Italy: Where to ski if you love to eat

Find high-altitude heaven on the slopes -- and in the kitchens

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Donald Strachan

Donald Strachan 
HomeAway travel expert


glass with glintwine on the table on the ski resortSo, is it fine dining or powder skiing you want from your next winter adventure? Fortunately, in northern Italy, you don’t have to choose.

Across an arc of mountains—Alps, Tyrol, Dolomites—that stretches right across Italy’s northern borders, there are resorts and pistes (as well as off-pistes) to suit any skier or boarder. The cuisine up there is far from “standard Italian”, and often comes inflected with the neighbours' accents. France, especially the Haute Savoie, has long influenced the Aosta Vallley. Further east in the Dolomites, the dumplings and sweet tooth of Austria—to which much of the border region belonged until World War I—are never far from a local menu.
 
Donald Strachan's verdict on Italian mountain dining

Polenta. Across Alpine Italy, the traditional carb is not pasta. The plains of Lombardy and Piedmont are home to mile after mile of rice paddies, the staple ingredient in a risotto. More authentic still, up in the mountains, is polenta. This “mush” of corn meal or maize is served as side with stews, in a “shell” with melted cheese, or cooled, sliced and fried to add some crisp to a stew.

Mountain wines. The valleys of northern Italy produce some of the country’s best wines, especially whites. In Trentino and Südtirol, aromatic white grapes such as riesling and gewürztraminer come with a bite thanks to the slightly elevated altitude of vineyards along the River Adige. It’s a similar story where steely, pungent Muscat de Chambave grows in the Valle d’Aosta. The same valley preserves native red varieties seldom found elsewhere, including Fumin.

Grappa. Just be careful what you drink at a slopeside lunch… mountain grappa is usually distilled to around 40% alcohol, and the last run of the day is notorious for being the one that causes the injury. It is often favoured with wild berries or dwarf pine in the Dolomites, or genepy (an Alpine plant with a herbal, medicinal flavour) in the Valle d’Aosta.
 

 
 
 
 

Italy's top Ski Resorts for Gourmets


   

Courmayeur Courmayeur

It is hard to imagine a better culinary recommendation than one from chef Heston Blumenthal: “Courmayeur quickly became one of my favourite ski haunts as it offers such amazing hospitality in its mountain restaurants, serving big plates of regional antipasti and bowls of homemade pasta. I realised it was my perfect holiday.” Lunch in the sun on the deck at Maison Vieille is a local favourite. In the town itself, snug, 24-cover Petit Royal was awarded its first star in the 2014 Michelin guide.
 
And the skiing’s not bad either, with over 60 miles of open and tree-sheltered trails to keep a beginner or intermediate busy for a week or two, plus glacier and heli-skiing on the doorstep for accomplished skiers and boarders.

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Madonna di Campiglio Madonna di Campiglio

In the Val Rendena, Madonna di Campiglio has been one of Italy’s glitziest resorts for a long, long time—it was popularised by rich Austrians in the 19th century, when the valley was part of their empire. Typical ingredients in Trentino cuisine include speck (a smoked, preserved mountain ham), hard cow’s milk cheeses like Spressa and puzzone di Moena, and Austrian-influenced pastries including Strudel. Madonna di Campiglio has three Michelin-starred restaurants of its own, DolomieuStube Hermitage and Gallo Cedrone. Every Saturday during the 2013–14 winter season, skiers can even enjoy a typical Trentino breakfast—after some fresh tracks skiing—by pre-booking with Trentino Ski Sunrise.
 
Above Madonna di Campiglio, the wild, rugged, impossibly photogenic Brenta Dolomites provide the backdrop to a manicured ski area with over 90 miles of pistes (ideal for intermediates), including easy access to the neighbouring resorts of Marilleva and Folgarida.

 

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Alta Badia Alta Badia

Close to Bolzano and the Austrian border, the ski villages of the Alta Badia are set amid some of the Dolomites’ most dramatic scenery. This is also the last remaining heartland of the Ladin culture, a people whose language was once spoken widely across northern Italy, and has some similarities to Swiss Romansch.

Colfosco has access to one of Italy’s best known ski trails, the Sella Ronda. The emphasis is as much on the gastronomy as the powder. Fourteen mountain huts alongside Alta Badia pistes participate in the Slope Food programme: each serves a snack-sized dish designed by a Michelin-starred chef from Italy, elsewhere in Europe and even as far afield as Taiwan. Buy the Slope Food Card for €30 to taste three different dishes, each served with a glass of Südtirol wine.

Alta Badia is home to three Michelin-starred restaurants, including La Stüa de Michil, a Tyrolean-style stube that refines the cooking traditions of Ladin culture.

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Valtellina Valtellina

Close to both the Swiss border and the Stelvio National Park, the main resorts of Lombardy’s Alta Valtellina are some of Italy’s best known: Livigno and Bormio. With its duty-free status and beginner-friendly slopes, Livigno is ideal for a family winter holiday. The Valtellina’s best slopeside dining in the valley is also in Livigno, at the 2,360m Rifugio Camanel di Planon. All over the Valtelllina, expect carb-laden lunches of risotto or polenta, perhaps preceded by bresaola—aged, salt-cured beef that was first made here in the 15th century. For a refined dinner, head to Bormio: La Baita de Mario specialises in typical dishes of the Valtellina, including pizzoccheri, a filling all-in-one dish made with buckwheat pasta, potatoes, cabbage and local cheese.

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Images
Image 1
Madona di Campiglio by Coso
Alta Badia by Allie_Caulfield

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La Marmotta Chalet Apartment - a gorgeous ski holiday escape

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