. Well worth a stop on any journey through the Italian mountains.
After enjoying an afternoon of wine in the valley head into the town of Trento. The highlight is the Piazza Duomo backed by the Cattedrale di San Viglio. For more information see our complete Italian Dolomites itinerary.
8 – ALPE DI SIUSI
At 2,000m in altitude, visiting Alpe di Siusi, the largest high meadow in the Italian Alps is a breath-taking experience. Its swaying grasses, backed by some of the most magnificent mountains in Italy, are a lush green in spring and a golden brown in autumn.
The best way to see the area is by hiring an e-bike. That way – without too much huffing and puffing, and with zero emissions – you can see all the highlights of this Instagram friendly destination.
Fortunately, you don’t need to cycle up the meadow. A cable car carries you up 800m from the town of Ortisei. Even better, the free-wheeling journey all the way back down is an exhilarating ride.
ALPE DI SIUSI HIGHLIGHTS
Sunrise looking over the impressive views of Sassalungo (another excellent hike in the area is the Sassolungo-Langkofel circuit) with the alpine meadows in the foreground is an unforgettable experience in the Italian Alps.
9 – BRENTA DOLOMITES
The Italian Alps are the home of Via Ferrata, meaning ‘iron path’. Climbers are secured onto a steel cable that runs along near-vertical rock faces. Using the cables, plus iron rungs, pegs, carved steps and ladders, inexperienced climbers can make their way along narrow ledges and difficult peaks.
Via Ferratas have been linked together in the Brenta Dolomites creating extensive multi-day hiking tours with overnight stays in mountain refuges. It’s a nail-biting adrenaline-filled excursion. But even if that does not take your fancy, the hiking in this rocky wonderland is excellent.
BRENTA DOLOMITES HIGHLIGHTS
On a hike in the Brenta Dolomites, stop for a break at Rifugio Tuckett. It’s one of the best-located huts in the Dolomites set among a rocky canyon and needle-shaped peaks. All the information is in our best hikes in the Dolomites guide.
10 – SASS PORDOI
The Italian Alps are not like the rest of the Alps. They are striking because of their unique shape and pale Dolomite rock. The rock was formed from fossilised coral reefs about 250 million years ago. When the African and European tectonic plates collided they were forced up into mountains.
The collision created a diverse array of shapes. And nowhere can you see this diversity better than from the top of the cable car that climbs from Passo Pordoi to Sass Pordoi. From here, observe table-top mountains, undulating grassy meadows, soaring pointy peaks and desolate moonscapes.
It’s the best of the Italian mountains in one breathtaking panorama.
SASS PORDOI HIGHLIGHTS
The views from Sass Pardoi are simply breathtaking, but the road there is a highlight as well. From Canazei take the road to Passo Pordoi via the 22 exhilarating hairpin bends. All the details are in our Dolomites itinerary.
11 – CERVINIA
The high-altitude ski resort of Cervinia has a network of over 160 kilometres of pistes, most of which have stunning views of the Matterhorn, just across the border in Switzerland. While the resort itself is not the most beautiful in Italy, the long runs and high-alpine views are hard to beat.
The already wonderful winter playground of Cervinia is due an impressive upgrade in 2021. A new cable car will link Cervinia with Klein Matterhorn, extending the ski season to a year-round activity. When it opens in the 2021/2022 season, it will be the highest cable car in the world with a climb of over 4000 metres. The 1-hour journey to Zermatt’s glacier paradise will extend Cervinia’s already long season to year-round skiing.
The 8-kilometre red run that descends the 1,800 metres from Plateau Rosa is one of the most exhilarating ways to visit the Italian Alps.
12 – MILAN
Although just outside the Italian Alps, Milan is the gateway to the region and a wonderful place to visit. With immaculate architecture, a greedy stash of some of the world’s best art, and a style matched by few cities, it’s well worth spending a few days in Milan on your way through to the Italian Alps.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the shopping centre giving all other shopping centres a bad name is an architectural masterpiece. Two glass-vaulted arcades meet in an octagon covering designer shops and high-end retailers. Go high-brow with opera at the exquisite Teatro alla Scala, or downplay it with an excellent slice of pizza on the street.
Don’t miss sunset from the roof of the Duomo. As the colour fades from the streets of Milan, there are few better cityscapes in the world that are as spellbinding as this one.
THINGS TO DO IN THE DOLOMITES
Many of our 12 favourite places to visit are concentrated in the eastern section of the Italian Alps called the Dolomites. Since they are nearby to one another, if you include these other great things to do in the Dolomites, it makes for a great holiday.
ENJOY SUPERB HIKING
The hiking trails in the Dolomites meander through lush flower-filled meadows, skirt under craggy peaks and cross high summits. It has some of the best hiking in the world with a diverse selection of trails to suit any type of walker. Even better, alpine huts provide a taste of the good life with hearty food delivered in breath-taking scenery that can only be experienced by walking there.
RELAX AT TRANQUIL TORQUISE LAKES
The Dolomites are blessed with glistening lakes that provide the perfect setting for a picnic, a treasured Instagram moment or a focal point for a great hike. Some of our favourite includes Lago di Sorapis, a turquoise lake surrounded by rock that can only be reached on foot, and Lago di Carezza, perfectly positioned to reflect the spiky Latemar mountains. The best, however, is possibly the alluring charm of Lago di Braies.
TAKE A CLASSIC ROADTRIP
With stunning mountain roads, high alpine passes and staggeringly good scenery, there are few places better than the Dolomites for a classic road trip. Our 1-week Dolomites itinerary captures the highlights of the area with a few days devoted to hiking, a few days to put your feet up, and plenty of wine.
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MAP – PLACES TO VISIT IN THE ITALIAN ALPS
We’ve collected all our favourite places to visit in the Italian Alps on our map. To save this map, click on the star to the right of the title. This will save the map to Your Places in Google Maps.
MORE READING FOR THE ITALIAN ALPS
The Italian Alps is an area we love going back to. With exception hiking, dramatic scenery and a blend of Austrian and Italian culture it’s one of our favourite mountain destinations. Here’s some more reading to help plan your trip.
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