I’d like to say that Corvara in Badia (1568 m) is a lovely little village but I’d be lying. Not that I’m saying it’s ugly but the magnificent part of it is its surroundings. Huge Alpine-style houses, almost all of them dedicated, to some extent at least, to the tourists and their needs, and numerous hotels line the main road and narrow service lanes. Everything is very tidy, no unruly parking anywhere, no mess, no chaos. It’s almost as if it wasn’t Italy.
Corvara is one of six little places that form Alta Badia in the majestic Dolomites. The mountains in fact are the biggest draw here, winter or summer. What used to be a giant coral reef up until some 250 million years ago when the prehistoric sea subsided is now the exceptional mountain range that we know today for its unusually shaped formations and colour, so very different from the encircling Alpine classics. It’s the mountains and the views of them and from them that take your breath away. It’s Unesco heritage for a reason.
Once there (it’s no example of an easy to reach destination), the traveller finds other things just as satisfying. Skiing for one activity, and apparently the most popular one, is good. The lifts are excellent, modern and fast. The slopes are very well groomed. The food and the wine are particularly special in several mountain huts of highest standard, some of them downright luxurious.
Not only is the Tyrolean influence very tactile and evident within the whole area of the Dolomites, the people of the Badia valley (and neighbouring ones as well) have managed to keep and maintain their Ladin heritage and have it acknowledged as a significant part of their tradition and uniqueness. The official signage comes written in German language first, then in Ladin, Italian comes last. Which is not only remarkable in a broader social and cultural sense but also brings a whole lot to a savvy traveller maybe in search of something other than “only” the regular luxuries.
It needs to be said that Corvara is a very classy village. Abundance of high quality bars and restaurants, exquisite shops with international as well as local brands, some well stocked enotece, notably hospitable people, fabulous food and wine – all of this guarantees a fantastic time-off.
The food at La Perla, our hotel, as well as the attentive service itself, were to die for, and the chef, the young Yevgeniy from Russia, no less, was spoiling us rotten and kept us delighted every evening with his delicious masterpieces.
It’s not often that a winter sport destination be located a stone’s throw from a wine region. Alto Adige, a part of the same Italian province, is home to some exceptional wine. I, as a red wine consumer, favour especially the indigenous lagrein and the elegant pinot nero of the region.
As far as skiing is concerned, I would definitely go for the terrains of neighbouring Arabba and above all Marmolada, which are obviously the serious skiers’ choice, the rest of the praised Sella Ronda is more or less for show. I will never ever forget a swift ascent to the highest point of Marmolada ski area (3250 m) where in spite of several fellow skiers I had heard the profound silence of the Queen of the Dolomites. It was majestic. Not to mention the descent that felt totally out of this world: the embrace of the sun, the perfect snow, we two alone on the never-ending slopes, breathing heavily (the lack of oxygen is very much palpable at that height) but feeling the deep satisfaction of one’s existence. Rarely does an activity provoke a feeling of such basic peace. It’s probably what religious people feel when they say they encounter the divine.
Truth be told, there are other great slopes in the neighbouring La Villa and beyond that we hadn’t had time to try. The sage advice of this post (but not only of this one as a dedicated reader might have noticed) extends to a recommendation of leaving something for the next time.
More on Sella Ronda
Even more on wine
More on Ladin language and culture